SURPRISE, Ariz. — What already shaped up as a fierce battle for jobs at the back of the Royals bullpen suddenly looks even tougher.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Its still to be determined, manager Ned Yost said, but Im thinking, with our starting pitching, I dont see any reason we cant go with 12 pitchers.
That means a seven-man bullpen or one less reliever than the Royals carried for much of last season. Since six slots, barring injury, are already accounted for, that leaves several pitchers with big-league experience effectively competing for one job.
Oh, Yost agreed, its going to be cutthroat.
Official workouts begin Tuesday for the clubs pitchers and catchers, most of whom took part in optional conditioning drills over the last several days. The first full-squad workouts begin Friday, although most infielders and outfielders are already in camp.
The Royals have little reason to change their late-inning relief corps, which is generally viewed as one of the clubs strengths. Closer Greg Holland heads that four-man group, which also consists of Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow.
Yost prefers to keep two long relievers and seems nearly certain to do so this spring because of circumstances; Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and, possibly, Luis Mendoza are competing for the final spot in the rotation.
Mendy is going to be on our club, Yost said. Bruce and Hoch, theyre going to be on our club. So well just see how the competition goes.
Hochevar, Chen and Mendoza are also out of options, which means they cant be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Chen and Mendoza also have the right to choose free agency even if they clear waivers.
Its going to be a really balanced bullpen, Yost said. Well be able to handle all different scenarios. We think weve got starting pitching that can go deep. Weve got guys who can pick up innings in Mendoza and either Chen or Hochevar. And weve got the back-end guys. We feel were in pretty good shape.
If competition is tight, as expected, the determining factor will likely be whether or not the player has options remaining. All clubs are particularly reluctant in spring to risk losing inventory i.e., players through a waiver claim.
Heres a look at that bullpen competition in alphabetical order:
RHP Nate Adcock: A swingman candidate who has made 36 big-league appearances over the last two years. Since he has options, he seems likely to open the season in the Class AAA Omaha rotation.
LHP Francisley Bueno: Compiled a 1.56 ERA in 18 late-season appearances when used primarily as a situational lefty. He would likely be a good fit there again this year, but he has options.
RHP Louis Coleman: Made 90 big-league appearances over the last two years and has a sidearm delivery that makes him tough on right-handers. But he has options.
RHP J.C. Gutierrez: One-time Arizona closer whose strong Winter League performance suggests he might finally be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Hes out of options, which is a huge factor in his favor if he pitches well.
LHP Donnie Joseph: Didnt pitch particularly well at Omaha after arriving last July from Cincinnati in the trade for then-closer Jonathan Broxton. Could get a look at some point this season but seems a long shot to break with the club. Has options.
RHP Guillermo Moscoso: A swingman-type acquired from Colorado in offseason waiver claim. He is out of options, but his best chance to make the club is if circumstances (injury, etc.) create an opening for a long reliever.
LHP Everett Teaford: Probably the most versatile guy in the group in terms of what role he can fill, but hes got options.
Thats just the pitchers on the 40-man roster. The list of minor-league invites includes several other pitchers with big-league experience: Blaine Boyer, Atahualpa Severino, Brian Sanches and Dan Wheeler.
All players on minor-league contracts can simply be reassigned without regard to options or waivers.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.