Trio Of Rookie Relievers Impressive In Debuts

By Connor Nielen

The Royals came up a little short in their 4-2 Opening Day loss at the hands of the Angels, but they have a trio of young bullpen arms to thank for keeping them in it.

An errant throw by Luke Hochevar in an attempt to prevent speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos from legging out a bunt single resulted in Bourjos reaching third base on the play and being immediately scored by Maicier Izturis, stretching the Angels lead to 4-0.

Ned Yost chose to turn to rookie right-hander Aaron Crow, who promptly came in and struck out Howie Kendrick to end the inning. With his ‘Crow’s Nest’ fan section and the rest of the Royals faithful firmly supporting him, Crow retired Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells 1-2-3 in the 7th (including Hunter & Wells by way of the ‘K’) – talk about a ‘gutty effort’ considering this was somebody making his first major-league appearance.

A second rookie reliever was rolled out in the 8th, Nate Adcock, and proceeded to perform admirably. Adcock got two quick outs before surrendering a pair of hits, but ultimately escaped via the assistance of Jeff Francoeur’s throw to the plate to nail a sliding Jeff Mathis.

Finally, it was little lefty Tim Collins’ turn to toe a major-league rubber for the first time in his young career. Collins was showcased earlier in the week on Royals Treatment, and pitched a scoreless 9th-inning to preserve the Kansas City comeback opportunity.

Having 3 rookies each pitch so well in as big of an environment as Opening Day bodes quite well for the Royals bullpen’s future. The game’s starter, Hochevar, didn’t look too bad himself, limiting his long-ball damage to a pair of solo home runs (Torii Hunter punished a high fastball & Jeff Mathis squeaked a hanging curve over the left-field wall).

As for the Angels bullpen? Yikes. Weaver’s 4-run lead was almost cut in half after giving up a couple home runs. Closer Fernando Rodney walked the first batter he faced and barely survived a potentially game-winning meatball he served up to Alex Gordon that landed just foul. Of course, Rodney’s history of shakiness is nothing new, as indicated in the Royals Treatment Series Preview.

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