He’s been working in Arizona with the Royals AZL Rookie League team and getting his work in. In four appearances, he’s given up four runs in 5.2 innings. Three of those runs came in a start on August 22 when he gave up five hits in one inning. Overall, he’s only walked two and struck out six as he works to regain his command and collects innings as the season winds down. His next start, though, will be for Idaho Falls, the Royals highest level Rookie League team, probably as soon as September 1.
According to his father, Lamb has been working mostly to get his legs back. An ankle injury during conditioning prior to his return to a mound angered a tendon and he lost another month of recovery. His start on Monday may indicate that he’s starting to get them back though. James Lamb’s account mentioned that his fastball was in the upper 90s and he was throwing some changeups. Keith Law had similar observations, but said that Lamb looked “tentative”.
At any rate, Lamb had his best rehab outing. The boxscore shows that he went three innings, striking out three and getting six ground ball outs while giving up no hits and walking none.
Obviously, that’s a good sign.
If Lamb’s typical velocity were usually higher pre-injury, there might be lingering concern, but his fastball stayed around the low 90s before surgery but he had good command of it and his secondary stuff complemented it well. He may still be working his arm back to full strength. He also told Mark Schremmer of the Topeka Capital-Journal that he didn’t train as much as he should have in prior to the 2011 season. After being shut down all of last summer and through spring this year, he’s still working his way back into shape.
Lamb could get two more starts if the September 1 date holds true. Idaho Falls season doesn’t end until September 6.
It’s no surprise that Lamb’s recovery is important to the Royals future. Lamb was the 18th overall prospect in the minors entering 2011 according to Baseball America. After Tommy John surgery to Danny Duffy and disappointing seasons by Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer, the Royals crop of lefties, which looked to be key elements of a future starting rotation, are all on the shelf, trying to figure it out or just working back to health. Prior to the injury, Lamb could have been in Omaha by now with the potential of a September callup or a shot at a job next spring.
Instead, he’s going to the Pioneer League and continuing to work. He’s only 22 years old, and if all goes well this offseason (Lamb should be involved in offseason workouts), he could restart in Northwest Arkansas, where he’d left off in 2011 with a 3.09 ERA in 35 innings in 2011. That might get him into Omaha in midseason or late 2013 and then 2014 could be the target for him. If the Royals are lucky, that could coincide with Jake Odorizzi‘s second season in the big leagues, Danny Duffy’s first full year back in the majors and Felipe Paulino back for a full year after his own TJS.
That’s the hope. If the Royals sign or trade for someone this year, they’d be a part of that group and ideally leading the group towards some winning seasons.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a lot of work for Lamb to do, and he has to avoid setbacks to his arm and his ankle. So far so good.