Dyson returns to the place where he won a World Series. Also updates on Mitch Haniger and why the Mariners keep getting hit by pitches.
KANSAS CITY — Jarrod Dyson appeared from the visitor’s clubhouse of Kauffman Stadium, a place in the venerable old ballpark that he’d never spent much time in his 11 years in the Royals organization.
“It’s kind of weird being on the other side,” Dyson said. “But it’s good to be back. It’s home for me. It was the only team I had ever been with. I had some good memories there and some fun times. I enjoy coming back here.”
Hours before his first game back in Kansas City since being traded to the Mariners in the offseason, a throng of local media awaited him.
“The most popular 24th man on a roster ever,” said one member of the media.
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And that’s not a slight on Dyson. As a bench player and fourth outfielder with the Royals, he was wildly popular amongst the fanbase, even more so than some of the star players. Royals’ fans loved his outgoing personality and swagger, marveled at his ability to make things happen in the field and on the bases when he was in the game and identified with his blue collar backstory — a 50th round, longshot of draft pick playing his way to the big leagues.
“I went about my business the right way here,” he said. “When my name was called on, I tried to show up. That’s the way I play. I try to do something positive every day to help the team win.”
Dyson did plenty of positive things with the Royals, including being a part of the two magical seasons that led to a World Series appearance in 2014 and a World Series title in 2015.
“I remember crying in Game 7 here and getting my feelings hurt by San Francisco,” Dyson said of losing in the 2014 World Series. “I also remember bouncing back and winning the World Series and seeing this city turn around and the way we uplifted the city, it was pretty special. I still go home at night and think about those days and get goosebumps and chills because we came so far.”
And he hasn’t forgotten his teammates from those seasons of success.
“I’m always checking on the boys,” he said. “We were so close over there. It was like family. I never shy away from them. I’m always checking on them and seeing how they are doing, texting them.”
And now he’s here to beat them and help the Mariners take at least three of four games in the pivotal series with wildcard implications.
“Those guys came to Seattle and took care of business on us,” he said of the Royals three-game sweep at Safeco in July. “It would be nice to do the same.”
It won’t be easy. Even after getting swept in Baltimore the last three days, the Royals are still 33-21 since June 1.
“The thing about that team over there is they’ve been together, they came up together,” he said. “They’ve lost together. When they first came up, there wasn’t winning a wining season. When you have a couple of losing seasons and the you get to the playoffs and win, that gives you that edge as a player. You know what to expect. You’ve seen the good and the bad and you take advantage of that experience of something good.”
A seasoned team like the Royals won’t make it easy. Teams will beat them, but the Royals rarely lose games because of mistakes.
“They’re not going to give in,” Dyson said. “They are not going to just give it to you. You are going to have to beat them in every aspect of the game. They find ways to win. If it’s a close game, they bring someone in off the bench to steal a base or score a run. You have to be on top of your game. You can’t make mistakes against those guys. They take advantage of mistakes. That’s just the way there. That’s the way they are wired. They keep that line moving.”
Obviously Dyson wants to play well against his former team. He’ll likely start three of the four games in the series based on the starting pitching projections.
Dyson did steal a base against old friend and All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, who is one of the best throwing catchers in baseball, in the series in Seattle.
“It’s always fun going up against Salvy,” he said. “It’s a cat and mouse game. He’s one of the best in the league. You’ve got to respect the guy behind the plate. If you are going to get a jump, you better make sure it’s a good one and you are running.”
And if he does steal a base in front of the Royals fans?
“I will hit them with the zoom,” he said of the post-stolen base dance he made famous in the postseason. “They will get that.”
*** Outfielder Mitch Haniger still has not been cleared by doctors to begin any sort of physical activity since being struck in the face by a pitch last Saturday vs. the Mets. Haniger suffered a severely lacerated lip, small nasal fracture and a mild concussion. The Mariners hope he will be cleared to at least begin lifting weights and conditioning in the next few days. There is no timetable for a return to baseball activities or a return to the team.
*** Mariners’ hitters have been hit with pitches by opponents 59 times this season — the most in the American League and second most in MLB (Pittsburgh 60).
Dyson leads the team with 10 hit by pitches, while Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger have been hit eight times each. Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have each been hit seven times.
“The book on our guys is to pitch them in, especially the guys with power,” Servais said. “Nelson gets pitched in frequently and you can understand why. They are trying to tie him up. With Dyson, for whatever reason, people are trying to cut him off and tie him up instead of letting him slap the ball the other way. Seager stands on top of the plate. There is some maybe some reason for it.”
And yet …
“I think there are times too that you notice it and you aren’t happy with it,” Servais said. “Our pitchers are aware of it. There are times to retaliate a little bit, to make notice of it. Our guys will handle it.”