Why the KC Royals may be serious about this sidearmer

(Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images) /

Jose Cuas may not be familiar to many fans of the KC Royals. A right-handed pitcher with only five innings of work above Double-A, he’s a non-roster spring training invitee, someone management wants to look at and evaluate, but one for whom an Opening Day roster spot is improbable.

Cuas is also a rarity among ballplayers. On its face, his Baseball Reference page identifies him as a third baseman, relief pitcher and shortstop, which might lead some to believe he’s the two-way player he isn’t—the listing reflects his infield days, presumably for historical and accuracy purposes, but Cuas is, since his conversion to pitcher a few years ago, a reliever. Pitching is what and all he does.

Few attempt such a drastic position change. Outfielder Rick Ankiel hit .261 in 27 games with the Royals in 2010, but was an outfielder only because he abandoned pitching a few years before. Outfielder Brett Eibner, whose dramatic game-winning hit in 2016 was the highlight of his brief KC career, switched to pitching after leaving the Royals and appeared in three games for Miami in 2020.

Cuas also throws sidearm, an exception to the general overhand/three-quarter style that dominates contemporary pitching.

But despite deviating from norms, Cuas is proving he can pitch. And it really hasn’t taken that long.

Jose Cuas took well to pitching a couple of seasons before joining the Royals.

Cuas’ first significant work on the mound came in the Arizona organization in 2019 when he went 6-3 with a 1.60 ERA in 26 stops across Low and High-A. He also posted an 0.71 ERA in 10 games with Long Island in the independent Atlantic League.

Cuas hooked back up with Long Island after the pandemic-canceled 2020 season. He soon caught the Royals’ attention—they picked him up from the Ducks and he soon wound up at Northwest Arkansas pitching for the Double-A Naturals and went 3-1 with three saves and a stingy 1.95 ERA in 22 games. Kansas City rewarded him with a late campaign promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he didn’t give up a run in three appearances.

The reliever is making his case in spring training with the KC Royals.

Now 27, Cuas is pitching well in the Cactus League. Manager Mike Matheny, clearly interested in seeing firsthand how Cuas can fare against major leaguers and top prospects, has used him in half of the Royals’ games and he hasn’t given up a run or a hit in 2.1 innings; the only blemish on his early record is the walk he issued in the club’s first exhibition game.

Cuas is probably destined for Omaha when Kansas City closes Cactus League play and heads home to begin the season with an April 7 contest against Cleveland. But the club should be (and probably is) serious about and high on Cuas which, together with his obvious talent and potential, may propel him to the majors before the season ends.

Olivares is staking his claim. dark. Next

Reliever Jose Cuas is worth keeping an eye on.