After completing another side session on Wednesday afternoon, Royals starter Ian Kennedy positioned himself to return from the disabled list and start against the Twins on Saturday in Minnesota.
The Royals will evaluate Kennedy’s hamstring on Thursday. The club likely will not make its decision on starter for Saturday before Friday. Kennedy will not need to be activated from the disabled list until Saturday morning. But for the moment, barring symptoms of discomfort on Thursday, all signs point to Kennedy taking the ball on Saturday.
“We’ll just see how he feels tomorrow,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Kennedy was placed on the 10-day disabled list on May 5 after straining his right hamstring during a loss against the Chicago White Sox one day earlier. He has missed two starts. Right-hander Chris Young has filled in, allowing nine earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
The Royals will need to clear a spot on their 25-man roster to re-instate Kennedy. The bullpen currently has eight relievers. Left-hander Scott Alexander, who went on the disabled list retroactive to May 8 with a strained hamstring, is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday. He posted a 1.26 ERA before the injury and is a safe bet to return once healthy.
To create roster space, the club could option right-handed reliever Seth Maness back to Class AAA Omaha. Young and reliever Al Alburquerque are out of options, meaning they must be designated for assignment and placed on waivers to be removed from the 25-man roster. Alburquerque has allowed two runs in three innings while striking out five since being summoned from Omaha. Young has recorded a 7.27 ERA in 17 1/3 innings after posting a 6.19 ERA last season.
Wood struggling in relief
In the early days of spring training, the Royals signed left-hander Travis Wood to a two-year, $12 million deal, acquiring rotation depth and another arm for the bullpen. After allowing one run on one hit and two walks on Tuesday, Wood’s ERA dropped to 11.68, the worst in baseball for a qualified reliever. In 2016, Wood allowed 20 earned runs in 61 innings, posting a 2.95 ERA for the Chicago Cubs. In 2017, he has yielded 16 earned runs in his first 12 1/3 innings.
“You go back and watch video of him last year, he was just painting that fastball down and away and mixing in really good sliders,” Yost said on Wednesday. “Right now, he’s not commanding his fastball. He’s behind in the count.”
Wood entered Wednesday issuing 8.8 walks per nine innings. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was an astonishing 2.43, more than double his career high. The Royals are paying Wood $4 million this season and will owe him $6.5 million next year. The guaranteed money also includes a $1.5 million buyout on a mutual option in 2019.
“His location was really really good last year,” Yost said. “And this year, it’s all over the map.”