The elevator to the ground floor of Kauffman Stadium pinged at 4:06 p.m. on Monday, and Jason Frasor entered it alone. He awoke that day as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Then his phone rang and he saw general manager Dayton Moore was calling. He exited the ballpark as a player in purgatory, designated for assignment in a roster crunch onset by injuries.
When Lorenzo Cain aggravated his sore left hamstring on Sunday afternoon, the Royals sought depth in the outfield. Unable to make a roster move with their three-man bench, the club trimmed their eight-man bullpen. Frasor became the casualty to make room for returning rookie Paulo Orlando.
Frasor turns 38 in August. The Royals were his sixth employer in a career that began in the 33rd round of the 1999 draft. He spent “the best three months of my life” with this club during the World Series run last season. Now he greeted his departure with enough perspective to temper the sadness.
“I didn’t feel needed down there,” Frasor said before he left the building. “I was pitching once a week. They needed help in other areas. I understand. I really do. I’m not just saying that. That’s the way it goes.”
Manager Ned Yost explained the decision as choice between two men, Frasor or rookie Brandon Finnegan. The team could have optioned Finnegan back to the minors. Instead, they cut ties with Frasor. He could be claimed on waivers or traded within a 10-day window.
Frasor departed with a 1.54 ERA but little tangible role in the well-stocked Royals bullpen. His peripheral numbers revealed why Kansas City was willing to part with him.
Frasor was allowing batters to post a .769 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against him. His WHIP was a career-worst 1.671. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was a career-worst 1.20.
Yost declined to speak ill of Frasor. Instead he described him as a redundant piece in the bullpen, which is already stocked with several talented, one-inning, right-handed relievers. Finnegan is one of two lefties, and can pitch longer outings.
“It’s important that we have multiple-inning guys,” Yost said. “And Frasor was a really, really good one-inning guy.”
The Royals face a series of difficult decisions like this in the coming week. The team could option Finnegan to the minors on Thursday to make space for returning starter Yordano Ventura. After the All-Star Break, space must be made for pitchers like Jason Vargas and Kris Medlen.
Kansas City will solve those puzzles when the team arrives. Until then, they needed to massage their roster to compensate for Cain’s shaky legs and the absence of Mike Moustakas. The team placed Moustakas on the family emergency/bereavement list on Monday for the second time in 2015. Yost indicated he was unsure when Moustakas would rejoin the Royals.
Until then, the club recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Class AAA Omaha. Cuthbert, a 22-year-old from Nicaragua, was slated to make his major-league debut at third base on Monday before storms intervened and postponed the game. Cuthbert was hitting .256 for the Storm Chasers with a .708 on-base plus slugging percentage.
“We’ve had a chance to look at him the last couple years in spring training,” Yost said. “He’s a very solid defender at third. Natural third baseman. For a young hitter, he’s got some pop and has handled Class AAA quite nicely.”
Yost classified Cain’s injury as “day-to-day.” Cain was not in the lineup for Monday’s postponed game. Yost indicated Cain was not in danger of missing the All-Star Game, but the Royals needed to rest his legs this week.
The Royals optioned Orlando to the minors on May 30 when Alex Rios returned from the disabled list. He posted a .657 OPS in 32 games, but his production cratered after he hit five triples in his first seven games.
“I just thought I would come back in September,” Orlando said. “Because they have a lot of players, a lot of pitchers, too.”
The excitement of Orlando was not possible without the bittersweet exit from Frasor. He understood his time with the club might be drawing short, but the news still surprised him. He expressed his gratitude for the Royals, and insisted this club would return to October without him.
Kansas City acquired Frasor from the Rangers on July 16 of last summer. He left a last-place team and joined a club en route to a historic run to the World Series. He sprayed champagne as the team snapped a 29-year postseason drought.
“That was the best three months of my life,” Frasor said. “It was the best. It was an experience I never thought I would have. For it to go to the seventh game of the World Series, I’ll never forget it.”
At 4:23 p.m., a clubhouse attendant removed the nameplate from Frasor’s locker. A No. 54 jersey still remained on a hanger. The attendant pulled it down and folded it into a pile. Frasor had already left the premises.