SURPRISE, Ariz. — Lefty reliever Tim Collins is slotted to pitch again tonight when the Royals play the Chicago Cubs in concluding a day/night doubleheader that commences this afternoon against Milwaukee.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Collins could really use a dominant performance to quell growing concerns after after enduring another rocky outing in Tuesday’s 11-6 victory over Seattle.
Two booming homers by the Mariners push the grim math on Collins to 11 runs and 13 hits in seven spring innings.
Manager Ned Yost continues to say Collins needs nothing more than a few tweaks to regain his expected form, but the regular season is now just five days away.
“He’ll be all right,” Yost said. “It’s not really an issue right now. I mean, it’s an issue because we’re one week away from starting the season, but we don’t have any concern that he’s not going to be ready.”
Things change quickly, though.
There was a point this spring when first Luke Hochevar and then Bruce Chen appeared positioned as favorites for the final spot in the rotation. Now, both are in the bullpen after losing out to Luis Mendoza.
Collins has options remaining, and if his struggles continue — he’s slotted for two more spring appearances — it’s not hard to imagine him being sent to Class AAA Omaha to work out whatever mechanical tweaks are required.
Francisley Bueno and Donnie Joseph provide the Royals with viable alternatives to the need for a lefty reliever if club officials believe Collins requires a quick remedial tour in the minors.
It could all be moot by Friday if, between now and then, Collins again displays the form that made him a durable and valuable member of last year’s bullpen.
Either Bueno or Joseph could also make the final roster alongside Collins. Both are in contention for what, barring a Collins demotion, looms as the last available spot in the bullpen.
The other candidates are right-handers J.C. Gutierrez, Dan Wheeler and Louis Coleman. All five are scheduled to pitch at some point in today’s games.
Mendoza will start the afternoon game against the Brewers in Maryvale. Here’s the lineup:
CF Jarrod Dyson, SS Alcides Escobar, 1B Xavier Nady, 3B Miguel Tejada, LF Irving Falu, C George Kottaras, RF Paulo Orlando, 2B Rey Navarro and Mendoza. The DH won’t be used.
Nady’s presence in the lineup suggests he signed a new minor-league deal with the Royals after being released following Monday’s victory over the Dodgers.
James Shields is slotted for tonight’s game against the Cubs, which can be seen at 8:05 p.m. Central time on Fox Sports Kansas City. Here’s the lineup for that game:
LF Alex Gordon, 2B Chris Getz, DH Billy Butler, 3B Mike Moustakas, C Salvy Perez, 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, RF Jeff Francoeur and SS Elliot Johnson.
The Royals, at 23-6-1, have little left to accomplish in their four remaining games. They have already clinched the Cactus League title. One more victory or a Baltimore loss will clinch the best overall spring record.
The 23 victories are already a franchise spring record, and the Royals need just one more victory to clinch the franchise’s best spring winning percentage.
Come next Monday, of course, none of it matters.
Keep those questions coming on twitter to @Royals_Report. Here is today’s exchange:
@PannoneNick: do we make anything of the timing of Chen to the pen? Right before his scheduled start?
The timing wasn’t coincidental. If Bruce Chen had started Tuesday, as scheduled, he effectively would have been finished this spring. This way, the Royals can use him a few times in relief before the season starts.
I think this was a fairly recent decision. As recently as last week, Chen still seemed positioned as the favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation.
@aaronjbryant: Have you observed the FO relying any more on advanced metrics this year now that they've added a few new sabrematricions.
The Royals had long used details stats in their evaluations. Any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. They might be a little more open to admitting to their use because of criticism alleging otherwise.
Now, before my stat-loving friends start screaming, it’s undeniable the Royals, under Dayton Moore, remain firm believers in the value of scouting. It’s a mix — and you can argue they haven’t gotten the mix correct.
While that mix enabled Moore and his lieutenants to build a historically strong farm system in recent years, it has been less successful at the big-league level.
The emphasis in the organization shifted dramatically in recent months to success at the big-league level. Let’s see how their offseason moves pan out this year.
@KCCCK94: Who are the Royals thinking about drafting in the 1st round this year? Also, will it be a pitcher or position player?
It’s way too early to tell. The Royals have the eighth pick. If you want a working list of possibilities, there are several websites that rank prospects.
Anyone in the top 25 is probably a legitimate candidate; assessments can change rapidly between now and June.
Historically, I’ve always looked to Baseball America as the gold standard for such rankings and updates, but their new website design makes it difficult to find anything. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
@lilbonest: how will Ned handle the NL lineup in Philly? will BB get 2/3 starts at 1st?
Good question. I need to ask him again. It’s been a while. Am hearing the Royals are likely to see two lefties in the three-game series. If so, I’d be surprised if Billy Butler doesn’t start those games at first.
@variegatta: Where can a fan go to find out how many minor league options a specific play has left?
Right here, of course. I don’t know of any public website that has that information. If someone does, pass it along, and I’ll let others in on the secret.
@KennedyMLB: What is the backup catcher battle looking like? Is Kottaras going to win the job?
Before Tuesday, I would have suggested George Kottaras appeared to be winning the battle. But Brett Hayes had four hits Tuesday against the Mariners and caught a good game.
Still a toss-up, I think.
@kc571: not much has been said abt Cain. But I feel he's more imp then Frenchy. His health and production can be a bonus. Thoughts?
I’ve written about Lorenzo Cain and have another story in the works. I agree completely that he can be a major contributor.
@_MathewB: Might Chen be used as a situational lefty? Did that play a part in the decision?
Bruce Chen doesn’t really fit the profile as a situational lefty. I think he’s just a long reliever.
@PigTheDESTROYER: will he be wearing a Royals #16 or a Sox #8?
Assume we’re talking about Bo Jackson, who will throw out the first pitch Monday in the season opener between the Royals and White Sox in Chicago.
Since the game is in Chicago ... what do you think?
@jeff_fett: Will you continue this Q & A during the season once spring training is over and if so when will you be doing it?
Not on a daily basis, certainly. There are too many late-night games followed by early morning flights to make it feasible.
The exchange might continue on a limited basis, say once or twice a week, if there’s interest. Is there interest? Let me know.
@justinmarkbro: do you think the Royals regret tendering Chen and Hochevar?
First, there was no decision in tendering Bruce Chen because he was still under terms of a guaranteed two-year contract signed before the 2012 season. There was no thought of releasing him and just eating the money.
Would the Royals have tendered a contract to Luke Hochevar if they’d already had James Shields and Wade Davis in the fold? General manager Dayton Moore insists yes, they would have.
@Turnksu: who appears to be the starter for the home opener?
Ervin Santana is in line to start the home opener on April 8 against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium.
@blamberty: Do the Royals, and major leaguers in general, follow the NCAA BB Tournament enthusiastically?
Absolutely. They’re no different than most sports fans in that regard.
@JeremyBlackley: does lough just have more options or do the royals really like dyson more??
If you’re asking whether options were the only factor in keeping Jarrod Dyson over David Lough ... I don’t think so. Dyson’s speed and ability to play all three outfield positions make him an ideal fourth outfielder.
But if the situation were reversed —if Lough had been out of options, and Dyson had options remaining —I could easily see the Royals keeping Lough instead of Dyson.
And if both had been out of options, I think the Royals would have looked a lot harder for ways to keep Lough on the roster.
@85royal: Did Dan Wheeler earn the $100k bonus as a ML on a Minor contract? What is his status?
No, Wheeler did not qualify as a major-league free agent since he concluded last season in the minors.
To reach Bob Dutton, Royals reporter for The Star, send email to email@example.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.