With exactly one week until opening day, the competition for that final spots in the KC Royals bullpen is coming down to the wire. Ned Yost has said that he is aiming for a seven man bullpen. Five of those spots are locked in with Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, Jason Frasor and Chris Young. With all of these being right-handed, it still leaves the unanswered question as to who will replace Tim Collins as the left-handed reliever.
After the injury to Collins, Finnegan was the first to come to mind as a replacement. With limited experience, the Royals decided against that idea. Last week, when Brandon Finnegan was sent to the minor leagues, it sealed the deal that he would not be the one to fill this empty role. With the clock ticking to the start of the 2015 regular season, what are the Royals options for left-handed relievers?
Franklin Morales seems to be the leading candidate as the left-handed reliever that the Royals so badly need. In fact, Morales is close to being a locked-in member of the Royals bullpen. Morales was signed to a minor league contract this spring as a back-up option if the team had an injury. With the injury to Collins, this seems to be the exact situation that the Royals had in mind when they signed Morales.
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Although Morales was primarily a starter last year with the Rockies, most of his career experience comes from being a reliever. Many of the Royals up and coming pitchers lack experience and it is a concern to throw them into the major leagues too early just to fill a void. With a pitcher like Morales, who has this major league experience, it is a perfect fit for what the Royals are looking for. He also has proved to be very versatile, someone who is able to get outs, out of the bullpen or as a starter. He is coming off a year where he pitched almost double the innings than in any other year in his career but posted a not too promising 5.37 ERA.
Another lefty candidate to start of the 2015 season in the bullpen is Brian Flynn. Even if Morales wins the lefty bullpen spot, Flynn could still start in the bullpen also. This would give the Royals two lefty relievers which is always an asset, especially when having a seven man bullpen. When the Royals acquired Flynn from the Marlins this off-season, he had one inning experience as a reliever, so basically he is still a bit of a neophyte as a reliever.
The transition has not seemed to be a problem thus far based on his spring training numbers. Posting a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched, Flynn has also said that he has looked to Wade Davis as a model to try to imitate the success he had moving to the bullpen. That is definitely something all Royals fans like to hear, especially after the overwhelming success that Davis had in 2014. It all comes down to whether the Royals think that spring training is enough experience and a large enough sample size to prove that he can be a successful reliever.
Whatever the Royals decide as far as left-handed relievers going into opening day, we definitely will not have to wait long to find out. This week, all the rosters will be decided to prepare for opening day on Monday and hopefully a good start to a very exciting and competitive year for the Royals.