The KC Royals activated third baseman Mike Moustakas from the disabled list, and returned third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert to AAA Omaha on Saturday morning.
Cuthbert enjoyed a seven-game hitting streak after taking over at third base due to Moustakas thumb injury. Though he’s clearly shown the tools to succeed at the major-league level, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost chose to send him and keep 13 pitchers on the roster.
Cheslor Cuthbert could have been a nice addition to the roster that would have enabled Yost to rest lefty hitters Eric Hosmer and Moustakas against tough same-side pitchers. However, with starting pitchers Dillon Gee and Danny Duffy still getting stretched out to fill rotation roles for the KC Royals after injuries to Kris Medlen and Chris Young, Yost needed the extra bullpen help.
Both Gee and Duffy are on pitch counts that makes it difficult for them to get through more than five innings, leading to heavy bullpen use by the Kansas City Royals. Given that Ian Kennedy and Edinson Volquez are the only two starters that can take the team through the sixth inning with any regularity, it’s clear the KC Royals will once again ride their bullpen hard.
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This reality might also explain why Yost chose rookie utility man Whit Merrifield over veteran Christian Colon. Merrifield can play every position except catcher well and is the perfect bench player on a short roster. Colon simply lacks that versatility.
Perhaps the Kansas City Royals roster construction will change if the starting rotation shows that Yost can rely upon it to eat up more innings. But, don’t count on it. If Merrifield hits, expect Yost to continue with a thirteen man bullpen for the bulk of the season.
The ability to mix and match pitchers to handle the third time through the order penalty is becoming increasingly important in major-league baseball. GIven that the KC Royals are the type of team that needs to hold narrow leads late in the game to win, loading the roster with eight relievers makes sense.