April 16, 2013

Royals Q&A: Rotation alternatives and Hochevar as a reliever

The Star’s Bob Dutton thinks that Bruce Chen, at this point, would likely be the first option if the Royals had to replace a starter, but that’s not absolute. As time goes on, it would be tougher and tougher to ask him to go 90-100 pitches in a spot start.

This morning produced more proof that the city is salivating at the possibility of meaningful baseball throughout the summer. A tweet soliciting questions brought a large response.

Too many to answer, in fact.

Let’s get to it:

@RoyalsBookGuy: Chen's likely first, but who would get the call if the Royals had to replace a 2nd starter? Hoch, Will Smith, someone else?

I agree that Bruce Chen, at this point, would likely be the first option, but that’s not absolute. As time goes on, it would be tougher and tougher to ask him to go 90-100 pitches in a spot start.

I could easily see the call going to Will Smith or whomever is pitching well in the minors. If it’s late June or so, the obvious candidates would be Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino returning from rehab.

Before anyone asks, I doubt the Royals summon Yordano Ventura unless they believe he is ready to come up and stay. Ventura isn’t yet on the 40-man roster. It’s unlikely he gets the call to make a spot start or two.

I don’t think it will be Luke Hochevar. Everything suggests the Royals really want to give him a real look as a reliever.

@MattChangMusic: does Ned truly believe Hoch can be put in with runners on in clutch? This experiment seems to contradict the “win now” mentality

Ned Yost addressed that recently and basically said the Royals need to find out whether Luke Hochevar can handle that duty. That said, I think those opportunities, initially, will be like Saturday night against Toronto.

The Royals were already down by two runs when Hochevar replaced Luis Mendoza. That way, if he fails, he’s not surrendering the lead.

@justin_baker88: what do you see as best case scenario wins on road trip and what should fans think if we see a 2-6 or similar?

The first goal in any series, home or away, is don’t get swept. Find a way to win at least one game. Think of it like golf. Getting swept in three games is like a triple bogey. You then need three birdies to get back to par.

I also think the Royals’ goal through May is to play .500. The April schedule is tough, and the May schedule is brutal. If the Royals are at or near .500 by June, it sets up the possibility of a fun summer.

@TJTrejo12: Did you think an extension for Santana is a possibility

I don’t see anything happening right away...and probably not at all. Ervin Santana is making $13 million in this, his walk year to free agency. A good season positions him for a sizable payday.

Sizable enough to likely price him beyond the Royals’ means, particularly when they’ve got Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino rehabbing from injuries and a slew of pitching prospects working their way through the farm system.

And if Santana tails off, why would you extend him when you’ve got those prospects on the way? I think Santana is a classic one-year rental.

@silver_drew: is there any chance Hoch or Chen gets moved in May?

Sure, there’s a chance the Royals will trade Luke Hochevar and/or Bruce Chen. But two things: The Royals, at least at this point, want something of value in return, and they show no inclination to eat any salary.

@blamberty: Is there a time range where, unless Frenchy begins hitting, the Royals can’t live with a sub-.700 OPS in RF?

I don’t think the plan has changed. I believe he has until June to show he can be a productive player. But let me add this caveat: what some fans view as productive might be quite different from the Royals’ view.

@BenMitchum: Any talk mechanically could be wrong with Moose’s swing or just a slump plain and simple?

Prevailing view is it’s just a slump. My view (for what it’s worth) is Mike Moustakas is a streaky hitter. Right now, he’s on a cold streak.

@kc571: Herrera is piling on the strikeouts. Seems to have the 1-2-3 ability of a closer. just the matter of a blown save bf a change?

I don’t know anyone who questions whether Kelvin Herrera has closer-type stuff, but so does Greg Holland. It was Holland, remember, who was the club’s pitcher of the year in 2012.

Having Herrera as a ready alternative means the Royals don’t have to live with a struggling Holland, but I don’t see a switch being one bad outing away.

@joebonge: Will the Royals series @ Red Sox happen this weekend?

I have not heard anything to suggest otherwise.

@K1llwithme: chances we leave him there? Like tell him to be back at the bus at 10, but the flight left at 9 and everyone is gone?

The snark and vitriol constantly directed at Jeff Francoeur is simply amazing to me.

@PhilGarver: Why isn’t Lo Cain batting cleanup?

Well...he hasn’t yet, but the Royals need to find a productive bat to protect Billy Butler in the lineup. Cain had a good homestand (eight for 22). It wouldn’t shock me to see him get a look.

@Dkerperin_00: who have been the best players on the Royals’ minor league clubs thus far?

Wilmington right-hander Kyle Smith was just picked as the pitcher of the week in the Hi-A Carolina League after not allowing a run in his first two starts.

Smith, 20, often gets overlooked by those evaluating the club’s prospects. (That includes me.) He was 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA last season over 14 starts in his pro debut, primarily at Lo-A Kane County.

@BlakeClarensau: I understand the injury and whatnot but will Hosmer sit most outings against left handers?

That’s certainly not the plan. A productive Eric Hosmer remains, I believe, the biggest key to success this season.

@MoRaiderFan: Can we get an update on Danny Duffy an Felipe Paulino?

Both progressing on or slightly ahead of schedule. Duffy seems likely to be ready for game action by mid-to-late June, while Paulino is a few weeks behind that pace.

@KyleYoungstrom: what is the starting pitching ERA from last year to this year. At this point in season.

The rotation carried a 3.66 ERA through 12 games into Tuesday’s series opener against the Braves in Atlanta. It had a 4.41 mark last year through 12 games.

Of note: The current club is 7-5; last year’s club was 3-9 through 12 games.

@WFweatherman: Yost said he wanted to hit more home runs. Does that mean he will routinely change the lineup based on that strategy?

I really think the “hit more home runs” aspect of Ned Yost’s comments last October got more attention than he intended. What he wants are more runs, and that means driving the ball.

It doesn’t have to be homers. More doubles would help. Yost’s point was he believed the Royals, too often in the past, required three singles to score a run.

That said, Yost does believe the Royals have several players with 20-plus homer potential. We haven’t seen it so far, though. Their four homers, entering Tuesday, were tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest in the league.

@KSUhumpy: Would the Royals even consider a Moustakas + prospect deal for Chase Headley?

I saw that speculation making the internet rounds. I don’t want to absolutely dismiss it, but I’ve heard nothing to suggest it has any substance.

First, it would mean adding another $8 million in salary for this season, when the Royals are already over budget. Plus, Headley would be in line for another boost next season and then hit free agency.

Mike Moustakas doesn’t project to be eligible for arbitration until after the 2014 season and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.

So such as deal at this point seems really unlikely.

@AllenSny: The usual question for NL games: What lineup is Ned going to use?

Am just as interested as you. Will tweet it when I see it.

@tommygallegos: Anything from Shields on the non-run support he has received in his 3 starts?

Nothing in public, anyway. And I’d be surprised if his private view varies much. He’s disappointed, of course, but he also knows he gave up four runs in the first inning at Philadelphia and got a victory.

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