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Royals Q&A: Talking closers and bullpen

Updated: 2013-04-09T15:57:45Z

By BOB DUTTON

The Kansas City Star

Yep, it’s back.

As promised, the question-and-answer exchange from twitter will continue during the season — although not on a daily basis as in spring training. Travel schedules make that impossible.

But I’ll try to do it regularly as long as interest warrants.

@blamberty: If the rotation continues to pile up innings, any thought that KC may swap out a reliever for an extra bat on the bench?

I doubt it — at least on a long-term basis. The Royals are already going with seven relievers after keeping eight for much of last year. I don’t know of any club that goes with six as a standard relief corps.

I could see them adding an extra bat for a few days to cover a minor injury; one that might keep somebody down for a short period but not require time on the disabled list. Other than that, no.

@benny_the_buddy: How much do the #Royals plan on using Kottaras? Perez has started every game and I imagine they want to keep Sal's legs fresh

I’d expect to see George Kottaras in the starting lineup at some point during this homestand but, remember, manager Ned Yost is talking about having Salvy Perez catch at least 140 games and maybe as many as 150.

@Duncamania: long term closer?

The best bet is still Greg Holland.

The job is his, and he proved last year that he’s capable of handling it. That said, as we saw Sunday in Philadelphia, I believe Ned Yost is very willing to consider alternatives depending on circumstances.

This is a great example of the Royals switching this season from development mode to win-now mode.

To the larger implied question, if Holland experiences more than very occasional struggles, I think the Royals won’t hesitate to shift roles. Kelvin Herrera would be first in line among replacement candidates.

@WellTimedSmile: Game chart yesterday shows Santana avg 94 mph which would be his best velocity in 5 years by a lot. Kauff gun run a bit hot?

The Kauffman gun might be a tad hot, but Ervin Santana was hitting 92-93 on a regular basis late in spring training — and doing so with command. There has been no sign of any elbow issues as some feared.

@CoachBarge: I like Holland, Crow and Herrara late in games, they all have good stuff, but is the organization looking into a closer?

That might be the last thing the organization is looking to acquire.

The Royals believe all three of those guys are bonafide closer candidates. Some club officials would add Tim Collins, Luke Hochevar and even J.C. Gutierrez to the list.

This is a bullpen loaded with power arms, which is one of the chief characteristics (along with command) that clubs seek in identifying closer candidates.

@WFweatherman: Is Hosmer's hitting the result of a new approach at the plate?

Eric Hosmer certainly has a refined approach, which has been written about on numerous occasions. He enters Tuesday’s game at six for 18 with four walks for a .478 on-base percentage.

That OBP is tops among the club’s regulars.

On the other hand, he has just one extra-base hit (a double).

The bottom line is it’s a small sample size. Let’s check back around May 1 for a better early indication.

@RockChalkRoyals: could this be the best defensive team the Royals' have seen? Which Royals' team currently holds this title?

The Royals certainly think so. They believe they have a league-average defender or better at every position. And early indications are validating that; the Royals haven’t made an error in their first seven games.

@CotterBill: Does KC have a third option behind Chen/Hoch if Wade Davis tires out halfway through the season (after RP role last year)?

Spring training suggested they have plenty of alternatives to Bruce Chen. (I wouldn’t include Luke Hochevar in that list at this point; the Royals really want to get a look at him as a reliever.)

My guess is lefty Will Smith, currently at Class AAA Omaha, would be tops among replacement candidates (after Chen) for the first few months. Nate Adcock and Everett Teaford are other possibilities.

As we get later in the season, the candidate list could grow considerably.

Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino are currently recovering from Tommy John surgery but should be ready by July. Prospects such as Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer might also warrant a look at that point.

@85royal: When an ump has very small strike zone, why don't R's hitters adjust? Mendoza gets squeezed, yet we make 2 outs on 3 pitches.

This gets into a long-time criticism. The Royals are an aggressive hitting bunch. With few exceptions — Alex Gordon is a notable one — they tend to expand the strike zone in such cases.

To reach Bob Dutton, send email to bdutton@kcstar.com. Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report.

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