SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The most interesting roster decision left for the Royals, now that Chris Getz has won the starting job at second base, is how they choose to fill their final spot in the bullpen.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Some fans seem worked up over the choice between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza as the fifth starter, but both will make the club. Miguel Tejada seems a strong bet to beat out Irving Falu for the final utility job. And theres little to choose between George Kottaras and Brett Hayes as the backup catcher -- although Kottaras certainly helped himself in Saturdays 11-10 victory over Arizona.
But the final spot in the bullpen should offer some real insight into how club officials assess their roster. There seem three possibilities:
Need: What the Royals seem to need from their seventh guy is a lefty specialist. Right now, Tim Collins projects as the units only lefty. Yes, Chen could be there, too, but neither is a loogy (lefty one-out guy). The best fits for that role are Francisley Bueno and Donnie Joseph. Both have pitched well.
Inventory: Clubs spend the off-season accumulating depth are loathe to surrender it in spring training or the seasons early weeks. Right-hander J.C. Gutierrez is the only major candidate for the final bullpen spot who is out of options and not in camp on a minor-league contract. Hes been inconsistent this spring, but scouts from opposing clubs say he is unlikely to clear waivers.
Merit: Veteran right-hander Dan Wheeler, in camp on a minor-league deal, has not allowed a run in nine innings over nine appearances while striking out 12 and walking one. Hes come from off the charts to force his way into the conversation.
Manager Ned Yost indicated he hops to have all major roster decisions settled by mid-week but is offering no promises. The Royals break camp after Fridays game against Cleveland at Surprise Stadium.
The Royals, at 20-6-1, carry a 2 ½-game lead in the Cactus League into todays game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
The two teams open the regular a week from Monday at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Jeremy Guthrie gets his stretch-out start today -- six innings or 90-plus pitches. All starters will scale back to 60-70 pitchers and/or four innings in their final spring appearance.
Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow, Bueno and Joseph are also ticketed for duty. No live TV or radio for the game, but you can hear a webcast with Steve Stewart on www.royals.com.
Heres the lineup:
LF Alex Gordon, SS Alcides Escobar, 1B Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, RF Jeff Francoeur, C George Kottaras, DH Xavier Nady, 2B Chris Getz and CF Jarrod Dyson. Keep those questions coming through the week on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here is todays exchange:
@chrisjmccurdy: Did Miguel Tejada's absence from spring training for the WBC hurt his chances for making the team?
I dont think so. I think hes pretty close to a lock to make the club.
@jayhawk5566: Is there a clear plan B for RF if Francoeur is struggling 30 games in?
Thirty games in? I think Jeff Francoeur will get more than that. I think he has at least until June 1, which is roughly 50 games. I could be wrong, of course. It might depend on the level of his struggles -- if he struggles.
@DanielSWesley: Where is Christian Colon on the depth chart? Is he close to overtaking Giavotella and/or Getz as the primary 2B? #Royals I think Christian Colon is third in line behind Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella. If Colon has a solid year, theres no reason he shouldnt come to camp next spring with a chance to win the job.
@thayne_griffin: Wasn't Yost going to announce the rotation Friday? He did and no surprises: James Shields, Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and Wade Davis. The fifth spot is still undecided between Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, although I believe Chen is a heavy favorite.
@RoyalDUF: How does today fair in the backup catcher battle. Kottaras game tying and game winning RBI and Hayes bad defense and 0 hits.
Saturday was a great day for George Kottaras. The choice between him and Brett Hayes will likely go down to the wire. Both guys are drawing support within the organization.
@davidwlowe: if Holland struggles or gets injured, who would be first in line to be the closer? Would it be Herrera? My guess is Kelvin Herrera would be first in line if the Royals needed an alternative to Greg Holland as their closer. That said, I think Holland has a reasonable long leash on the role.
@ryancrist86: Anything noticably wrong with Collins this spring?
Tim Collins was pretty dreadful Saturday in allowing five runs and six hits to Arizona in his only inning. He also got knocked around some in his first spring appearance. In-between, hes been OK. Manager Ned Yost said Collins got off-kilter while playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Yost believes a few minor tweaks by pitching coach Dave Eiland will restore Collins effectiveness.
@foxxman531: With Guthrie pitching so well for the Royals late last year, what was the reason for Santana being named #2 starter? I really think it was a toss-up. Manager Ned Yost had to pick one guy; he chose Ervin Santana over Jeremy Guthrie. I wouldnt read too much into it.
@tlytle33: Irving Falu played very well in the WBC for Puerto Rico. Is he even a candidate for regular playing time at 2B? Falu and Miguel Tejada are candidates for the final utility spot on the roster, but Tejada seems a heavy favorite. I think Falu will open the season at Class AAA Omaha, where hell split time at second and short with Christian Colon. That said, I think theres a great chance that we see Falu on the big-league roster at some point.
@carterhall2000: Do you think the Royals will make playoffs?
This year? They could, but I wouldnt bet on it. They should be better. I think the bar for this team should be a winning record. But if a few things fall into place, sure, they could be in the wild-card
Winning the division will be tougher. I think Detroit is far better than any other team in the American League Central. But well see. A year ago, I thought Oakland was a good bet to loss 100 games -- the As went 94-68.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report