ST. LOUIS — In his third year at the helm for the Royals, Mike Matheny has Kansas City fans fired up for baseball again.
On Tuesday, he brought his upstart team full of veterans like Salvador Perez and young prospects like Bobby Witt Jr. to his old stomping grounds of Busch Stadium.
The Royals are out to a 2-2 start on the season, and look like they could be set for a substantial improvement over their 74-88 record of 2021.
"It's a really exciting mix. We have good veteran leadership, we have young players on the cusp of being really good and it's just a matter of getting through some of the inconsistencies of being a young player. But right now they're all moving in the right direction," Matheny said.
From veterans like Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana to top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., the Royals do have a variety of personalities and skillsets to draw upon.
Matheny said he's excited for his team to play the team that let him go as manager in 2018, and that there is a little bit of an extra juice when it comes to a Kansas City vs. St. Louis match-up.
"It's always a great atmosphere. It's been a couple years removed now, and there's a business that we get in here and try to figure out how to win games. And I know that's not what Cardinals fans want to hear. But I'm proud of how our guys here of how they've continued to grow and develop. They know there's a rivalry here that's probably bigger on the other side of the state than it is here. And it's a big deal for our guys to play well here," Matheny said.
Matheny will be managing against his former teammate Albert Pujols, who's in the lineup for the Cardinals on Tuesday. The two played together in St. Louis for four seasons from 2001-2004.
The manager isn't tipping his hand as to how his pitching staff will go about trying to shut down his old friend.
"We've got a smart group that knows how to go about getting hitters out. So we put a plan together. But you always have deep respect for some of the greatest in the history of the game. I've just gone through in my mind recently just how special it was to watch up close the emergence of Albert Pujols. To see him back in this uniform I know is special for this franchise and I think it's good for the game," Matheny said.
As for the excitement level in Kansas City right now, you can count former Cardinal and current Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler among those fired up for Matheny.
"He's got skills. He's gonna take us to a championship. Yeah he is," Hudler said of Matheny.