Bobby Witt Jr.’s baseball mentor is Whit Merrifield
DENVER – “I’m just Bobby now.”
Bobby Witt Jr. was explaining how the Royals handle the Witt/Whit situation in the clubhouse, on the team bus, at dinner or on the field. You know this one: Kansas City has a Witt in Bobby and a Whit in Whit Merrifield.
“He’s Whit and I’m Bobby,” Witt said.
Their names are similar, but they are very different. Whit Merrifield played his 500th consecutive game on Saturday night, extending the club record and longest active streak in the Majors in a 10-4 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. Witt was playing the 30th game of his MLB career.
But when it comes to being a baseball player, Witt wants to be like Whit.
“He’s the one I watch before games, just to see what he’s doing,” Witt said. “He did it in 500 consecutive games. It’s incredible. Just playing two major league games in a row is crazy, and now he’s done it 500 times [without a day off]. It’s just awesome to watch.
The two can be seen together frequently before games – A Whit framing a Witt.
To wit: Prior to Friday’s series opener against Colorado, the two were playing side-by-side. Two Royals infielders – one 33 and the other 21 – warm up before heading to work, with the younger player absorbing the veteran’s wisdom.
They returned to work on Saturday, but things did not go as they would have liked. A day after producing season-highs with 14 runs and 18 hits, Kansas City had just four runs on five hits, while starter Carlos Hernández continued to struggle. The right-hander gave up nine runs over four innings and saw his ERA ball of the season at 9.11.
As has been the case for several years, it’s all about the process with the Royals. Manager Mike Matheny uttered the words “trust the process” a few times in the first two games of the series with Colorado, and it’s certainly something Witt took to heart.
Witt, baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, is enduring the growing pains of adjusting to the Majors. He came into Saturday’s game cutting .211/.237/.325 this season, but he threw the second home run of his young career, a 427-foot solo shot off the left-field wall on a curveball from Rockies reliever Ashton Goudeau in the seventh inning.
The home run came a day after Witt recorded the second hat-trick of his career. With the help of clubhouse mentors like Merrifield, the rookie is sticking to the ‘trust the process’ mantra as he navigates league waters for the first time. He also recognizes the place failure must have in the process, especially in a game where the greats fail seven out of 10 times.
“I think the only way to really learn is to fail,” Witt said. “Obviously I don’t want to fail, but also, I think you learn so much from this and I’m just trying to take in as much as I can, and learn from the guys in this clubhouse who have been doing it for much longer than me.
Matheny has seen many young players come and go in his nearly three decades at the Majors as a player and manager. And this season, we’re seeing examples of reported youngsters struggling — one example is Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who was picked for Triple-A after posting a .509 OPS with 36 strikeouts in 30 games to start the season. season.
Matheny is more than happy with the way Witt is handling things so far, especially as Witt has only played 161 Minor League games after the Royals selected him second overall in the league draft. MLB 2019.
“He’s fine,” Matheny said. “You look at the whole league, where you see guys who have been very successful for a long time and where they are now. He is doing very well. It’s always difficult with a lot of firsts – going to your hometown for the first time, every time you see a team for the first time. The other guys, they all have a book on each other. He played a very good defense and I saw him improve. It will come. He’s right there.
Witt is right there. And often, Whit Merrifield is there next to him. It helps to have this wealth of wisdom when the mantra is hard to live with.
“It’s a tough game,” Witt said. “Everybody knows that. You just have to keep doing your job and trust the process.