Sunday was not a good day for KC Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. The Detroit Tigers roughed up “J-Guts” for six runs and eleven hits (including a Miguel Cabrera homerun) in six innings of work. Sunday’s start continued a rather disconcerting trend of sub-par outings for the thirty six year old right hander. In his past four starts, Guthrie has proven himself to be unable to last past the sixth inning. He has given up sixteen runs in twenty two innings pitched and has seen his E.R.A swell to a robust mark of 6.52.
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Even after Sunday’s performance, Royals manager Ned Yost has been quick to defend Guthrie. On Sunday, he declared that the pitcher was, “making progress” and is showing no indication that he was close to removing Guthrie from the starting rotation. While Yost seems to still be in Guthrie’s corner, there does not appear to be too many others who are exuding confidence that Guthrie can right the ship. Even before the Royals comeback attempt against Detroit fell short, calls for Guthrie’s dismissal were rising up through the Kansas City fanbase.
While there is no debating that Guthrie has been less than stellar through his first five starts of 2015, to remove him from the rotation now would be a mistake for Ned Yost and for the KC Royals. Despite his 1-2 record and his 6.52 E.R.A, Jeremy Guthrie is a serviceable number 5 starter. In 2014 Guthrie was 13-11 with an E.R.A of 4.13. He pitched the Royals into the playoffs with on September 26 with seven shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox and he made three starts for the Royals in the postseason in which Kansas City went 2-1. In his four years in Kansas City, Guthrie has an overall record of 34-28 with an E.R.A of 4.06. Throughout his tenure with Kansas City, “J-Guts” has been exactly what the Royals have needed; a solid back of the rotation starter.
If Guthrie’s track record and a sense of nostalgia is not convincing enough, then we must look at the practicalities of replacing Guthrie in the Royals starting 5. If Guthrie is going to be replaced in the rotation, who is prepared to take his place? Here are some options for replacing Jeremy Guthrie:
1. Chris Young
May 3, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (11) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Young would undoubtedly be option A for replacing Guthrie should Ned Yost determine that a change is warranted. He has been stellar for the KC Royals throughout the first month of the season and no one will soon forget the 5 no-hit innings he threw against Detroit last week. Young has plenty of starting experience (189 games) and he was signed to be part of considerations just like this. But there are drawbacks to Young. It should not be lost on anyone that even with a no-hitter in the works, Yost did not even consider bringing Young back out for the 6th inning on Friday night. There is undoubtedly concern with his durability and his ability to make it as a starter. Yost seems to feel that Young has his role, a spot-starter and a highly effective relief pitcher.
2. Brandon Finnegan
There is no doubt that the KC Royals hope that Finnegan will be a fixture in the starting rotation for years to come. The very reason why he did not make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training is due to the organization’s desire to stretch out his arm and get him ready to start. However, he is not ready to fill that role at this time. Finnegan has produced mixed results (1-0 2.25 E.R.A in 4 IP) since getting called back to the Royals and it would be shocking if we see Finnegan starting for the Royals any time soon.
3. Wade Davis
Don’t laugh! I almost feel dirty for even suggesting it but Wade Davis has previously started for the Kansas City Royals (24 games 5.67 E.R.A). He was, in fact, included in the trade because it was hoped that he would fill a spot in the starting rotation. When Luke Hochevar comes off the disabled list Yost does have the option of sliding Hochevar into Davis’ spot and sliding Davis back into the starting rotation. But, of course, we all know that there is no way that Davis is going to be doing anything else other than proving to be almost untouchable in the late innings. In ten appearances in 2015, Davis has only surrendered four hits and he has yet to give up an earned run (0.00). So, no, this is not an option.
4. Yohan Pino
Pino is an interesting consideration as he does have starting experience. Pino started 11 games with Minnesota in 2014 though he was not all that effective (2-5 5.07 E.R.A). With the KC Royals, Pino has demonstrated that he is a talented pitcher as he is remains a part of that elite group that has yet to surrender an earned run in 2015. (10.2 IP 0.00 E.R.A). Like Wade Davis, Pino is a completely different pitcher coming out of the bullpen and he has been an integral part of the dominance of the Royals relief corps throughout this first month or so of 2015.
For better or for worse, Jeremy Guthrie is the KC Royals best option to fill the number 5 spot in the starting rotation. Ned Yost should continue with his belief that Guthrie will figure himself out and should resist any calls for a major shake-up of his pitching staff. Guthrie has proven that he is able to make adjustments and he should be provided the opportunity to do that.