KANSAS CITY — A day after Jackson Kowar struggled in another Major League outing for the Royals, the club optioned the right-hander to Triple-A Omaha. In a corresponding move Monday, reliever Joel Payamps was reinstated from the family medical emergency list and will offer a fresh arm in the bullpen.
Kowar allowed seven runs on 11 hits in 3 1/3 relief innings on Sunday against the Guardians, marking his sixth straight outing of allowing five or more runs dating back to last season in the Majors.
After a strong spring in which he seemed to have ironed out the kinks in his delivery, Kowar struggled to explain what went wrong Sunday.
“I feel like they were taking good swings on good pitches throughout the whole outing,” Kowar said Sunday. “I’m going to look at video and make sure that what I thought was happening was actually happening. … I’m going to have to go back and look at where I was missing and what counts and how aggressive I was in certain counts. That was probably more of the issue, trying to take on too much plate and in the wrong counts.”
Kowar will go to Omaha to find answers, as well as get on a normal starting routine instead of appearing out of the bullpen like he was for Kansas City. The Royals still view the 25-year-old as a key piece of their future pitching plans, but he must learn how to command at the highest level.
“It’s going to be execution and it’s going to be predictability,” manager Mike Matheny said. “All in all, it’s just the execution. His stuff is really good. How can we help him execute that better? Improve on his execution of everything. When he does that, his stuff’s too good to get hit on a consistent basis.”
On Sunday, Kowar found too much of the plate too many times, which the Guardians pounced on for damage. And when Kowar did get ahead in the count, he was unable to execute his secondary stuff enough to finish off the at-bats.
On the 30 swings he registered Sunday, only six were whiffs, and only one came on his slider. There were times that a slider registered as a curveball because Kowar was trying to do too much, and he got a different spin on it. Steven Kwan singled on one of those, and another was a first-pitch ball at the top of the zone to Oscar Mercado, who tripled two pitches later when Kowar threw a fastball over the middle of the plate.
“You look at Jackson’s stuff, you realize, ‘Man, it’s good,’” Matheny said. “If he can control those counts — but then, it’s not just controlling counts because he had some favorable counts yesterday he got hurt on, so it’s execution of the secondary stuff outside of the strike zone. … He’ll get there. He was trying to over-effort it, in terms of strike-to-ball, instead of executing location. He tried to throw it harder and nastier, and those are the ones that hurt him.”