The top three rotation spots are already solidified. Jonathan Sanchez, Bruce Chen, and Luke Hochevar will lead the staff as the top three starters. That leaves the Royals to fill two more spots as we head into April, with Opening Day looming. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino were who I initially thought would fill out the latter part of the rotation. However, I’m pleasantly surprised with the spring that Luis Mendoza has put together so far, and he seems to have firmly tossed his name in the race. It would be great if he continued to perform and make this a very difficult decision for Manager Ned Yost but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.
Bruce Chen and Jonathan Sanchez have been poor to start the spring, but that doesn’t mean we should be panicking. Chen is currently sporting a 9.64 ERA and has given up nine hits and five earned runs in only 4.2 innings of work. It’s early in the spring and because he is a veteran and knows how to pick himself up, I’m confident he will still be a reliable starter for the Royals this season. Sanchez hasn’t been aided with much defensive help but has still given up three earned runs in one inning of work. On the plus side, he did not give up a walk in that inning but was still roughed up for four hits. I’m not going to put too much stock in their performances thus far but I will be expecting some noticeable progression from the two, as we close out March.
Luke Hochevar has continued with his improvements from the last half of the season last year into this spring and had a good outing in his first spring start. Over five innings he has allowed only two runs while striking out three. I think it’s finally the year where Hochevar stamps his name as a competent top of the rotation starter. I do not think he will ever be an Ace or a true number one, but I believe he can be a very good two or three for a contending team.
Danny Duffy really impressed in his first time out this spring. He recorded five straight strike outs and did not allow a single base runner in his two innings so far. I would love for Duffy to be a dominant backend guy the Royals can count on this year. I still believe he is going to have his bumps in the road as the season advances, but I’m confident he will earn a spot out of Spring Training, especially if he continues to show flashes of brilliance like we saw only a few days ago.
That leaves one more rotation spot up for grabs, and I think Felipe Paulino has the slight edge over Luis Mendoza at this point. While Mendoza has impressed, in my opinion, this spot is Paulino’s to lose. Mendoza has started two games and went a combined six innings giving up zero runs and striking out four while only walking one. If he keeps this up, it will be hard to deny him a rotation spot but if that doesn’t happen he could still be a long reliever out of the gate for this team. Paulino, in his one start hasn’t given up a run in his two innings, but did allow three hits and only struck out one batter. He still has done nothing to lose the spot, and while it’s very early, I expect him to be the final starter, assuming Duffy takes the 4th spot.
It certainly will be an entertaining end to the spring as we will find out who will fill out the last two rotation spots. I hope Mendoza continues to pitch the way he has and maybe force the Royals hand to put him on the Opening Day 25 man roster. It’s still a viable option that he is one of the first guys looked at for a spot start, or something along those lines, at some point throughout the season. Either way, we have been blessed with some good outings by most of the guys so far, and there’s still time for Chen and Sanchez to start pitching like we would expect them to, in time for Opening Day.
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