A week has passed since relief pitcher Mike Mayers, an addition to their roster the KC Royals curiously made back in December, offered up his best pitching performance of the spring. Mayers, perhaps known more for his unsightly 5.10 career ERA, an especially bad mark for relievers, than anything, threw a pair of perfect innings against the White Sox. He struck out three, including one batter to end his first inning and two straight to begin his second.
That's precisely the kind of outing a pitcher in Mayers' position needs. He's a non-roster player on a minor league contract; because nothing guarantees such players tomorrow, and their chances of enjoying Opening Day in the majors aren't good, Mayers must almost always be good if not stellar.
Unfortunately, Mayers isn't doing what he needs to do to be in manager Matt Quatraro's bullpen March 30 when the Royals host Minnesota to open the 2023 regular season.
In fact, he's probably operating on borrowed time.
KC Royals reliever Mike Mayers may soon be on the outside looking in.
Not many clubs will pursue a reliever with a 5.10 career ERA, especially when such a high number accurately reflects the bulk of that hurler's major league work. Only three times in the parts of seven seasons he's spent in The Show has Mayers managed to keep his ERA under 5.00—it was 4.70 in 50 games for St. Louis in 2018, an excellent 2.10 across 29 appearances with the Angels in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, and 3.84 in 72 games in 2021. But his ERA rose to 5.68 last season.
Now, and despite last week's excellent showing against Chicago, Mayers appears to be back on his regular high-ERA track.
He threw his first Cactus League pitches of the spring Feb. 25 against Texas and gave up three runs on three hits in two innings.
Five days later, Mayers struck out four in 2.1 innings, but the Angels touched him up for three runs and he walked three.
And Tuesday, he pitched another two innings with similar results, giving Seattle two runs on four hits after entering the fifth with the Mariners and Royals tied 2-2. The loss he took is his only decision of the spring.
Mayers' ERA is now 8.64 and he's given up eight runs (all earned) and nine hits, and walked five, in 8.1 innings. Those aren't the kind of numbers the Royals are looking for and almost certainly put him on the Kansas City roster bubble.
Or worse. The Royals will open the season with 13 pitchers and a five-man starting rotation, leaving eight bullpen spots open. Scott Barlow, Aroldis Chapman, and probably Taylor Clarke, Dylan Coleman, José Cuas, and Amir Garrett, are locks for six of those seats in the pen. Considering his unfortunate career-long propensity to cough up too many runs, and the plethora of other relievers he's competing against, Mayers' chances to break camp with the big club are worse now than when he came aboard in December.
Expect him to be one of the first casualties when the club soon begins trimming the number of players in its major league camp.