Ryan O’Hearn hits homer and helps Royals beat White Sox in debut

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Sports

August 1, 2018 - 10:39 AM

CHICAGO — Royals prospect Ryan O’Hearn awoke in a major-league team’s Chicago hotel for the first time in his life Tuesday morning and found lack of rest had done nothing to dampen his mood.
He’d found out two days earlier he was headed for this moment, for his major-league debut at Guaranteed Rate Field, where the Royals were scheduled to continue a three-series road trip Tuesday. He was too excited to care his sleep schedule had been messed up from the moment Class AAA Omaha manager Brian Poldberg called him into his office at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Calif., to deliver the news.
“I’m wired, man,” said O’Hearn, who took the outfielder Brian Goodwin (left groin strain) on the active roster and debuted as a designated hitter. “I’m ready to go.”
So was the second pitch O’Hearn received from White Sox starter and former Royals pitcher James Shields in the fifth inning. The curveball entered the strike zone just below O’Hearn’s belt. O’Hearn unfurled his left-handed swing, caught the pitch with the end of his bat and roped a two-run home run into the Craft Kave beyond the right-field wall for his first career hit.
It wasn’t the decisive blow in the Royals’ 4-2 win over the White Sox. New Royals outfielder Brett Phillips provided the insurance in the seventh inning with a two-run blast, his first hit in a KC uniform since being acquired from the Brewers in the trade of Mike Moustakas late Friday.
But O’Hearn’s 359-foot home run gave the Royals a 2-0 lead and launched O’Hearn into the annals of Royals history. He became the third Royals player to hit a home run in his major-league debut, joining Clint Hurdle (1977) and Mark Quinn (1999). An even more obscure note: O’Hearn is the first Royals player since Hurdle to knock a homer for his first major-league hit.
A left-handed hitter the Royals selected in the eighth round of the 2014 draft out of Sam Houston State, O’Hearn had become known for his power stroke. He’d hit 95 in 558 minor-league games before the Royals moved Cheslor Cuthbert to the 60-day disabled list to make room for O’Hearn on the 40-man roster on Tuesday. Although his .391 slugging percentage in 100 games this year didn’t reflect it, the Royals were encouraged by the metrics. O’Hearn had become one of the Class AAA leaders in average exit velocity.
“Dayton wanted to get a look at him,” manager Ned Yost said. “His numbers weren’t great but if you break down whatever metrics you look for all that stuff, he was smoking the ball. A lot of hard outs. A lot of real hard outs. He was swinging the bat pretty good but he just didn’t wasn’t having much to show for it.”
That wasn’t the case Tuesday, as the Royals improved to 33-73. Danny Duffy, who allowed four walks and threw 112 pitches in 52/3 innings, earned the victory.

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