With an injury to Cam Gallagher, the Royals needed another catcher to back up Meibrys Viloria. Nick Dini really caught the eye of Royals Farm when he moved from Lexington to NWA to fill in for an injury in 2017, and hit .379/.472/.466 in his first month seeing AA pitching. The transition from High-A to AA is often the toughest in MiLB, but it didn’t even phase him. Although he didn’t hit for a lot of power, Dini had some pop, and was able to hold his own with the bat. I’ve seen him many times in person at NWA, and never had questions about his bat. My questions were always about him being able to handle high velocity pitchers, as Dini seems to struggle initially at times.
Dini seems to have become somewhat of a fan favorite in Omaha, and he continues to hit. Dini will get a change to show he can handle a major league pitching staff until Cam Gallagher is healthy again, and then probably once again when September rolls around.
On Thursday, Dini finally got the chance to make his MLB debut against the Tigers starting at catcher. Dini’s first at bat was against Matthew Boyd with no outs in the top of the 2nd. The first pitch Dini saw in the majors was a 91 mph fastball that was center cut. Dini swung and popped up to shallow center where JaCoby Jones was waiting.
Dini’s second at bat was in the top of the 3rd with 2 outs and the bases empty. Dini watched while Boyd fought his control. Dini fouled off a 2-2 pitch before working the count full. He again fouled off a pitch before pulling a curve ball deep into the stand foul. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Dini worked a walk for his first trip on base as a Royal.
Dini had to wait until the 6th inning before he got another at bat. With Nicky Lopez on second and no outs, Matt Hall fell behind 2-0. Hall hung a curve and Dini ripped it through the 5-6 hole for his first major league hit. The ball was hit too hard for Lopez to score. Dini scored later in the inning when Alex Gordon hit a ball 454 feet to right center field.
In the 8th inning, Dini came up to face Buck Farmer with 1 out and the bases empty. Dini fouled off the 2-1 pitch. Dini fouled off two 95-mph fastballs up by his shoulders. Dini chased an 89-mph diving pitch down and in. I believe it was a change up but almost had splitty type action on it.
The Royals ended up losing in the bottom of the 9th when Jordy Mercer hit a walk off home run off Richard Lovelady. It was an eventful MLB Debut for Nick Dini notching his first walk, run scored, and hit.
Photo credit to Drew Osborne.