|Odorizzi tries to salvage lost weekend vs. Royals|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jake Odorizzi made only two starts for the Kansas City Royals, pitching a total of 7 1/3 innings in 2012.
Odorizzi, who starts Sunday for the Minnesota Twins against the Royals, however, is forever linked to the club going to back-to-back World Series in 2014-15.
The Royals acquired Odorizzi from the Milwaukee Brewers in a December 2010 trade involving Zack Greinke. The Royals also acquired Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain in that trade, key starters on the 2015 World Series champion team.
In the 2012 offseason, they flipped Odorizzi and other top prospects, including Wil Myers, to Tampa Bay for Wade Davis and James Shields.
"I think it's just another clubhouse now," Odorizzi said. "My last year here was in 2012. There's been a lot of turnover. This place will always be special to me regardless of the short time I was here. It's always nice to come back to where it all began. There has to be a starting point to the story, and that's here for me."
Odorizzi will try to prevent the Royals sweeping the series. Kansas City took the first two games, winning back-to-back games for the first time since May 29-30, also against Minnesota.
Odorizzi had an uneven first half. He is 4-6 with a 4.54 ERA in 20 starts, allowing 101 hits, walking 45 and striking out 105 in 101 innings.
"Just be a little more consistent," Odorizzi said of his second half goal. "There were a lot of ups and downs in the first half. I wasn't happy with it. If I'm going to change things, it's up to me to go out there and get that established in my first start tomorrow.
"I was a little light on innings and too high on walks. Those are the two big things. The walks are something you can control a lot of times. I'm trying to focus on mechanics and get a little more direct to the plate, be over the plate more."
In his last start before the All-Star break, Odorizzi yielded six runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 13.
"I don't know if 'struggled in the first half'' is totally accurate," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think he had some really good stretches where he competitively gave us a chance into the middle innings if not the latter stages.
"He's had some trouble near the back end. He's had games where he hasn't been efficient, and his pitches have gotten up there. But I think he started throwing the ball better in his last two or three starts. He's a veteran guy. He does what he does. We'll look at what he's done when he's gone well. We all know he can elevate, even at 90- or 91-mph, he can still be effective. You just hope that he can pick up where he left off before the break."
The Royals will counter with Rule 5 pick Brad Keller, who will make his ninth start after beginning the year in the bullpen.
He is coming of a 9-6 loss on July 13 at the Chicago White Sox when he allowed a career-high five runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing as a starter.
Keller has not yielded a home run in 56 1/3 innings dating to April 20 in Detroit, the longest active streak in the majors.
He is 1-3 with a 3.73 ERA in eight starts since moving into the rotation on May 30. His first career start was against Minnesota, allowing one run and three hits with three strikeouts over three innings in an 11-8 Kansas City victory.
Keller is 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 14 home appearances. He owns a 3.48 ERA in four Kauffman Stadium starts, allowing eight earned runs in 20 2/3 innings.
Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is beginning to heat up. He hit a two-run homer in the 4-2 victory Saturday. He extended his hitting streak to eight games and has driven in 11 runs in his past seven games. Perez has a .317 career batting average with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in 43 games against the Twins since 2016.
"His bats tonight were fantastic," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was taking pitches, seeing the ball really well, getting in good hitter's counts. That's when he is starting to come out of it. He gets just a little less anxious and starts seeing the ball better, like he did tonight."
Yost said he turned to hitting coach Terry Bradshaw and catching coach Pedro Grifol and made a forecast off what he witnessed.
"He's coming now. He's going to get hot," Yost said.