Wacha’s Way: Kansas City’s signing of veteran pitcher could help Royals’ ‘young bucks’

Kansas City Royals pitcher Michael Wacha says fatherhood has provided a new perspective for him. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

SURPRISE – Spring training brings a valuable opportunity for MLB rosters to bolster chemistry before the start of the season. For the Kansas City Royals, who have made an effort to acquire veteran talent, meshing players with a variety of experience is all the more important.

Newly signed starting pitcher Michael Wacha plays a key role in this process.

“From a leadership standpoint, I want to try to get everyone to bring out their full potential,” Wacha said.

Kansas City signed the 32-year-old to a $32 million two-year contract in December, putting the righty alongside Seth Lugo, 34, and Chris Stratton, 33, and others who all look to add a combination of talent and experience to the Royals roster this year.

Those three arms struck out a total of 345 batters during the 2023 season, but manager Matt Quatraro likes the results that he has seen off the field in the clubhouse just as much as what he has seen on the mound at this stage.

For the Royals, meshing players with a variety of experience levels could be a key to finding success in the 2024 season. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

“Watching these guys go about their day-to-day business, the way they handle their prep, physical, mental, getting out on the bullpen mounds, it’s been tremendous to watch the way they’ve blended together,” Quatraro said.

In 2013, when Wacha was a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals, he was propelled into the playoffs, where he ended up tying Bob Gibson for the longest scoreless streak (19 innings) in Cardinals’ postseason history. Now Wacha’s responsibilities are many, but they do not stop after the final inning. At least, not since October of 2022.

Wacha announced via Instagram on Oct. 24, 2022, that his daughter was born three days earlier, introducing a whole new chapter of his life. Now having played one full season in the MLB as a dad, Wacha can reflect on the lessons he has learned within this early stage of fatherhood.

“From feeding to getting them to sleep or getting them to go out and play, you gotta have patience with kids,” Wacha said. “I would say probably patience was one of the biggest lessons.”

With this newfound lesson in hindsight, Wacha joked that he is able to grow further in patience on the diamond by comparing raising his daughter Marcia to aiding some of the “young bucks” of the Royals squad in their development.

John Schreiber, another new addition to the Royals’ rotation, reunites with Wacha this upcoming season after having played together on the Boston Red Sox in 2022. Schreiber said “nothing’s changed” since they last shared the same threads, as Wacha is just as hard working as he was before.

Schreiber also said that having an older mentor is important for young pitchers, specifically as they adjust to playing at the professional level and improve their craft. “How to go about pitch sequences,” was one of the most important things a younger player can learn in Shreiber’s eyes.

“It’s always huge to have a veteran presence in the clubhouse just to help ease the nerves a little bit, whether it’s your first season or whatever it may be,” Schreiber said. “I think everybody here is excited about this season.”

Third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. said he has enjoyed “having a competitor, a guy that’s pitched in a World Series, that’s been around the game” on the team. (Photo by Reece Andrews/Cronkite News)

However, it’s not just pitchers who have established a relationship with Wacha during spring training. The former MLB Pipeline All-Rookie First Team third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. was especially grateful for having a player who is used to playing in big moments at his side.

“Just having a competitor, a guy that’s pitched in a World Series, that’s been around the game,” Witt said. “It’s been great just getting to know him. Great dude, great person, both on and off the field.”

Looking ahead, Wacha imagines that he will introduce his daughter to the world of sports at an early age, saying that his parents were an influential piece to his athletic career when he was young.

After all, it takes a lot to get to the MLB and in his youth Wacha participated in many “full years of a lot of practices” between baseball, football and basketball.

“I think sports are great for kids just keeping them active and keeping them busy,” Wacha said. “You can make a lot of friends that way as well.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Maxwell Williams expects to graduate in Spring 2026 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in Spanish linguistic studies. Williams has written for the East Valley Tribune.

Reece Andrews REES AN-drooz (he/him)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Reece Andrews expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Andrews has worked for the State Press and at WCSN. He has also been in Cronkite News Los Angeles.