Is it time for the KC Royals to give this pitcher a real shot?

The club has a promising hurler who might be able to help next season.
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When the KC Royals ended their season almost three months ago, everyone knew all too well that only a major overhaul of its pitching staff could move the 106-loss club forward. And predictably, general manager J.J. Picollo began saying all the right, fan-soothing things as soon as the campaign closed, tempting at least some to believe 2024 could, and would, be better.

There were skeptics, though, fans and other observers who have for so many years heard similar assurances of bigger things to come, only to be disappointed when they didn't come. No one lied; they just didn't deliver.

Fortunately, it appears the past isn't repeating itself. Credit Picollo for changing the offseason dynamic and making the sorts of moves he suggested he would. He brought to town Hunter Renfroe, the kind of veteran, big-bat corner outfielder the club so badly needed; perhaps more importantly, Picollo swooped up a flock of promising starting pitchers and relievers, including successful long-time big league starter Michael Wacha, and veteran Seth Lugo, who gave the Padres a nice 8-7, 3.57 ERA effort in his first season in a major league rotation since 2017.

Wacha will definitely join Brady Singer, Cole Ragans and Jordan Lyles in Kansas City's rotation, and Picollo suggests Lugo will also start. But what if Ragans can't repeat the superb effort he gave Kansas City after coming over from Texas in the Aroldis Chapman trade, or Lyles shows up as the same pitcher who lost more games than any other major leaguer last season, or Singer can't shake the troubling inconsistency that's haunted him for the better part of his short four year career?

And what if Daniel Lynch IV and Kris Bubic don't bounce back from their injuries? Who could step in?

Maybe, just maybe, Anthony Veneziano. And he deserves a shot at a spot on the KC staff.

The time is coming for the Royals to give Anthony Veneziano a longer look

Veneziano, you may recall, received his first taste of big league life when the Royals, needing pitchers after Brady Singer and Brad Keller both landed on the Injured List late in the season, summoned him from Triple-A with a shade less than two weeks left in the campaign.

It took manager Matt Quatraro a week to find the right spot to first deploy his rookie hurler: Veneziano debuted against Detroit Sept. 26, and in an inning of relief allowed the Tigers to tie the game with a pair of unearned runs. He worked next two days later, again against Detroit, and pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, then didn't appear in the Royals' last three games.

The sample size is small, and pitching 2.1 innings isn't enough to even begin Veneziano's story. What is clear, though, is that the lefty, whose 2023 season was his fourth as a professional, has some talent. Ranked No. 16 among the organization's Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, he owns a respectable 25-22 minor league record; although he must improve his 4.51 ERA and his control needs some work, he has a promising curveball and a decent fastball.

Kansas City chose Veneziano in the 2019 amateur draft's 10th round; after pitching that summer in Rookie ball and, after sitting out the 2020 COVID-cancelled campaign, he moved up to High-A Quad Cities in 2021 and struck out 127 in 93.2 innings (12.20 K/9). He also won six of 10 decisions and posted a 3.75 in that 22-start season.

Veneziano's most impressive work, however, came at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season, where his 5-1, 2.13 ERA over eight starts proved good enough for the organization to bump him up to Triple-A in late May. Things didn't go quite as well in Omaha, though — he went 5-4, 5.22 in 18 games, 17 of which he started, before the Royals called him up.

Despite pitching in the big leagues last season, Veneziano is still a work in progress. He'll undoubtedly see action in the Grapefruit League in the spring, but Omaha is where he probably will, and should, start the 2024 season.

But look for the Royals to give him another big league shot not terribly long after that, and this time well before September.

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