The KC Royals have struggled with an inconsistent bullpen since their World Series win. Now, new management is trying to get things back on track.
The KC Royals have looked to be on the right track in some areas for the past few seasons. The rebuild is certainly underway, and progress has been seen in the way of offensive ability. One area that continues to struggle, though, is the bullpen.
It’s no new trend for the Royals to struggle with pitching, but after a dominant bullpen for the years of their World Series runs, a group of inconsistent relievers may be something that is tough for Kansas City fans to wrap their head around.
During the last couple of seasons, there have been some relievers to have good performances and show they have good potential, such as Tim Hill, Scott Barlow, Ian Kennedy, and Josh Staumont, just to name a few. It seems as soon as one starts to have successes, though, the inconsistencies take over.
At the start of spring training this year, with a mass of pitchers looking for their spot on the roster, the bullpen situation looked to be in a better spot with plenty of talent to pick from. Now, new manager Mike Matheny seems to be taking a different approach, according to Lynn Worthy in his recent article.
Instead of having concrete roles, as in Kennedy is the reliever, etc., Matheny could try out a more versatile style of play for the bullpen. Many players may see time pitching in roles that they aren’t used to, closing out games, or having to take over early for a starter that is struggling.
While it could take some time before many of the veteran players are fully on board with the plan, Ian Kennedy seems to be ready to pitch wherever he is needed.
"“We’re going to have an expanded roster; that’s going to help,” Kennedy said. “You’re going to play games like it’s a playoff situation, where if a starter starts to struggle in the middle of the fifth, he doesn’t have to eat up innings. We’ve got guys to do that at the beginning of the season. We have a lot of versatile guys who can start games, pitch three or four innings and we have guys that can piggy-back them.”"
Players like Kennedy and Greg Holland both understand that they have to earn their spot and that if they can help in a different role to make the team better, that’s where they are going to be.
Luckily for the Royals, versatility among pitchers is one of their current strengths with heat throwing pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal and Josh Staumont, to relievers who could start, or pitch in long relief like Glenn Sparkman and Jorge Lopez.
While trying a new type of play for a bullpen that is already inconsistent may not be seen as the wisest choice, there may be no better time to try experiments than with the short 60 game season ahead.
The limited number of games allows for more use and flexibility of pitchers, and the starting expanded roster allows for more rest as needed while getting things figured out. Unconventional or not, Matheny believes this is the right decision and it’s not just to be different from other teams. Getting everyone on the same page, though, is the starting point.
"“We’re going to need to see results with that, too,” Matheny said. “We’re going to see, if we’re using guys a little bit differently, they’re going to eventually have to see how it plays into success for us collectively and them individually.”"
It’s obvious the Royals bullpen has struggled for the past few seasons, so trying something new might be just what the team needs to get on a new path to success.
It should be an interesting season as many teams may be trying different approaches to win in a 60 game season. Get ready to see some Kansas City pitchers in different roles and hopefully helping to bring success back to the team.