Mike Montgomery should get a shot in the Royals' rotation. (Photo Credit: Minda Haas)

Time to Stop the Pitching Merry-Go-Round

So far this season, the Royals have used 22 different pitchers (including Mr. Terrific, Mitch Maier). They used 23 in all of 2011, 25 in 2010, 23 in 2009, and 25 in 2008. I don’t know that that means too much, except when you look at last season’s roster, a few of those guys didn’t show up in Kansas City until the second half or late in the year. We’ve got a little ways to go and there are always a few guys (Ryan Verdugo, Doug Davis, Brandon Sisk, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, etc.) who could arrive and vault that total number toward 30. If things keep moving as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen.

Well, we’re down two starters to Tommy John surgery: Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Their replacements, Vin Mazzaro and Luis Mendoza, haven’t been quite as terrible as some would have predicted, but they haven’t helped out the cause lately, either. And that makes you wonder where the starts are going to come from. If the Royals’ bats can’t stack up enough runs to offset the replacement pitchers, what do they do to win?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. One thing I’d like to see them try, however, is to hit the brakes on the pitcher shuffling with Omaha. Stop grabbing relievers at random and bringing them up because the starters aren’t cutting it. If the starters are the issue, try new starters. Try something different. Try Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi.

I understand why they may not want to do this. You lose options on those guys if they come to Kansas City and then implode, necessitating a return to Omaha. They’re both 22, and it’s possible they get slammed and lose confidence a bit. Or, if they have the mental resolve (which I’m in no place to comment on), they rebound and work harder the next time. Montgomery has been laboring at Omaha for a while now, and his starts have been touch-and-go during that time. It’s really difficult to say just how he’d throw with the Royals, but he may need that experience to take a step forward. As for Odorizzi, he hasn’t been in Omaha nearly as long, but he’s pitched well and struck out just over three batters per every walk. Now, he needs to get some more grounders (0.39 groundout/flyout on the season with Omaha), but there’s seemingly little else he needs to do.

And, mainly, the Royals need arms.

Jake Odorizzi has a rotation spot waiting for him in KC. (Photo Credit: Minda Haas)

As I said, they could call up Doug Davis. He’s been throwing fairly well so far and could potentially eat some innings for the Royals. He could be a potential stopgap in the bleeding rotation. But he’s not nearly as important to the Royals as Montgomery and Odorizzi are.

If the Royals’ plan is to hold their biggest remaining cards (Wil Myers, Montgomery, Odorizzi, mainly) for a big splash in 2013, I get that idea. But they have shown signs of life this season and could at least edge into the conversation, even if they have a low probability of winning the division. Some youthful sparks could do that, though, of course, it’s hard to say what will happen.

But if the biggest argument is not rushing them (which I’ve used before many times), then at least Montgomery should get a shot at a few starts. Try it out and if he sticks, great. If not, no harm, no foul, and he hopefully learns something. I find this a hard argument to make, as I tend to be a “wait-and-see” sort of guy, but when we’re relying on shutouts from Luke Hochevar and strong pitching from Bruce Chen or Jonathan Sanchez, we’re already in trouble. Pitching was a question mark before the season and it’s developed into an even bigger one as the season has progressed. It may be time to try something novel rather than resort to the same method we’ve been using.

So, I’m going back on my prior debate about whether Mike Montgomery or Will Smith was the right choice for a call-up. Mike Montgomery is the right choice at this moment. He appears to be starting to strike out a few more batters. He’s inducing more grounders than flyballs on the season. And, potentially most importantly, he’s been with Omaha long enough to learn a few things. I feel like the coaching staff with the Royals could help him a bit in his progression, as would seeing stronger batters and experiencing the life of a big league starter.

Some of these reasons may seem trivial or tenuous. I understand that. I just think we’ve been riding the same old pitching merry-go-round for long enough. It’s time to try something new and see how that works.

Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi should be that something new.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Jake Odorizzi Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Mike Montgomery MLB Royals

  • jim fetterolf

    The call-ups are likely to be Everett Teaford, the original swingman back from injury, and Davis, a veteran body to get a few starts out of. Bob Dutton reported that Odorizzi and Montgomery are “back-burner” options and I would add that Monty isn’t likely until the FO thinks the season is over or until Monty clicks and puts together a few dominant starts hitting the ‘zone and missing bats. They won’t bring him to fail. JaKKKe seems on the Duffy track, so after the ASG he will get more imminent if he maintains consistency.
    As for the number of pitchers used, no big deal. Dayton Moore is taking advantage of what he has in a bunch of #6 starters to plug the holes created by injuries. I doubt he thinks it’s an ideal situation, but we play the hands we’re dealt. With the two top starters under the knife, I think most folks are pleased with the results so far, although I’m sure some want to trade Myers and Odorizzi for Josh Beckett.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf Agreed on Teaford. Dutton reported it and others on twitter pointed out that he hadn’t pitched in a while and in light of the report, that makes the most sense.
    I’m just fine with trying Montgomery though. I like to try to look at all the numbers and what not, but with him, at this point, it just becomes a different situation. He’s supposed to be the top pitching prospect in the organization, his stuff still looks alive, he’s shown signs – let’s do something a bit different and challenge him. Monty’s been a competitive guy every step. He dominated up until some elbow issues in 2010 but still finished alright, had a great spring and ended up in Omaha – and from there, maybe it’s that competitive nature taking over, causing him to lose focus, maybe he was dwelling on things and struggled and it’s snowballed. I don’t know. At this point, leaving him in Omaha until next year feels like letting him sit there and stagnate, rotting on the vine. He’s worthless as a prospect in Omaha – can’t trade him (4.70 ERA!) but can’t bring him up (by conventional wisdom) – so why not take initiative and see what he reacts to?
    I likened it to a gifted student in class acting out because he’s bored. Those kids don’t always put out their best effort because who’s noticing anyway? They just do the same lessons everyone else does. Give them a project, ask them to excel at something catered to them, and they can shine. I think he’d react to the challenge in a positive way. Anyway, at this point, I think it’s worth at least trying. Give him a month – 4 or 5 starts – see what happens. If he’s still rough, send him back to Omaha until September. Then you get two months to at least look at him and can assess where you are in building 2013′s rotation. Once the Royals look to contend seriously (I don’t count this year for that until they get over .500), they can’t just throw a mess of #5/#6 starters out there and see what might stick. They need some kind of idea and if it looks like they need to go acquire two pitchers to set things up, then they know that going into the offseason.
    Pretty sure the organization will think, and do, differently, though.

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel I think the FO joins me in thinking that being five games back in spite of the injuries and starting to get injured starters back qualifies as contention.
    I don’t disagree on bring Monty up sometime, I had thought after seeing him in last year’s futures game at the K that he should have made the rotation out of SP, but I don’t see the team going into “next year” mode for awhile yet. Until then they’ll go with the guys most likely to give a good start or two to stay in the race. Royals are still in it and will act accordingly. They’re probably as surprised to be five back as anyone, but they’re going to keep playing it. JaKKKe is close to forcing a hand and two or three more good starts and he could come up. Pitching hasn’t been the problem this season, hitting has and it’s showing signs of life with Gordon and Hosmer producing a little better.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf CONSISTENT pitching has been a problem though. Chen’s had some stinkers, Hochevar’s had notable awful games. Sanchez still hasn’t had a good one. Mazzaro came back to earth as did Mendoza. Duffy and Paulino were looking good but…well…we all know how that chapter ended.
    I don’t think calling up Montgomery is conceding anything. He has more talent than Teaford (who I do like) or Will Smith or Ryan Verdugo or any other guy aside from perhaps Jake that they could bring up. If Montgomery were a 20 year old in Triple A, then yeah, it might be a situation to wait until it’s definitely on to looking at next year to bring him up. But he’s not 20 years old. It’s asking a lot, but if he’s a guy who can do something, he can adjust…and if he can’t handle it, then that’s something the team learns. Eventually flinging the Smiths and Davises and what not to try to stay in the race is going to catch up and those starts will have been wasted on learning nothing about a true prospect who still has some shine left. Basically, Monty offers way more upside than any other pitcher in the organization’s top two levels, but his floor isn’t any lower than Smith’s, Verdugo’s et al. It’s just as likely that Davis jumps in and gets knocked around. It’s just as likely that Teaford has some good starts and in his fourth or fifth it catches up. None of those guys are going to be top of the rotation guys though. Monty still could be. He’s no sure thing, but none of the others are a sure thing to be #4 guys. At least he has a chance to be a #1, #2. 

  • jim fetterolf

     @michael.allen.engel Monty isn’t outpitching Teaford, Davis, or JaKKKe, so what he might do is just a dream at the moment, so he really isn’t a serious option until September as long as the team is in the race. If he wants to come down the freeway, all he has to do is produce. I know Monty’s upside but have been thinking he may end up being a closer or set-up man with his stuff.
    As for Teaford and his 4th or 5th start, Justin Verlander gets knocked around every four or five starts, giving up five runs at least three times this year. Even the best pitchers do that. For a pitcher to stick in KC right now he needs three of five 50+ Game Score starts. Hochevar is sitting on eight of fifteen, Mazzaro two of four, Chen is ten of fifteen, Duffy was four of six, Paulino four of six, not counting his last injured game. Teaford getting two or three good starts in a row will keep him in the rotation for awhile.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @jim fetterolf But you see what I’m saying right? Just because Verlander is dominant in 3/5 starts, good in one and might be off in a fifth, doesn’t make he and Teaford the same guy just because Teaford might be okay for four and get rocked in one.
    it’s not about just staying above water, it’s about swimming. I like Teaford, but he’s not going to do that. 
    I say Monty would do well when pressed to step up for real in the big leagues. That’s my take. I could end up being wrong, but I don’t think it’s wrong to try it and find out. He’s more vital to the organization today and three years from today than Doug Davis. Invest the energy where it needs to be. 
    More on this to come, though. Keep watching our headlines.

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