Forcing Neddy’s Hand


Some people don’t believe there is such a thing as a “good problem,” and seeing as how the Royals had only seemed to have the bad kind until recently, many of these people might have been residents in our very own fan base. I’m here to tell you that the Royals have a good problem…several in fact.

These “good problems” reside primarily in depth at various positions. Clint Robinson, for example, is a player I would refer to as a good problem. He has shown a solid bat in the minors and yet, has hardly seen any MLB service time because of a certain Eric Hosmer who looks to be a Royals mainstay for as long as his current contract lasts.*

*And Royals fans look for it to be longer…be gentle with us, Mr. Boras.

The Royals are also blessed with more depth in the bullpen than I’ve really been able to comprehend. The Royals had a pretty stellar pen last year and have only strengthened it this year by adding a couple of pieces to the mix that I think will send some guys to Omaha that might deserve the opportunity to make a legitimate impact on our Major League club if only there was room. I just sat and looked at that sentence for about 30 seconds. It looks so strange.

And now, we find ourselves possibly watching a developing situation that will cause manager Ned Yost to have to make some tough decisions regarding our starting rotation.

The fact that our starting pitching is not necessarily top-notch has been addressed and redressed countless times during the off-season. Luke Hochevar, Jonathon Sanchez,* and Bruce Chen* were agreed upon as locks for the first 3 spots. But the question was who might be the best fit for the final 2?

*Once they were traded for or re-signed

Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy owned those positions in 2011 and Duffy did alright for a rookie, while Paulino pitched better than anyone really expected. As spring training approached, the Royals announced that Aaron Crow would be competing for a spot as a starter along with Luis Mendoza. Everett Teaford and Nathan Adcock were going to get looks as well.

With those names bouncing around in my head, I assumed that both Paulino and Duffy were going to maintain their positions. Paulino is somewhat of a fan favorite after his strong performance last year, while I think both the Royals and their fans want to see if Duffy can build upon some of his strong performances from last season. I felt that barring something miraculous happening, Crow would* stay in the bullpen and as for Mendoza, I attributed his dominant season in the minors to…well…luck. I didn’t really consider Teaford and Adcock as being legitimate threats to break into the rotation.

*and should

Now though, I’m not sure what to think. I still believe that Paulino can be a decent starting pitcher and reports on Duffy from spring training have been almost worshipful. It might have been nice for Yost if Mendoza had proven that last season was a fluke and been completely obliterated from the get-go in his outings in Surprise.

This hasn’t been the case.

In 10.2 innings, Mendoza has given up 5 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 11. He’s given up one earned run in that time.

Granted, it’s spring training and it’s only a little over 10 innings, but Mendoza certainly hasn’t made a decision any easier for the Royals with his play so far. Barring some sort of implosion in the next 3 weeks, Mendoza might force his way into the rotation. I don’t know what that means for Paulino and Duffy. If this had somehow been an issue at the beginning of spring training, I’d have told you that the Royals would send Duffy back down to Omaha to get him some solid innings and work on his control. The only problem is that, as I’ve stated above, everyone is raving about Duffy’s spring training performance thus far.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when the Royals break camp. I’m just kind of glad I’m not the one having to make that decision. Figuratively, that is. If you’re literally offering me a job as the Royals manager, I’ll take it.

“Good problems” indeed.

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