KC Royals Roster: Choosing the 2021 pitching staff

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals, Scott Barlow
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

While KC Royals fans ponder Nicky Lopez’s fate, there’s still a pitching staff to pick.

The burning question hanging over the KC Royals is the immediate future of Nicky Lopez. The club’s struggling second baseman hasn’t played a Cactus League game since Wednesday, he’s 4-for-34 (.118) with 13 strikeouts, and Whit Merrifield is spending more and more time at second.

But as intriguing as Lopez’s ultimate fate may be, it isn’t the only roster decision immediately confronting the Royals, who face a Thursday morning deadline to get down to 26 players. Although it’s a task made a bit easier by the waiver of the 13-pitcher limit for this season, who to name to the pitching staff is the most complicated question to be answered before Opening Day’s first pitch.

Some of the pitching choices are already made. Because Kansas City won’t need five starters until at least mid-April, and perhaps not even then if April weather gets in the schedule’s way, the Royals will start the season with a four-man rotation of Brad Keller, Mike Minor, Brady Singer and Danny Duffy. Kris Bubic, who made the rotation as a rookie last year and Tyler Zuber, who spent most of the campaign with the Royals, are slated to begin this season in the minors. (Both will probably report first to the alternate training site at Northwest Arkansas).

Assuming the Royals decide not to take advantage of the relaxed lid on pitchers, and start the 2021 campaign with no more than 13 hurlers, their four-man rota leaves nine relief slots to fill. Who will the KC Royals choose for those bullpen seats?