KC Royals: Chris Young Pitches Himself Into Playoff Rotation Picture

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KC Royals pitcher Chris Young dominated in his first start since July 28, allowing no hits in five shut out innings. The outstanding performance earned Young his 11th win of the season (11-6), and consideration for a spot in Ned Yost‘s playoff rotation.

The Kansas City Royals have been hurting for solid starting pitching in the month of September, with a bloated 6.02 ERA from their rotation during the month. Ace Johnny Cueto struggles have been well documented. Danny Duffy has been removed from the rotation, and initially replaced by Jeremy Guthrie. After Guthrie got bombed for nine earned runs by Seattle on Sept. 22, Chris Young got a shot on Sunday.

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He didn’t disappoint, despite trying circumstances. Last night, Chris Young’s father passed away and Young pitched on Sunday to honor his memory.

Given the built-in off days for travel during the playoffs, the KC Royals figure to use only four starters during the post-season. Going into Sunday, the presumptive playoff rotation looked to be Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Kris Medlen.

Chris Young, however, looked so good against the Indians that he might pry the fourth starter spot from Kris Medlen during the playoffs. Medlen, who is in his first season back from his second Tommy John surgery, has pitched credibly in his return to the rotation. But, he’s hardly dominated. Manager Ned Yost needs to think long and hard before relegating Chris Young to the pen after Sunday’s outstanding start.

Ever since the 36-year-old Chris Young returned from shoulder surgery in 2014, he’s demonstrated a pattern of a strong initial outings that decline as the strain of pitching every fifth day wears him down. He followed this pattern is Seattle, where he won the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year Award. And, he repeated this tendency after joining the Kansas City Royals rotation in May, after injuries to Jason Vargas, Edinson Volquez and Danny Duffy.

After posting a strong 10 starts after officially joining the rotation May 10 for a 3.10 ERA, Young seemed to run out of gas in July. In five starts following the KC Royals 2-0 loss to Minnesota on July 2, Chris Young allowed 14 runs in 26.2 inning pitched (4.72 ERA). Yost moved Chris Young back to the bullpen after the KC Royals acquired Johnny Cueto, and didn’t use him from July 28 to August 12.

Clearly, Young was fatigued.

Now, however, Chris Young is well-rested after pitching a mere 12.1 inning since July 28. Young once again is back to dominating form. With seven games remaining in the season, Chris Young is likely to make one more regular season start. If he again pitches well, you have to think he’ll win the no. 4 spot for the playoffs.

After the regular season, the Kansas City Royals will play no more than 19 games (five division series games, seven league championship games, and seven World Series games). Chris Young will need to make no more than five more starts, which is well within his established endurance before he shows signs of fatigue.

Now is the time for the KC Royals to ride Chris Young’s long right arm for all it’s worth.

Next: Ryan Madson Key to the Royals Bullpen

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