KC Royals: Jason Vargas Set To Return Saturday VS. Chicago
By John Viril
KC Royals pitcher Jason Vargas will return Saturday against the Chicago White Sox. Vargas last pitched for Kansas City July 21, 2015 against the Pittsburgh Pirates before suffering a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament. Saturday will be his first major-league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Kansas City Royals will limit Jason Vargas to approximately 45 pitches and hope he can last three innings on Saturday. Scheduled starter Dillon Gee will likely take over after Vargas hits his pitch limit.
Ned Yost talked dicussed Vargas’ return with MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
"“We’d like to get [Vargas] about 10-15 innings this September,” Yost said."
The 33-year-old lefty joined the KC Royals after signing a four-year, $32 million free-agent deal before the 2014 season. Vargas put up a solid 2014 season in which he went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 187.0 innings. He began 2015 with a 5-2 record and 3.98 ERA in 43.0 innings before suffering his elbow injury.
Vargas told Flanagan:
"“It’s been a pretty smooth ride as far as not having any issues or setbacks with my elbow,” Vargas said. “I’ve just been waiting to get back out there.“I anticipated having a good rehab. I knew that if everything went as it should, there would be a possibility I’d have an opportunity to pitch again this year.”"
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Vargas’ torn UCL was quite unfortunate in that he was giving the Kansas City Royals solid value before his injury. In 230.0 innings pitched with KC, Vargas posted a solid 106 ERA+ (ERA adjusted for park factors and opponent difficulty 6% better than a league average pitcher). Vargas also produced 2.4 bWAR (Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement) in 2015, which made him a slightly above-average starter.
The KC Royals really could have used him in the 2016 season.
As it is, the team will hope to get a few starts from Vargas this season to help him get back in the major-league groove. The Kansas City Royals will pencil Vargas in as a no. 4 starter for the 2017 rotation behind Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Yordano Ventura. Injured starter Mike Minor, who could not take the field in 2016 after signing a $7.2 million two-year deal last winter, is the likely no. 5 starter.
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Behind the top five, Kansas City will have top prospects Matt Strahm and Josh Staumont. They also hope that former first round draft pick Kyle Zimmer will finally be able to handle a consistent work load after undergoing surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. The KC Royals will also likely try to add another veteran starter for depth this winter.