“Royals 3 Stars” March 20th: Kowar Stands Out in First Spring Start

It was a weird up and down game for the Royals as they came back to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-10 on a walk-off double by Edward Olivares. They are currently 1-0-1 so far in Cactus League play.

Here’s a look at the “3 Stars” from today’s game.

Three Stars: Edward Olivares, RF

Olivares came off the bench today, but he looked really comfortable in his four at-bats today. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and hit the game-winning double off of Diamondbacks reliever Blake Workman that drove in JaCoby Jones for the win in the bottom of the ninth.

The former Blue Jay and Padres prospect has failed to find a solid spot in Kansas City since being acquired in the Trevor Rosenthal deal with the Padres back in 2020. While he has some loud tools, especially on the hit tool and speed end, he struggles with consistency, especially in the field.

Today was a nice performance from Olivares, and it will be interesting to see if Olivares will get some opportunities this Spring to play with the Royals’ “projected” starting lineup in Cactus League play. If he continues to put up performances like this, he could make his case to be a bench outfielder for the Royals on Opening Day at the very least.

Two Stars: Emmanuel Rivera, 3B

Rivera came in off the bench, as he replaced Bobby Witt, Jr. at the hot corner in the 5th inning. Rivera went 2-for-3 with four RBI in the game.

However, the real highlight for Rivera came in his first at-bat in the bottom of the fifth, as he hit a line-drive home run to deep center field that brought in three runs:

And if that wasn’t enough, Rivera ended up hitting a line-drive single in the bottom of the eighth that drove in the game-tying run.

It’s going to be tough for Rivera to make the team, especially with Witt, Jr. getting so much buzz at third this Spring, and with Rivera’s lack of defensive flexibility (he’s pretty much a corner infielder solely). However, to see his stroke in good form is a promising sign that he could fill in off the bench at the Major League level, should he get the opportunity.

One Star: Jackson Kowar, SP

All eyes were on Kowar as he took the hill for his first Spring start of the Cactus League season. And thankfully for Kowar and Royals fans, the results were solid.

Kowar went two innings and struck out four batters while allowing three hits and one run. He walked zero batters, and his lone run was unearned, as reliever Josh Dye inherited Kowar’s runner and allowed him to score when Dye came in for Kowar in the third inning.

In his first Spring start, Kowar looked incredibly comfortable on the mound, which wasn’t quite the case in his Major League debut in 2021. Here’s a look at Kowar absolutely fooling Arizona’s Josh Rojas on two consecutive changeups:

While the former Florida Gator did give up a few hits, the lack of walks was encouraging, especially since he struggled in that area in 2021. There still is a long season to go for Kowar, and the odds will be against him making the rotation, barring injury. Right now, it’s pretty deep, with Singer, Hernandez, Lynch, Bubic, Heasley, and Possibly Zerpa competing for three spots, in addition to Kowar.

(Zack Greinke and Brad Keller most likely are solidified in the Royals’ 2022 rotation to begin the season, as long as they are healthy.)

However, if he continues to deal like this during Spring Training, it’s not out of the question to think that Mike Matheny could use him in a long relief role to begin the season, much like Kris Bubic and Carlos Hernandez in 2021, who parlayed successful bullpen stints to rotation jobs later in the season.

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

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