On Sunday, Luis Mendoza started his day by retiring the Oakland A’s on seven pitches. A nice way to open the game.
The second inning did not go so well. Oakland hit line drive after line drive off of him, finally racking up five runs and chasing him out of the game after just 1.2 innings.
This is after his previous start only lasted four innings. Over both starts, Mendoza threw 5.2 innings, gave up 11 hits and six walks, hit a batter and gave up nine runs.
Ned Yost attributed some of the struggles to Mendoza hitting a midseason wall after pitching much of the winter, first in the Caribbean Series, then again in the World Baseball Classic. Due to that, the Royals are changing things up by moving Bruce Chen to the rotation in his spot. He’ll start on Friday against Cleveland.
Chen, of course, started for most of the past two seasons, but Mendoza beat him out for the last rotation spot towards the end of spring training. Chen looks good on paper with a 2.41 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched in relief, but he’s allowed 10 of 13 inherited baserunners to score. Out of the bullpen, his strikeout rate has been near his career rate, but he’s got a strikeout to walk ratio below 2 and he’s walking more than a batter per nine innings compared to last season. His 3.5 BB/9 is closer to his career rate than last year’s 2.2 BB/9 but that was one of his best rates of his career.
They may give Mendoza some time in long relief to get a bit of rest after his high offseason workload, or they may just be keeping the spot warm for Danny Duffy, who’s been pitching in Omaha following rehab starts after last year’s Tommy John surgery. Duffy’s getting closer. He’s still been striking batters out, but he’s controlled his walks too. They’re being patient, though, because they’re in a position to be patient – or at least to justify it with no starters ready to be sent off the roster.