Time to Stop the Pitching Merry-Go-Round


So far this season, the Royals have used 22 different pitchers (including Mr. Terrific, Mitch Maier). They used 23 in all of 2011, 25 in 2010, 23 in 2009, and 25 in 2008. I don’t know that that means too much, except when you look at last season’s roster, a few of those guys didn’t show up in Kansas City until the second half or late in the year. We’ve got a little ways to go and there are always a few guys (Ryan Verdugo, Doug Davis, Brandon Sisk, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, etc.) who could arrive and vault that total number toward 30. If things keep moving as they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen.

Well, we’re down two starters to Tommy John surgery: Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Their replacements, Vin Mazzaro and Luis Mendoza, haven’t been quite as terrible as some would have predicted, but they haven’t helped out the cause lately, either. And that makes you wonder where the starts are going to come from. If the Royals’ bats can’t stack up enough runs to offset the replacement pitchers, what do they do to win?

Honestly, it’s hard to say. One thing I’d like to see them try, however, is to hit the brakes on the pitcher shuffling with Omaha. Stop grabbing relievers at random and bringing them up because the starters aren’t cutting it. If the starters are the issue, try new starters. Try something different. Try Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi.

I understand why they may not want to do this. You lose options on those guys if they come to Kansas City and then implode, necessitating a return to Omaha. They’re both 22, and it’s possible they get slammed and lose confidence a bit. Or, if they have the mental resolve (which I’m in no place to comment on), they rebound and work harder the next time. Montgomery has been laboring at Omaha for a while now, and his starts have been touch-and-go during that time. It’s really difficult to say just how he’d throw with the Royals, but he may need that experience to take a step forward. As for Odorizzi, he hasn’t been in Omaha nearly as long, but he’s pitched well and struck out just over three batters per every walk. Now, he needs to get some more grounders (0.39 groundout/flyout on the season with Omaha), but there’s seemingly little else he needs to do.

And, mainly, the Royals need arms.

As I said, they could call up Doug Davis. He’s been throwing fairly well so far and could potentially eat some innings for the Royals. He could be a potential stopgap in the bleeding rotation. But he’s not nearly as important to the Royals as Montgomery and Odorizzi are.

If the Royals’ plan is to hold their biggest remaining cards (Wil Myers, Montgomery, Odorizzi, mainly) for a big splash in 2013, I get that idea. But they have shown signs of life this season and could at least edge into the conversation, even if they have a low probability of winning the division. Some youthful sparks could do that, though, of course, it’s hard to say what will happen.

But if the biggest argument is not rushing them (which I’ve used before many times), then at least Montgomery should get a shot at a few starts. Try it out and if he sticks, great. If not, no harm, no foul, and he hopefully learns something. I find this a hard argument to make, as I tend to be a “wait-and-see” sort of guy, but when we’re relying on shutouts from Luke Hochevar and strong pitching from Bruce Chen or Jonathan Sanchez, we’re already in trouble. Pitching was a question mark before the season and it’s developed into an even bigger one as the season has progressed. It may be time to try something novel rather than resort to the same method we’ve been using.

So, I’m going back on my prior debate about whether Mike Montgomery or Will Smith was the right choice for a call-up. Mike Montgomery is the right choice at this moment. He appears to be starting to strike out a few more batters. He’s inducing more grounders than flyballs on the season. And, potentially most importantly, he’s been with Omaha long enough to learn a few things. I feel like the coaching staff with the Royals could help him a bit in his progression, as would seeing stronger batters and experiencing the life of a big league starter.

Some of these reasons may seem trivial or tenuous. I understand that. I just think we’ve been riding the same old pitching merry-go-round for long enough. It’s time to try something new and see how that works.

Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi should be that something new.