KC Royals Midweek Musings: Pitching issues and more

With just two weeks remaining until the KC Royals open the 2020 season, pitching questions remain, the utility role seems unsettled and spring training injuries may impact the roster.

Here are some midweek musings about the KC Royals as the club ponders unanswered questions about its pitching staff, an uncertain utility slot, injuries, and more.

Greg Holland: apparently back on the beam. I recently asked whether Greg Holland’s quest to return to the KC Royals’ bullpen had taken a turn for the worse after he followed three scoreless appearances with two bumpy outings. Holland returned to form Monday against Arizona; although he gave up his first walk of the spring, he pitched another scoreless inning, struck out one, and brought his ERA back down to 2.50.

Rosenthal and Staumont: still tough.  Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont bolstered their already-strong cases for bullpen jobs Monday. Neither gave up a run in their one-inning stints; both had a strikeout while Rosenthal gave up a hit and Staumont surrendered two. Rosenthal has pitched five times without giving up a run and has nine strikeouts; Staumont’s fanned 10 in six innings and has yet to be scored upon.

Hill: trials and tribulations. Tim Hill had a 30.86 ERA and had given up eight runs, seven hits and four walks in 2.1 innings before Sunday’s game against the White Sox, casting at least some doubt on his hold on a bullpen spot. He was better against the Sox, however: his scoreless one-hit inning marked his best performance of the spring. But the positive moment was short-lived.

Pitching against the Brewers in a split-squad contest Tuesday, Hill made it through just a third of an inning. He surrendered another two runs on two hits; his ERA, which he lowered to 21.60 Sunday, jumped back to 24.55.

Hill should no longer be considered the bullpen lock he was a few weeks ago. He’s been battered for 10 runs on nine hits and walked four In only 3.2 innings; opponents are hitting .474 against him and his WHIP is 3.55.

Left-handers like Hill are scarce, but necessary, commodities in the KC pen. As it stands now, fellow southpaw Randy Rosario has a better claim to a lefty bullpen slot than Hill–through Tuesday, Rosario had three saves, a 1.42 ERA, three strikeouts and a stingy 0.47 WHIP in 6.1 innings. That, and the fact Hill has two options left, and Rosario none, could mean Rosario breaks camp with the club while Hill heads to Omaha.

Is there a utility man in the KC Royals’ future?  If all goes according to the plan triggered by the Maikel Franco acquisition, a move that forced Hunter Dozier to right field and Whit Merrifield to center, the Royals may not have the luxury of moving Merrifield around on the diamond as much as they have in the past. The club signed Matt Reynolds, a versatile 29-year old who’s done everything except catch, pitch and play center in his three-year big league career, but his dismal .143/.211/.286 slash in 35 at-bats may not be enough to earn a roster spot.

The Royals could be kicking the tires on Jorge Mateo, a 24-year old utility-type who’s out of options with Oakland. He was impressive at AAA Las Vegas last season with 29 doubles, 14 triples, 19 homers, 78 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and a .289 average in 119 games. He hasn’t played as many positions as Reynolds but has a better bat.

Mateo briefly played shortstop against the Royals Tuesday. He struck out in his only at-bat and made an error; he has six hits, six walks, four RBI and a .231/.375/.231 slash in 12 games.

Woods’ injury, Rule 5 status and the roster.  Stephen Woods Jr. recently suffered left high ankle and left lateral ankle sprains and, because full recovery from high ankle sprains can be notoriously slow, may be forced to the Injured List for a minimum 15-day stay.

Because Woods is a Rule 5 draftee, and assuming he makes the team, an assignment to the IL lasting past Opening Day would open a spot on the active roster. (Regardless of his Rule 5 status,  such an assignment wouldn’t impact his spot on the 40-man roster, so Woods’ 26-man roster replacement would need to already be on the 40-man unless another player was dropped. Only a move to the 60-day IL wouldn’t count against the 40-man).

But his Rule 5 status complicates KC roster plans in other ways if he goes on the IL.  Claimed by the Royals in last December’s Rule 5 draft, Woods must remain on the club’s 26-man roster for the entire season–the club can’t send him to the minors or trade him unless he first clears waivers and the team from which he was drafted then rejects his return. However, Woods can spend time on the IL without jeopardizing his status with the Royals but, unless he spends at least 90 days on the active roster, he’ll be subject to Rule 5 restrictions again next season.

(Before his injury, Woods gave up three runs, walked five and struck out two and had a 4.91 ERA in 3.2 innings. But opponents had hit only .167 against him).

Arm tenderness has sidelined Eric Skoglund since he pitched in the KC Royals’ first Cactus League game on Feb. 21 and gave up three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning. Placing him on the IL may be pointless as far as the 26-man roster is concerned–he has a minor league option remaining–but could open a 40-man spot if he went on the 60-day list.

Rocky Colavito, the Royals, and the KC A’s. I recently noted in this space that I’m reading John E. Peterson’s “The Kansas City Athletics: A Baseball History 1954-1967.” Another KC-related baseball book is now competing for my reading time: “Rocky Colavito: Cleveland’s Iconic Slugger” by Mark Sommer is a study of Colavito, who dazzled and endeared himself to Kansas City fans in his one season with the old A’s. I’ll report my thoughts about both books in the future–and I’ll soon have a story about Colavito in this space.

Next: Unforgettable mistakes of 2017

That’s it for this week. Please check back next week for more Midweek Musings.

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