Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Who Will Win Battle for 5th Starter Job?


It’s spring (probably not where you are, but somewhere). Time to play ball – starting tomorrow for Royals fans!

A lot of people are saying this year feels different. It certainly does to me. Maybe this is the year we finally get to shake the “long-suffering” tag that often precedes the designation “Royals fans”. September may yet break our hearts, but as of right now – we’re contenders (and no, that’s not just the percocet talking).

The Royals begin spring games with few questions. Barring injuries, the opening day line-up is pretty well set. Other than who will win the back-up catcher job, and what will happen with our surplus of live arms in the bullpen, the most intriguing decision for management will revolve around the fifth starter’s job.

Given Ned Yost‘s comments about the recently re-signed Bruce (effin’) Chen, the first four spots appear locked up by James Shields, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, and the Panamanian Wizard. But there’s no shortage of candidates vying for that final slot, and the decision won’t be an easy one. There’s a lot at stake for the players. The average salary for starting pitchers is about 3X that of relievers. That’s a lot of coinage, to say the least.

The primary contenders are Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, and Kyle Davies (just kidding Dayton – don’t get any ideas). Brad Penny, a 35 year-old vet trying to make a comeback after having pitched only 28 innings in the big leagues since 2011 (none in 2013), is a long-shot candidate. And Kyle Zimmer is being brought along slowly, possibly as a late-season rotation boost, a replacement for anyone who tires or falters.

I believe the final decision will most likely come down to Duffy or Ventura. Hochevar and Davis both excelled in the pen last year, and could be valuable as primary set-up men for our All-Star closer. They’ve already failed as starters. And both are vets who could always be re-slotted to start later in the year if needed, in the event of injuries.

I think Ned, who has just as much at stake as any of the players involved, will go with Ventura. A 100 mph live fastball is just too good to pass on. And even though Ned will probably call him “Yordy” or “Venty”, how could he not go with the guy whose obvious nickname is “Ace”?

Considering the comments by Yost and Duffy in this recent article by Dick Kaegel at, I think the decision may already have all but been made. Duffy will make a good bullpen better, with another left-hander option to complement Collins, and like Hochevar and Davis, could always be stretched out for starting duty later in the year if the need arises.

Regardless of how it all turns out, 2014 feels like a long way from the dark days, when Scott Elarton was our opening day starter. Or Jose Lima. Or Brian Anderson. Just thinking about those days makes me want to reach for more of the percocet. I’ll pick-up the refill today, just in case.

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Tags: Danny Duffy Kansas City Royals Yordano Ventura

  • Chad Woelk

    I am hoping a miracle happens and Santana is signed to a one year deal, and Chen takes over the 5th spot until Duffy or Ventura are ready!!!

  • unclejesse40

    I think that Santana’s agent has gotten him thinking that post draft isnt a bad idea (i dont agree). So a one year deal seems unlikely, but I agree that would be awesome. I can only hope that Dayton has already told him we wont extend you a QO if you take a discount to return this year so that you can build even more value with two solid years in a row. But I also understand the human side to this and not wanting to take a lot less money than what you think you are worth, right or wrong.

    • jessanders

      Dayton CAN’T tell him that. It’s against the CBA.

      However, if they were to sign him the day after opening day, we couldn’t extend him a qualifying offer, anyways.

  • Eric Akers

    I would be extremely excited to watch a Ventura pitched game, but I don’t know that I want Duffy in the pen. Should he be in Omaha working on command if he doesn’t get the spot? I am thinking I would rather see Duffy in the 5th spot than in the pen and Ventura in Omaha if that is what it comes down to. Regardless of oh goes to AAA, he should be the first called up for injury. I would rather see Dwyer in the pen I think.

    • goatlockerlifer

      Even though I agree that whichever one loses should go to Omaha (especially with the pen quality we already have) I have a feeling they’ll be hesitant to send Duffy back down in part because of his psyche. I’m sure he’s matured, but he did quit baseball not that long ago, out of frustration.

  • jimfetterolf

    Duffy’s probably a better choice then Ventura given similar stuff, more pitches, and more experience, but the main issues for both will be innings limits, both capped around 175, and SuperTwo issues for Ventura.

    Beyond that, not sure how much weight I’ld give to Chen being a lock for #4. He’s a fine swingman and there are several hot arms competing for the last spot and the Royals already have two crafty old guys in the rotation, so may prefer to start with someone with a much higher ceiling.

    • goatlockerlifer

      I agree re. Duffy over Ventura. Before a few weeks ago, I would’ve bet money that Ventura would start the year in Omaha, and Duffy in the rotation. But just reading between the lines for some of the coverage over the last couple of weeks, I’m pretty well convinced it will be Ventura that gets nod, initially.

      I imagine they basically committed to giving Bruce a starter slot before he signed. But I doubt we get as lucky as last year re. SP health. Bruce, Duffy, Ventura and others could all filter through the rotation before it’s over.

      • jimfetterolf

        Agree, I think there will be a number of #5 starters, and even #4. Beyond the core of Shields, Vargas, and Guthrie starters will be on a real short leash and Ned Yost will play the hot hand and rotate the cold hand back to the ‘pen.

  • Iseenothing

    Kyle Davies….really!!!!! What did I ever do to you??

    • Dave Hill

      Around my house, I refer to him as “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”

  • moretrouble

    Whoever they decide is fine. But, I hope they don’t leave someone out there for 10 starts and stink up the place. Hey, if it’s not working, get ‘em out of there. They can’t afford to be under .500 at the end of May. They’ve got to win games from day 1.

  • LFPThree

    Chen in the 4th spot ha a foregone conclusion by Frank Yost is really bothering me. It is bothering me the same way Getz penciled over Gio the past 2 years.

  • Tyler_KC_Fan

    As much as I want both to start, Ventura does have the contract issue. Therefore I see Duffy starting and Ventura coming up either half way through the first half or at the All-Star Break.

    Sending Duffy to the BP mean you are getting rid of Crow, Collins, Herrera, Holland, Hoch or Davis. That’s not including Coleman. Sending Duffy to the BP makes zero sense to me because we already have an abundant amount of arms for the BP and we don’t have enough room for all of them already. When both Duffy and Ventura are in the starting rotation, we have to release/trade someone because we just don’t have room. For once the Royals have to many quality arms that we don’t have anywhere we can put them. Plus, Coleman deserves to be playing in the majors and not in Omaha. He was unhittable last year, so why is he still in Omaha or the odd one out looking in on the team? Because we don’t have room.

    Duffy should be a starter. If you aren’t going to start him, trade him. He pitched 5 games off of his injury and we won all 5 games. He might not have gone far into the games but when it comes down to it, he kept us in the game. He doesn’t give the game away.

    Like I said though, Duffy and Ventura I believe will both be starting this year in the #4 and #5 spot, but if you decide the contract and arbitration issues that come with Ventura are worth it, fine. But Duffy should be in the rotation for Chen then.

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