At 24, Mondesi emerging as star shortstop for Royals

Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi fields a ball during spring training baseball practice Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Adalberto Mondesi might be one of the best kept secrets in baseball.

The only player to make his big league debut in the World Series, the 24-year-old Mondesi has blossomed into an emerging star for the Kansas City Royals.

Last season, his 10 triples tied for the most in the majors and his 43 stolen bases ranked second. He did that despite injuries limiting him to 102 games.

In 2018, Mondesi became the only player to record at least 14 home runs and steal 32 bases in no more than 75 games.

"I don't think the baseball world has any idea how good this kid can be," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "Just look at some of the best shortstops and some of the ones that are getting the most attention and this guy can do everything they do and then some. He's a special player and he's a special person."

Mondesi went on the injured list twice last year with a groin strain and left shoulder trouble. He again hurt his shoulder in the final week while diving for a ball and had surgery in early October.

"I just needed to get it fixed because I dislocated it," Mondesi said. "When I dove to catch the ball, that was when it happened the first time. Then it happened again, so I just needed to get it fixed."

The switch-hitting Mondesi should be ready for the season opener, but likely will be held out of early spring training games.

"Right now it's feeling pretty good," he said. "It's almost at that time, where I can do everything on the field. I'm hitting from the left side. I'm catching groundballs and throwing. A few days ago I started hitting from the right side."

Mondesi said his goal is to be available for all 162 games.

"I'm working on that, getting my body ready to play the whole year," Mondesi said.

Matheny would like to write Mondesi's name on the lineup card every day.

"One of the goals is how can we keep him on the field as much as we can," Matheny said. "He's in great shape right now. The training staff really did an amazing job. I salute Adalberto for spending the whole winter in Kansas City, being committed," he said. "When you have a place in the Caribbean, you can go back and call home and have a little more sunshine. He did what he needed to do to get in a really good place right now."

Matheny wants him not to be diving so much. He also was on the injured list in 2018 with a shoulder injury.

"We're already having the conversation when we get into game situations where we've got to shorten up your leads to where you're not diving back head first, that's what we're going to do," Matheny said. "We're simulating games back here where we take that competition level just down a bit.

"We're going to work on balls deep into the hole, let's work on a slide play where you have almost your maximum range to be able to make a play, but take a little stress off that shoulder. And two, I think there's a maturity process of understanding game situations. We're up six runs and there's a ball in the hole, his instincts are telling him, 'I can make this play,' but understanding the risk and reward. Is this the right play at this particular time?"

"We never want to back guys off, but how can we do it just a little smarter is the way to go," he said.

Mondesi is the son of Raul Mondesi who was the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year and played 13 years in the majors.

In the 2015 World Series, the younger Mondesi made his first major league appearance, striking out as a pinch-hitter against the New York Mets.

"We've got to get him healthy first," Royals perennial Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon said. "We saw bits and pieces of his talent last year, but the injury interfered with it, but the talent is probably the best I've seen. It's just about him getting out there and being healthy and staying on the field."

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