In what may be the least surprising announcement to come out of Spring Training for the Kansas City Royals, James Shields has officially been named the Opening Day starter on March 31st against the Detroit Tigers.
This is a decision that certainly makes sense. Shields was the Royals Opening Day starter last season, and with the Royals having a collection of third and fourth starters behind him, Shields was really the only option. With his performance last season, a 13-9 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.238 WHiP, Shields is easily the Royals ace heading into 2014.
With the announcement that Shields will be starting on Opening Day, the Royals also set up two more slots in their rotation. Jason Vargas, the Royals most expensive offseason signing, will be starting the second game against the Tigers. Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie will be starting the Royals home opener on April 4th against the Chicago White Sox.
Right now, the only questions about the Royals rotation are who will win the final spot in the rotation and where will Bruce Chen be slotted. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura are the final two combatants for that final spot, as Wade Davis has been officially sent to the bullpen. Both pitchers are a complete contrast to Chen and Guthrie – hard throwers who rely far more upon being able to throw the ball past the opposition than in pitching to contact.
Chen is difficult to slot, especially with the way the rotation is presently set up. As a similar pitcher to Guthrie, putting them back to back would not cause enough of a difference to help one or the other be more effective. Ideally, it may be best to plug wither Duffy or Ventura between Chen and Guthrie to help keep hitters off balance during a series. Yet, that does not appear to be the plan for Ned Yost and the Royals.
Right now, we know where three of the Royals starters are going to be slotted in the rotation. There certainly have not been any surprises.