One has to figure that the Royals pitching staff is virtually set. We know that the Big Three of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera will remain in their accustomed places. Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor would seem to be locked in as well. The Royals will need a lefty reliever or two, likely making Tim Collins a certainty. That still leaves one or two bullpen spots open, depending on whether or not the Royals go with a 13 man pitching staff.
While there will be a mixture of reclamation projects and young players vying for that final spot in the bullpen, one name that has been mentioned may be a bit surprising. After spending all but seventeen games of his career as a starter, Joe Blanton is working out as a reliever for the Royals.
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It certainly makes sense to try Joe Blanton in the bullpen. After all, the Royals rotation is set, and when Kris Medlen returns, there will be six starters and only five spots. Blanton, as a starter, would strictly serve as AAA depth in case of an injury. In fact, it may even be several injuries before Blanton would get a chance in the rotation. This has not been lost on manager Ned Yost.
"“The only way he is really going to help us is in the bullpen,” Yost said."
Of course, it still seems unlikely that Joe Blanton will really be much of a help. However, by pitching him in relief, there is a chance that Blanton could revitalize his career. Just look what such a move did for Davis and Hochevar. While Blanton is not nearly that same type of pitcher, and did not pitch in the majors at all last season, there is still the hope that a transition to a relief role would turn Blanton around.
Even with a successful Spring Training, Blanton is not assured of a role on the team. Ryan Madson may be a lot more intriguing, and when healthy, has a better track record of success. Louis Coleman is out of options, and there is the hard throwing Rule V draftee Jandel Gustave. The Royals bullpen may simply be a numbers game, with Blanton being left on the outside.
Joe Blanton may be an interesting reclamation project in the bullpen, but he may not get a real chance to prove himself. There just does not appear to be any room for him in the bullpen.