Omaha lefty Jonathan Dziedzic was out of his routine.
Wednesday was scheduled to be his day to start. But Kansas City wanted to use new acquisition Jorge Lopez, who came from Milwaukee in the Mike Moustakas trade last week, in a starting role.
That meant Dziedzic, a starter for his entire pro career, would have to come out of the bullpen. But rehabbing Royals reliever Blaine Boyer also needed to throw an inning Wednesday. By the time Dziedzic took the mound in a 7-4 win over Las Vegas at Werner Park, the game was already in the sixth.
“It was weird,” he said. “I always like to get to the field at the same time. (I was) actually earlier because I’m not starting. I wasn’t too sure on the schedule. I just knew I was throwing after Lopez. And then I got here and found out Boyer was going to throw, too.
“I was here a little bit before I should’ve been here.”
The starter had only pitched in a relief role three times previously in his 117 pro appearances. And every one came when he was the normal starter piggybacking a teammate who was on rehabilitation.
Dziedzic’s only previous experience coming out of the pen at the Triple-A level came two years ago. He’d forgotten what it was like.
“You just sit in the bullpen the whole time,” he said. “It’s definitely different. Obviously, I’ve only had three or four (relief outings in) my whole career. You’ve just got to adjust to it. You try not to throw too many in the bullpen because you know you’re going to go in the game and throw for a while.”
Dziedzic tossed four hitless innings to earn his first career save in the only time he’d ever had the opportunity to finish something another pitcher started. In fact, he’d only been on the mound for the end of the game once. That came in his only complete game in Double-A ball in 2015.
“That was the last thing on my mind,” Dziedzic said. “I was just trying to close the game out and get the team a win. I couldn’t have told you if it was my first one. I’m just going out there and pitching.”
Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg called what his team did “pitching the game backwards.” Lopez, who had 34 combined relief appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs and Milwaukee this year, was making his first start of the season. Dziedzic came out of the bullpen for the first time in two years.
The 25-year-old Lopez, who had been a starter in the past, will remain in the rotation.
“We’re going to keep running him out there and see what happens,” Poldberg said.
Where Dziedzic falls into the mix for the staff remains to be seen. He walked three and struck out four to save a victory for Boyer, who allowed one hit as the Chasers bullpen extended its streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to 20 2⁄3.
“I get a lot of jokes because I don’t like to use too much energy,” Dziedzic said. “But in the ninth, it’s hard not to get kind of worked up because you know that’s the end of the game.
“That was the biggest thing for me, trying to slow things down and calm down and focus on my mechanics.”
Cam Gallagher and Elier Hernandez each had two hits and drove in two runs for Omaha. Hernandez ripped an opposite-field triple in the fifth inning to break a 4-4 tie and put the Chasers on top for good.
Lopez easily got through the first two frames, then gave up three straight hard-hit balls in a three-run third for the 51s. Matthew den Dekker and Zach Borenstein hit consecutive homers.
Poldberg still thinks it was a positive beginning for Lopez.
“I thought he did a good job,” he said. “He had three balls hit hard, three mistakes. He left three balls up in hittable spots, and they hit them hard. But other than that, he spotted them up pretty good.”