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Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Scott Barlow not surprised by KC’s turnaround

Cleveland Guardians reliever Scott Barlow couldn’t help but smile when asked about his former team — the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals traded Barlow to the San Diego Padres at the 2023 MLB trade deadline. In November, the Padres dealt him to the Guardians.

For Barlow, playing against the Royals is special. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Barlow later spent parts of six big-league seasons with KC.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “Being able to see some of the guys before the game and say hi, catch up a little bit — as much as you can with the time (you have).”

Barlow said he tries to keep in contact with his former teammates but noted it’s hard because some are no longer with the Royals.

After an offseason filled some roster turnover, the Royals (37-26 after Thursday’s game) and Guardians (40-21) are now battling for the AL Central crown.

“Both teams are kind of doing really well, and its sort of like a fun series,” Barlow said. “It’s been fun.”

Although the Royals struggled last season, Barlow isn’t surprised by the team’s rapid turnaround.

“From my experience with (pitching coach Brian) Sweeney and (manager Matt) Quatraro and kind of the newer staff — when they first came in they laid down the foundation in what they expected out of the players,” Barlow said. “I think it was very simple and easy to adjust to. It wasn’t anything like wild or anything.

“Just seeing kind of what they were preaching and seeing it now, it makes sense why they are successful.”

Barlow is also counting down the days until the Guardians travel to KC to play the Royals, as he’s looking forward to dining at Q39.

On the field, Barlow looks forward to the challenge of playing the Royals throughout the season.

“We are jelling really good right now, so it’s always good to be tested,” he said. “Like (Monday), down five working our way back. That’s always really, really fun as a team.”

Quatraro hadn’t been able to catch up with Barlow as of Thursday morning but raved about the pitcher’s time with the Royals.

“I love Scotty,” Quatraro said. “His demeanor, how he handled stuff, the calmness, the presence (and) the wanting to win. He was one of those guys that was like, ‘Pitch me whenever.’ Really good person. Down to earth.”

Barlow entered Thursday 2-2 with a 3.91 ERA this season. He pitched 2/3 of an inning with two strikeouts and now has 36 strikeouts to 12 walks. Following Thursday’s appearance, he’s pitched in 30 games for the Guardians

Although he’s not wearing Royal blue anymore, Barlow sees similarities between his old team and new one.

“The talent in KC was there. It was just about … making it all work together,” Barlow said. “Same here, it’s such a talented group. Just seeing everyone click and jell is so fun.”