When Bruce Chen was resigned by the Kansas City Royals, it was a move that looked good in a vacuum. Chen had thrived last season as a long reliever before stepping into the rotation, providing the Royals with a 3.27 ERA over 121 innings. By bringing in Chen, it would have appeared that the Royals had provided themselves a solid security blanket in the event that either Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy faltered this year.
Instead, Chen was promised a start in the rotation. While he had an excellent first outing on April 5th, his last three starts have been disastrous. In the 13 innings that Chen has pitched in those starts, he has allowed 15 runs and 19 baserunners. That comes out to a 10.38 ERA and a 1.462 WHiP. While that WHiP is, at least similar to his career mark, Chen just has not been fooling anyone.
Last season, the Royals were essentially eliminated from the playoffs by the dastardly duo of Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza being in the rotation. By the same token, Bruce Chen was one of the saviors of the rotation last year, stepping in when the ineffective Mendoza was finally banished to the bullpen. In fact, Chen was a big part of why the Royals were able to get back into playoff contention at the end of the season.
While it is early in the season, the Royals cannot afford to have an ineffective Chen in the rotation. The Royals margin for error this year is miniscule, especially given their playoff aspirations. Having a pitcher who, every fifth day, is not giving the Royals a legitimate chance to win a game is a major challenge to those chances. Now, the Royals need someone to step in and rid them of Chen.
That may end up happening soon. Danny Duffy has been stellar since returning to Kansas City, but he is seemingly locked into the bullpen as the only left handed reliever that the Royals have. However, both Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno may be returning in the near future. Both pitched in a simulated game, and Collins is expected to make at least two appearances with the Omaha Storm Chasers before being called up. Once Collins returns, the Royals would have that lefty in the bullpen, allowing Duffy to potentially return to the starting rotation.
Bruce Chen has been a solid member of the Royals for much of his tenure in Kansas City, but he should not be judged on his past. Right now, keeping Chen and his 7.45 ERA in the rotation is hurting the Royals chances. What the Royals may be looking at is finding a way to replace Chen and getting him back into that long relief role he was in last season.
The Royals cannot afford to have Bruce Chen getting lit up every fifth day. It is time to pull the plug.