Two righthanders should nab the final two KC Royals pitching spots
Until Thursday, Ervin Santana’s re-employment prospects (he pitched for the Royals in 2013) were shaky. Inconsistency tainted his first six spring outings—a satisfactory frame seemed to regularly follow a bad one—and rendered his chances uncertain at best. Santana had some excellent moments, but hadn’t been convincing.
Thursday, though, he was convincing. Pitching the final three innings of Kansas City’s 10-1 victory over Arizona, Santana struck out the side in the seventh. He fanned the first two batters in the eighth and induced a groundout to the mound from the third, then struck out two and retired one on a foul pop in the ninth.
He walked no one, didn’t surrender a hit, and didn’t allow a runner.
After his previous “good inning, bad inning” performances, Thursday’s three perfect innings likely landed Santana a job. That, the fact the Royals don’t have to make room for him on the 40-man roster (it’s not full), and his status as a solid and respected big league veteran who can mentor younger pitchers, should make his case. Whether he’ll last the season is another question, but look for the Royals to give him a chance; because they’ve already decided to go with a rotation that doesn’t include him, expect to see Santana pitching in long and middle relief.
Kyle Zimmer deserves the final seat in the KC Royals’ bullpen. Now 29, Zimmer finally established himself with the major league club in 2020. Although his season ended on the disabled list (he’s apparently healthy now), he was 1-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 18 games and struck out 26 in 23 innings. He walked a few too many (10) but made the mark he’s waited several professional seasons to make.
His has been a bumpy spring—he’s surrendered six runs and walked six in nine innings—but four of those runs came in one of his eight appearances, and he pitched two scoreless frames Friday. The Royals have waited a long time for Zimmer to produce; after last year, they won’t send him down now.
The KC Royals have roster decisions to make before Opening Day’s first pitch. There are 13 pitchers who should make the team.