Royals mailbag: Setting the playoff rotation? Who would be team captain?

08/29/2014 9:58 AM

08/29/2014 11:58 AM

The Royals are still in first place. Their first playoff berth since 1985 is within their grasp. September should be fascinating for this club.

A few days before the season’s final month, let’s look at some pressing questions in the weekly edition of the mailbag.

The closer we get to October, the more it sounds like Yordano Ventura may move to the bullpen. My initial inclination was Jeremy Guthrie would shift out of the rotation. But Ventura has lagged down the stretch, and he has now missed two starts due to injuries. He is 23, a vital asset for the organization long-term, and he could be a weapon out of the bullpen. Guthrie does not possess that upside as a reliever, I would suspect, because he relies more on contact.

But Ventura could stabilize the middle of the relief corps, a group that has looked vulnerable in August. Kansas City is eager to see how Liam Hendriks handles relief in September. Hendriks could also be a key contributor in this role.

It would have to be Alex Gordon.

There are many problems with this, but one major one.

He can become a free agent after next season.

Maybe, during contract negotiations, the two sides could discuss this. The Mets named David Wright their captain after locking him down to a long-term deal after 2012. But the whole symbolic captain thing may not be Gordon’s cup of tea.

Any chance? No.

Is he deserving of consideration? Yes, although only near the back end of the voting. If I had a ballot, Davis would not crack my top five. He has thrown 58 1/3 marvelous innings. But that does not compare with Felix Hernandez (191 innings), Corey Kluber (192 2/3 innings), Jon Lester (177 2/3 innings), Max Scherzer (181 innings) or even Chris Sale (142 innings).

It is just about impossible for a reliever to be more valuable than a starter. This should not take away from Davis’ season. He has been tremendous.

Yost says he does not know. It is a conundrum. No one asked me, but the most sensible scenario would involve Hosmer on the bench most of the time, with Billy Butler and Josh Willingham as the regulars at first base and DH. I would expect a more amorphous, day-to-day, matchup-based rotation, though. And that is if Hosmer returns in working order, and shows well during a rehab stint.

Let’s handle this in order:

1. Butler can become a free agent after this season, as the Royals are expected to decline his $12.5 million option for 2015. They could still work out an extension, although that would depend on the interest from other clubs.

2. If Eric Hosmer could play the outfield, he would have come up through the minors playing the outfield. He is a Gold Glove first baseman. The Royals are built around defense. To move Hosmer off first base would weaken the club in two positions.

3. Both Josh Willingham and Raul Ibanez will be free agents. It is far too early to speculate where they fit in the team’s future plans.

Yes. At the very least, you will see Liam Hendriks here on Sept. 2. To be eligible for the postseason roster, the player must be added to 40-man roster by Aug. 31. Finnegan still has a shot. Christian Binford has been getting knocked around in Class AAA Omaha, so he looks unlikely.

Also eligible for October, because they are already on the 40-man: Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Casey Coleman, Louis Coleman.

Binford projects as a back-end starter, the prototypical No. 4 or No. 5. He does not possess a true put-away pitch, and he will never miss a ton of bats. He does throw strikes and team officials like his makeup. One team official suggested he could become a second-division No. 3 starter, if he improves his ability making adjustments during games and becomes sharper on the mound. A comparison with Seattle starter Chris Young — tall guy who doesn’t throw hard and doesn’t rack up strikeouts — makes some sense.

Manaea has the ceiling of an ace. That does not mean he will get there. He is still quite raw, at least in terms of in-game experience. That quality improved during his season in Class A Wilmington. Manaea will finish his season on quite a tear: During his last nine appearances, he went 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA. He struck out 55 batters and walked 24. Opposing hitters posted .179/.277/.207 line against him. He will start next season in Class AA Northwest Arkansas, and looks like a potential beast.

Ned Yost has reserved the right to start Ibanez based on matchups. He put Ibanez in the lineup against Phil Hughes this week because Ibanez managed two singles off Hughes in their previous encounter. For the record: Ibanez did spark the eighth-inning rally off Hughes with a leadoff single. So there is that.

As you see, this did not occur. But Hendriks will be around in September, to help as both a middle reliever and perhaps a spot starter, should Ventura’s back condition worsen.

It’s a tie between this mailbag and the daily criticism of my wardrobe from members of the Kansas City Royals.

Nothing beats it.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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