Less than a month ago, it looked like Kansas City Royals right-hander and former top draft pick Brady Singer’s future as a starter was in doubt. It became easy to write Singer off as a reliever masquerading as a starter or a young pitcher too stubborn to take the next necessary step.
One of the young pitchers president of baseball operations Dayton Moore admittedly “rushed” to the majors amid the pandemic despite limited experience in the minors, Singer seemed to have fallen behind other up and coming hurlers such as Kris Bubic and Carlos Hernández (both now at Triple-A).
Then Singer, who began this season in the bullpen, had to swallow some pride, go down to the minors and make starts at Triple-A — a step along the development ladder he’d previously skipped — and commit to using the changeup that he’d treated as something akin to a nuisance or a spare part he deemed useful once in a blue moon.
Two starts into his return from the minors, both coming against divisional foes who have familiarity with him, Singer became the first Royals pitcher to toss seven scoreless innings in consecutive starts since Jakob Junis from April 3-9, 2018. Singer hasn’t allowed a run since the eighth inning of his relief outing on April 10 against Cleveland. His current scoreless streak of 17 2/3 innings is a career best.
“If anyone was wondering whether or not he could pitch as well as he did last time, he comes out and he’s better,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said.
In Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Singer allowed just four hits in seven innings and left the game with a 6-0 lead. Two of those hits were by the first two batters of the day. But then the changeup helped him induce a double play.
For the second outing in a row, Singer professed to notice a considerable effect that pitch has had on hitters relative to his fastball. He threw his changeup 17% of the time (16 pitches) for the second straight start.
“I can see the difference in their swings, just being able to throw it even when it’s not as good,” Singer said of the changeup.
Later in the game, Singer again leaned on the changeup to navigate a tension-packed situation that he likely would’ve tried to bull his way through in the past. Instead, a little touch of finesse proved crucial as he operated with a single run of support until the bottom of the sixth inning when the Royals broke out with a five-run inning.
“It felt like all three pitches were working well,” Singer said. “I think the changeup could have been a little bit better. I was pulling it a little bit, but it was good at the right times. It was definitely good when I needed it to be.”
Singer worked his way into and out of trouble in the sixth while protecting that one-run lead. The Twins loaded the bases with one out on a walk by Gilberto Celestino followed by a Luis Arraez single and a Jorge Polanco walk on a full count.
With a reliever warming in the bullpen and the Royals seemingly in danger of watching their one-run edge disappear, Singer got Max Kepler to tap a changeup softly to third base and Emmanuel Rivera fielded, threw home and recorded the force out. Then with two outs, Gary Sanchez hit an inning-ending fly ball to left field.
Singer successfully stranded the bases loaded and kept the one-run lead intact.
“One out, I’m trying to get that double play, keep something on the ground, get it to the infielders there,” Singer said. “That’s what I did. That’s what I’m talking about with the changeup being there when I needed it to be.”
The Royals scored five runs in the bottom half of the inning and sent 10 batters to the plate. Singer sat through that offensive outburst and then went back out for the seventh having thrown 84 pitches. Matheny later said that Singer was on a batter-by-batter basis at that point.
Singer gave up a two-out triple in the seventh, but still got through the inning on 11 pitches without having allowed a run.
“He gets into a bind a couple of times and, of all pitches, his changeup gets him a big double play,” Matheny said. “His changeup gets him a man on third rollover with a great play Emmanuel to get the force out at home. He stays through the sixth and has a 30-minute delay and goes back and throws 11 pitches to finish with seven shutout. You couldn’t begin to ask him to do anything more.”