Kansas City Royals OF Drew Waters back from injured list. Here’s how KC will use him

·4 min read
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals activated outfielder Drew Waters from the injured list on Friday. Waters made his 2023 debut against the Washington Nationals and went 2 for 4 on the night.

In the seventh inning, Waters singled off Nationals starter Patrick Corbin. Waters would later score as part of the five-run frame. An inning later, Waters added a second hit to cap his night at the plate.

“I felt good,” Waters said. “I actually told [Edward] Olivares, during one of the pitching changes, even one day in the big leagues still gives you a little bit of excitement just to be back out there.”

Waters returned after being sidelined with a strained left oblique injury. He missed a significant portion of spring training after sustaining the injury in February.

The Royals remained cautious during his rehab. Waters spent time in extended spring training as he ramped up his on-field activities. He was later sent to Triple-A Omaha to begin his rehab assignment on May 9.

Waters admitted he needed time to adjust to Triple-A pitching. He started 1 for 22 during his rehab stint before finding his rhythm with the bat. In his last seven games, Waters hit .600 with five doubles, two triples and two home runs.

The offensive production continued on Friday. Waters said it was a relief to get a couple of hits early and compared it to the long wait to get his first MLB hit last season.

“Last year, I had to wait a couple days for the first one,” Waters said. “To be able to get it tonight, obviously, it’s good to get the first one out of the way. Overall, the goal is to win.”

Waters became the first switch hitter in the Royals lineup this season. He offers a lot of versatility given his elite speed and defensive capabilities. Royals manager Matt Quatraro said Waters could shift throughout the lineup to generate a balanced attack.

“He is a dynamic player,” Quatraro said. “Hopefully with getting reps at this level and consistent at-bats, he can provide a real spark for us.”

Waters made his MLB debut last season. He played in 32 games and recorded 12 extra-base hits in 109 plate appearances. On defense, Waters had two outfield assists and didn’t commit an error in 65 chances.

The MLB experience was crucial heading into this offseason. Waters learned a lot during his rookie campaign. However, he felt he grew more during his injury rehabilitation.

“It was good for me to kind of step back and really focus on getting healthy and getting to a good spot here in Kansas City,” Waters said.

Waters expressed he is a high-energy guy. He likes to approach every activity full throttle and give max effort. The injury taught him how to pace himself for the long haul. In his recovery, Waters also bounced back from a slight back strain as well.

He thanked the Royals training staff. The staff highlighted ways to operate at a lighter pace to allow his body to recover. Waters said he learned to focus on getting his work done and conserve max effort for the games.

“I’m a high-energy guy and I’m not really good at doing things at 60%. I like to do things at 100%, and obviously, coming back from an injury, you can’t go 100% all the time. You kind of learn to dial it back a little bit.

Quatraro was impressed with Waters’ start on Friday. He liked how Waters adjusted to facing Corbin and found a way to collect two singles late.

“I’m sure there were some emotions and adrenaline going for him,” Quatraro said. “He got a couple hits late in the game. It’s nice to see him get his feet wet.”

The Royals will get an extended look at Waters. In a corresponding move, KC sent outfielder Nate Eaton to Triple-A.

“I’m excited,” Waters said. “Obviously, this is what I’ve wanted to do. So, I am just looking forward to getting out there to compete and give it everything I got.”