The KC Royals are making sure five players remain close to Kauffman Stadium.
Springdale, Arkansas, site of the Royals’ ATS, isn’t that much farther from Kansas City than is Omaha, so it’s not surprising the club assigned five players it might need to the home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
Kris Bubic is there. So are former KC regular Ryan O’Hearn, veteran big league starter Ervin Santana, and pitchers Tyler Zuber and Richard Lovelady.
Bubic started 10 games for KC as a rookie last season and, despite pitching well at times, finished 1-6; the eight runs and 14 hits he gave up in 7.1 innings this spring forced the club to send him down to solve the problems presently keeping him out of the rotation. If he’s progressing, Bubic will be on the short list when the Royals need a fifth starter, which should be late this week.
That Santana remains in the fold means Kansas City has some kind of plan for him, as does the team’s inclusion of him on the taxi squad for last week’s road trip. He’s done something to keep the Royals interested. He might get a shot at the fifth rotation spot when the time comes or could be a swing man.
O’Hearn’s struggles with major league pitching necessitated a trip back to the minors. The .195 he’s averaged for two straight seasons overshadows his strong 12-homer, .262/.353/.597 2018 rookie campaign, and .209 in 21 games this spring didn’t help. Some power is there; getting on base isn’t. But the KC Royals like O’Hearn, so he could receive a call if Carlos Santana gets hurt.
Lovelady knows the road between Omaha and Kansas City well and, as one of the club’s only lefthanders, may find his way back to The K sooner rather than later. His excellent 1-0, 2.08 spring didn’t convince the Royals to keep him (an 0-3, 7.71 big league record is troubling), but he’s a probable pick if someone in the KC bullpen falters.
Zuber spent all of last season with the Royals and was 1-2 with a 4.09 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings. Control issues (8.2 BB9) were troubling and continued this spring, which probably account for his presence in the minors. Like Lovelady, he’ll be one of the first called if the relief corps struggles.