Foster Griffin's journey with the Kansas City Royals has been one of the more unique ones in Major League Baseball, but his story saw the page turned and a new chapter started on Friday night.
In July of 2020, the lefty debuted on his birthday and logged the first win of his career. After 1-2/3 innings of work, however, he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery. After working his way back through the Royals' minor-league system, the 26-year-old appeared in his second career big-league game. He picked up right where he left off.
In one inning of relief following Daniel Lynch and Joel Payamps, Griffin needed all of eight pitches in order to get through three Minnesota Twins hitters. He flashed his patented four-seam fastball, cutter and curveball trio, getting all three of his outs by contact via the cutter. After the game, Griffin touched on the emotions involved with getting back to the pinnacle level of competitive baseball.
"It was an emotional day for sure," Griffin said. "I didn't sleep great last night but once I got in here, put the spikes on and got out on the field, it was all kind of coming back to me. Definitely an emotional day, but I was able to control those once I got out there and just go out and attack the hitters."
Starting from the ground up didn't prove to be much of an issue for Griffin last year. In 8-1/3 innings of Single-A ball, he struck out 10 hitters while not allowing a single run. With Double-A Northwest Arkansas, he struck out another 13 in 12-2/3 innings. During his 2021 stint at Triple-A Omaha, the 2014 first-round pick spun to the tune of a 3.60 ERA in 25 innings of work.
Griffin doubled down on that production this year, as his ERA with the Storm Chasers sat at a minuscule 1.83 before his promotion to the Royals. Griffin has worked as almost exclusively a starter in the past, at least at the minor-league level, until this year. Of Griffin's 14 total appearances, all of them have been in relief. It hasn't proven to be much of an adjustment for him, though, and he's more than willing to let the defense behind him do some of the work.
"Just another day on the bump," Griffin said. "That's what I tried to make it feel like. I just wanted to go out there, attack this opponent and let them put it in play because we've got gold all over this field everywhere. I just wanted to let the defense do their thing, and they did, and we got it done."
It remains to be seen exactly how long Griffin will be with the Royals. The club has optioned young pitchers Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic and Carlos Hernandez this season, opening up opportunities for others from Omaha to come up and make their presences felt. He fits that description, especially considering his prospect pedigree and age.
Amidst a lengthy stretch of games packed into a very finite amount of days, Kansas City's bullpen is being worn out quite often. If Griffin can provide some help in relief, he could be here to stay. He's worked his way back, and that's the most important step — regardless of what happens next.