Kelvin Herrera has been pulled as the Royals’ closer role, at least temporarily, manager Ned Yost said Friday.
The Royals will go with a closer by committee for the foreseeable future, with right-hander Brandon Maurer and lefties Scott Alexander and Mike Minor filling the role as needed.
“We’re going to bump Kelvin out there for a little while,” Yost said. “He’s not pitching regularly enough to stay sharp. I feel like right now we can go with Scotty, we can go with Minor, we can go with Mauer. It just depends what it takes to get there.”
Herrera blew a save opportunity in the Royals’ 4-2 loss to the Twins on Thursday. Herrera wasn’t helped by a pop-up that dropped between left fielder Alex Gordon and shortstop Alcides Escobar. However, Herrera also gave up two other hits and walked three as the Twins pushed three runs across the plate. Herrera didn’t finish the frame, the third time he’s been pulled mid-inning in his last five outings.
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In his last 17 outings, Herrera has been pulled in the ninth inning five times. In that span, he has a 4.11 ERA and has blown two saves, but twice Herrera was helped with Alexander came on and pitched out of a jam.
This is Herrera’s first season as the Royals’ closer and he is 3-3 overall with 26 saves and a 4.56 ERA in 51 1/3 innings pitched.
When he took the mound Thursday, Herrera had not pitched in five days, and he’s also also had gaps of three or more days off on three other occasions.
“Kel’s pitching like every five days. It’s just not enough to keep him sharp,” Yost said. “We need to get him back into the seventh or eighth inning and get him pitching more regularly to sharpen him up.
“In a handful of (outings), he’s been at 25 pitches and that’s not him.”
Herrera made his first appearance in his new role in the eighth inning on Friday, and it didn’t fare well. He gave up two runs on a double and a triple and recorded just one out on a sacrifice bunt before being pulled in favor of Alexander.
The bullpen switch comes at a critical juncture for the Royals, who are 69-70 and 3 1/2 games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Angels, Orioles and Rangers are ahead of the Royals, who are tied with the Rays.
But Yost has confidence that the trio of pitchers who will see time at closer can get the job done.
Alexander has three saves and a 2.10 ERA in 49 games this season. Minor has appeared in 56 games and has a 2.82 ERA. Maurer has a 7.02 ERA and one save in 20 games since being acquired in a trade with the Padres.
“They’ve all been fine,” Yost said. “Maurer, Scotty and Minor, I think, are all capable of closing out the ninth inning.”