KC Royals fire manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred after last-place finish

Paul Sancya/AP

Kansas City Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman left the fate of manager Mike Matheny in the hands of executive vice president and general manager J.J. Picollo, and Picollo dropped the ax on Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred following Wednesday’s season finale.

Hours after the final game of the season in Cleveland, the Royals announced in a news release that Matheny, 52, and Eldred, 54, would not return for the 2023 season.

“We are grateful to Mike for leading us through some unusual times these last three seasons,” Picollo said in a statement from the team. “He met those challenges head on and helped us move forward in a positive manner. We thank him for his leadership and know his influence will have a positive impact moving forward.”

Picollo will address the media on Thursday afternoon.

While they avoided a 100-loss season, the Royals (65-97) finished in last place in the AL Central and recorded the fifth-worst record of any club in the majors. They went an MLB-worst 26-55 on the road.

Matheny inherited a 103-loss team in 2019. In his first season, the Royals went 26-34 playing a pandemic-shortened 2020 schedule.

The Royals went 74-88 last season after adding veteran pitcher Mike Minor, first baseman Carlos Santana and left fielder Andrew Benintendi.

During spring training, the Royals exercised an option on Matheny’s contract, extending it through the 2023 season.

But Matheny had been hired by former president of baseball operations Dayton Moore, who was fired on Sept. 21, and Sherman said Matheny’s evaluation would be left up to Picollo.

“Managing the Royals has been a true privilege,” Matheny said in a news release. “I’m thankful to so many, primarily Dayton Moore, and the coaches and players I’ve worked with. I would like to thank Mr. John Sherman and the ownership group for the opportunity to manage their team, and everyone involved in this great organization.

“I came to the Royals knowing it was an organization of excellence and care, and was shown that care every single day. Royals fans should be excited about this group of players, and I look forward to watching them continue to grow.”

A former four-time Gold Glove-winning catcher who spent parts of 13 seasons in the majors, Matheny was in his second stint as a manager in the majors.

He previously managed the St. Louis Cardinals.

In seven seasons with the Cardinals (2012-18), Matheny went 591-474 and won an NL pennant and made a World Series appearance in 2013. He managed the NL All-Star Team in 2014. He also had a 100-win season in 2015.

Matheny was fired by the Cardinals during the 2018 season having never finished below .500 in his tenure with the club.

In Kansas City, Matheny replaced Ned Yost, who retired following the 2019 season.

Eldred, who had 14 seasons in the majors as a pitcher, spent five seasons as the Royals’ pitching coach starting in 2017. He’d also spent two prior seasons in the organization as an assistant to the general manager/player development.

Matheny and Eldred were teammates in the majors with both the Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals. Eldred also worked for the Cardinals as a special assistant before he joined the Royals organization.

The Royals have struggled to successfully transition young, inexperienced pitchers to the majors. In 2021, seven KC pitchers age 24 or younger started major-league games, including Kris Bubic, Jonathan Heasley, Carlos Hernández, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer and Angel Zerpa. That number, seven, matched a franchise record.

Last season, the Royals’ pitching staff ranked 12th in the majors and seventh in the AL after the All-Star break with a 4.05 ERA. This season, their pitching struggles were vast.

They finished the season ranked at or near the bottom of the majors in ERA (4.70, 27th of 30), walks plus hits per innings pitched (1.47, 30th), opponent’s batting average (.271, 29th), strikeouts per 9 innings (7.57, 28th), walks per 9 (3.74, 29th) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.02, 30th).