On Saturday in Boston, Royals manager Ned Yost deployed reliever Brandon Maurer, a recent acquisition from San Diego, in the seventh inning and Joakim Soria in the eighth. On Sunday, he utilized Maurer in the eighth and closer Kelvin Herrea in the ninth. On Monday here in Baltimore, he turned to right-hander Peter Moylan in the eighth inning of a tie game before calling on Soria in the ninth.
The Royals won one of the three games. In the other two, Soria allowed runs that eventually led to losses. But as Yost reflected on his recent bullpen usage here on Tuesday, his point was not Soria’s effectiveness but rather his mix-and-match approach in the late innings.
Eight days after acquiring Maurer and left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter from San Diego, Yost said he did not view his bullpen as having defined roles in the late innings — other than Herrera continuing to operate as the closer.
Soria will continue to work the eighth inning at times. But so could Maurer or a combination of others, Yost said. The includes Moylan and left-handers Mike Minor and Scott Alexander. The goal, Yost said, was to keep everybody fresh for the season’s final months.
“When you got enough quality depth down there, you can be fluid,” Yost said. “You don’t have to have rigid, set roles, where you’re using them day in and day out. You keep everybody strong and healthier that way.”
Soria, 33, has posted a 3.35 ERA 48 appearances, bouncing back from a frustrating 2016 campaign. He has struck out 55 batters in 45 2/3 innings and walked just 14. His FIP, or Fielder Independent Pitching — an advanced metric that takes out defense and measures how well a pitcher has performed on roughly the same scale as ERA — is 2.00.
On that level, the numbers have been promising. For most of the season, Soria has operated as the primary setup man for Herrera. Yet he has also been credited with seven blown saves. And the addition of Maurer, who served as the closer in San Diego, could mean more flexibility for Yost in the late innings.
“Right now, you get new, quality guys down there,” Yost said. “You’re looking to try to make sure that nobody gets over-worked, because they all got a high degree of talent. They’re all pretty good at what they do down there.”
Maurer, 27, a hard-throwing right-hander, recorded 20 saves in 23 attempts for the Padres while posting a 5.36 ERA in 42 appearances. He struck out 38 batters in 39 1/3 innings and was credited with four losses. His peripheral numbers do not stack up with Soria’s, though his fastball offers the kind of velocity that Soria cannot produce.
For now, Yost said he is taking a simple approach to the pen. If a pitcher appears over-worked, he’ll utilize another option. On Monday, Maurer had pitched the two previous days. So he sought to stay away from him.
As the season continues, it’s possible that the late-inning roles could once again solidify themselves. But at the moment, Yost is trying to use all the pieces at his disposal, he said.
“You got a bunch of talented guys that could fill a bunch of different roles,” Yost said. “But to have set roles going into right now, not really.”