The KC Royals’ starting rotation is in disarray. Danny Duffy is sidelined with a left flexor strain for the second time this season. His first visit to the Injured List cost him over a month, and when he’ll return from his current stay is uncertain. Brady Singer, slowed by right shoulder fatigue, went on the IL with Duffy.
Brad Keller (5.84) and Mike Minor (5.45) own the second and third worst ERAs among qualified American League pitchers; Keller’s nine losses are the third most, and Minor’s eight are tied for fourth most.
Kris Bubic, a rotation mainstay last season, had a poor spring training this year and started the current campaign at Triple-A Omaha. He’s been inconsistent since returning to KC.
And although Keller and Bubic show signs of turning their respective corners—Keller is 1-1, 2.61 with a 9.6 SO9 in July, and Bubic has allowed only two runs in his last 12 innings, and earned his third win Friday night by holding Detroit to a run in his six-inning start (KC won 5-3), a solid rota remains elusive.
The hard truth is Kansas City has no set five-man rotation. So it was surprising when the club acquired reliever Joel Payamps from Toronto in a cash deal Wednesday, then called up reliever Domingo Tapia from Omaha Friday. With some starters suffering or struggling, wouldn’t adding at least one rotation piece have made more sense?
Probably, and the KC Royals are preparing to make that move—Manager Mike Matheny disclosed before Friday’s game that top pitching prospect Daniel Lynch will start Sunday against Detroit and, per Kansas City Star writer Jesse Newell, Matheny is “looking forward” to Lynch pitching in the big leagues again:
What motivates the KC Royals to bring Daniel Lynch back to the majors now?
Lynch is the organization’s top pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but calling him back to Kansas City now is a bit curious. It’s not his disturbing performance in three starts with the Royals earlier this season—he went 0-2 and was battered for 14 earned runs in just eight innings (15.75 ERA)—that makes it so. Instead, it’s how he pitched when he went back to Omaha.
The Royals returned Lynch to the Storm Chasers May 14, less than two weeks after his call-up, and he gave up four runs in six innings in his first start five days later, then just one in 10.2 innings over his next two outings. And although he went 3-0 for a good-hitting Omaha club in June, his ERA for the month was a high 5.32.
July started badly for Lynch. St. Paul hammered him for seven runs in 5.1 innings July 2 and Toledo tagged him for eight runs in only 2.1 frames July 8. Things quieted down for Lynch in his last two starts—he surrendered four runs across nine total innings. Still, he ended the month 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA.
Lynch leaves a 4-3, 5.84 Triple-A record behind when he heads back to Kansas City. The ERA is too high. So is his .318 OBA.
But something in the way Lynch pitched for the Storm Chasers must have convinced the Royals that now is the time to give Lynch another chance. Maybe it’s his 9.8 SO9, or his 2.8 BB9 (far better than his 5.6 with the KC Royals), or both.
Or perhaps the Royals have correctly determined contending this season, which seemed so possible in April and early May, is now impossible, so there’s nothing left to lose and much to be gained from letting their No. 1 mound prospect learn by doing at the major league level.
At this point, the KC Royals should take the pressure off Lynch and tell him he’ll be with them for the rest of the season. They obviously have confidence in him, so it’s time for him to pitch against and learn from the best for more than just three games.
His second chance begins Sunday.
Daniel Lynch returns to the big leagues Sunday against the Tigers. Game time is set for 1:10 p.m. CDT.