Mar 16, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Bruce Chen (52) in the third inning during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at HoHoKam stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA TODAY Sports

Not By The Hair Of My Chenny-Chen-Chen.

Barely five days ago, Luke Hochevar got demoted to the bullpen. Whether he and his “bloated for a reliever” contract stick with the Royals this season has become less irrelevant to me at this point because at the very least, he’s not in the rotation. I know that if he ends up sticking with the Royals and comes out of the pen at more than 4 million dollars this year, it’s going to be a huge waste of money, but you take the positives when you get ‘em.

That being said, at the time of the demotion, there were essentially four candidates elligible for the 5th spot in the rotation. Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Will Smith, and Yordano Ventura are all getting a good look. Granted, most individuals think it would be a long shot for Ventura to jump the other three to get the spot. I think the same goes for Will Smith, though he’s looked good in limited time this spring. That means that the two frontrunners for the position were and are Chen and Mendoza.

And Chen may have very well played himself out of those talks on Saturday.

After a debacle of a 1st inning where Bruce gave up 3 home runs, including one to ex-Royal David Dejesus, Chen ended up throwing 92 pitches, giving up 7 runs and 5 home runs. In fact, Chen has given up 7 home runs and 12 earned runs in 13.2 innings.

Now the caveat of spring training stats is exactly that….it’s spring training. But it’s not like Chen has a proven track record to look at over the last few season to give us assurance.

So why should he get the 5-spot instead of Luis Mendoza? Mendoza had a decent second half last year and (knock on wood) couldn’t be any worse than Chen.

It speaks to the difference in this year that we can have a discussion over whether Chen or Mendoza should be our 5th starter. In all honesty, I’m not TOO concerned about who’s taking the bump in that spot. (As long as it won’t be Hochevar)

So what do you think? Has Chen played his way out of a rotation spot? Or do you think his most recent outing won’t matter?

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Tags: Bruce Chen KC Royals

  • lanemyer

    If Chen wasn’t left-handed, he probably wouldn’t even be in the league. Play the best guy regardless of which hand he wears his mitt, and so far it has clearly been Mendoza. Seems so simple.

  • jimfetterolf

    Mendoza is well ahead after winter ball and the Classic. He’s in mid-season shape, already has several long starts. He’s rotation ready. Couple more weeks to see how everyone progresses and if anyone is traded and whether the rotation can stay healthy.

  • Marcus Meade

    It seems clear what’s happening in the Chen-Mendoza battle. Mendoza is a pitcher hitting his prime. Chen is a pitcher falling from his prime. Mendoza seems to have figured out what type of pitcher he needs to be to be successful, and he looks very good at it. He won’t strike out eight hitters per nine so he keeps the ball down, gets ground balls, and strikes out hitters when he really needs to. He’ll have more runners on base than most, but he’ll get more double plays than most. He’s the perfect 4-5 starter because he can eat innings, keep the team in games, and at this point, looks like a fairly known quantity; though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch better than expected this year. There’s no way anyone should get the fifth spot over Mendoza (I like Will Smith, but he needs to go to Omaha and pitch really well before they consider bringing him back to the big club). And if Mendoza gets the job, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have an ERA in the 3.7-3.8 range, though I would except 4-4.3 with a lot of innings.

    • jimfetterolf

      As I recall, Mendoza pitched well against Chris Sale last year. That’s an oddly important thing for a 4/5, being able to sometimes ambush the opponent’s 1/2, steal a win. I think trades, if any, will clarify things as will whether Wade Davis can successfully transition back to the rotation. Still a few questions and a couple of weeks left.

  • ArrowFan

    To early to tell