Jorge Lopez
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Jorge López loses perfect game bid in the ninth

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Royals rookie right-hander Jorge López was three outs shy of the first perfect game in franchise history on Saturday. He dealt eight flawless innings against the Twins, striking out four of 24 batters and keeping the basepaths clear with an even 100 pitches.

In the ninth, however, things began to unravel after Max Kepler worked a 3-1 count against the righty, then took a walk after López’s fastball missed the edge of the strike zone. With the perfecto gone and the no-hitter still intact, López lasted just five more pitches against the Twins before giving up a single to Robbie Grossman, who lined an 86.5-MPH changeup into center field for the Twins’ first hit of the game. Carrying a pitch count of 110 and a comfortable four-run lead, he was given a swift exit from the mound and replaced by right-handed reliever Wily Peralta.
The Royals backed López’s extraordinary efforts with a handful of runs, from Hunter Dozier‘s RBI single in the sixth to Alberto Mondesi’s RBI double and another pair of base hits from Whit Merrifield and Alex Gordon in the seventh. The Twins spoiled the shutout in the ninth after Ehire Adrianza plated a single run on a sac fly, but they weren’t quite able to close the gap against the Royals and convert a stunning loss into a comeback.
Had López completed the perfecto, he would have been the first to do so in franchise history and the 22nd to do so in MLB history. No pitcher has recorded so much as a no-hitter for the Royals since Bret Saberhagen’s no-no against the White Sox in 1991, when he blanked the club’s division rivals with nine innings of two-walk, five-strikeout ball. On the flip side, it’s only been six years since the Twins found themselves on the losing end of a no-hitter. Former Angels hurler Jered Weaver was the last to no-hit the team after taking them to task with a 9-0 victory in 2012. Funnily enough, the league’s last three perfect games were also recorded in 2012, when the White Sox’ Philip Humber no-hit the Mariners in April, the Giants’ Matt Cain delivered a perfect game against the Astros in June, and the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez crafted a perfecto against the Rays in August.
Needless to say, this still was the strongest start the Royals had seen from López since they acquired him from the Brewers prior to the July trade deadline. While he was primarily used as a relief pitcher in Milwaukee, he transitioned to a starting role in Kansas City and entered Saturday’s game with a combined 4.26 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, and 7.4 SO/9 through 40 1/3 innings for both teams.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.