In its last six games entering Saturday, the Royals’ bullpen had logged 26 innings. The heavy workload left manager Ned Yost seeking more depth for the final two games of a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.
The club recalled right-hander Jakob Junis from Class AAA Omaha and optioned outfielder Billy Burns on Saturday afternoon. The move left the Royals with 14 pitchers and just 11 position players entering an evening game against the White Sox.
“I got to have the depth,” Yost said. “My whole bullpen has been used. If something happened early [with starter Jason Vargas], I got to have some length in the pen. I was a little nervous last night.”
Junis will occupy a spot in the bullpen on Saturday and likely Sunday. Left-hander Travis Wood is still scheduled to start on Sunday, Yost said.
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Yost also indicated that the Royals would likely make another roster move in the next few days to add another bench player and return to 13 pitchers.
Burns, 27, was recalled on Monday when the team sent outfielder Jorge Soler back to Omaha. He appeared in four games and collected one hit on Thursday after entering in the late innings of a 16-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers. He was caught stealing on Friday in his only stolen-base attempt since returning to the majors. He must remain at Omaha for at least 10 days, barring an injury to someone on the 25-man roster.
Junis, 24, has posted a 5.66 ERA in eight appearances, including six starts, for the Royals this season. After injuries to Danny Duffy and Nathan Karns, he joined left-handers Eric Skoglund and Matt Strahm as young pitchers who had cameos in the starting rotation. His last appearance came on June 29 at Detroit, when he started and allowed six earned runs and three homers in six innings.