Major league pitchers can be stubborn. Sometimes too stubborn. Too many try to defy injury, pitching through discomfort and even tell-tale pain when they know better. Fortunately, such was not the case Thursday with KC Royals starter Daniel Lynch.
Lynch, getting in perhaps his last planned live action before the Royals open the season next Thursday in Kansas City, was struggling against San Diego—he'd given up four runs in 2.1 innings—when he suddenly turned to the KC dugout and called for a trainer, then left the game prematurely after a short mound conference. That something was wrong was obvious.
And something was, indeed, amiss. MLB.com KC beat writer Anne Rogers reported Friday that southpaw Lynch, until Thursday's incident a probable member of the regular season rotation, is headed for the Injured List with a left shoulder strain that will probably sideline him for the first month of the new season.
What are the Royals to do with one of their starters suddenly forced out of action less than a week before Opening Day? The club has some options, but should seriously consider Austin Cox.
Austin Cox could be a good substitute for KC Royals starter Daniel Lynch
Calling on Cox makes sense. Like Lynch, he's a lefthander, so adding him to the mix guarantees KC a southpaw in the rotation. It also means the Royals can get the kind of look at Cox Cactus League action can't provide, but pitching a month in the majors can.
And it's time, maybe even past time, for Kansas City to get that look. Cox, a member of the club's heralded, pitching-dominated 2018 draft class, has been impressive in four minor league seasons: he's 20-15 in 79 games, 72 of them starts. And he'd struck out eight and surrendered only a run in 4.1 Cactus League innings this spring before the Royals reassigned him to minor league camp Sunday. Just the day before, he fanned four of the seven batters he faced in a split-squad game against Colorado.
That Cox can pitch isn't in dispute; whether he can survive major league hitters is the question, and now is an ideal time to answer it. Giving Cox an April try won't hurt because this isn't a team bound for the playoffs, so it can take a risk on a talented pitcher.
Opening the 2023 season with Cox will require making two roster moves by Opening Day morning: the club can't put him on the 26-man active roster without also adding him to the 40-man. Lynch going on the IL opens a spot on the former, but not the latter—injured players don't count against the 40-man roster only when they're assigned to the 60-day IL, and Cox appears headed for the 10-day list, where he'll have to spend a minimum 10 days. But the anticipated assignment to the 60-day IL of recently re-signed pitcher Jake Brentz would clear 40-man space for Cox.
So it is the Royals have an unforeseen chance to give a good pitcher his big league shot. They shouldn't pass it up.