On the day the Royals removed Louis Coleman from their 40-man roster, manager Ned Yost sat down with Coleman and spoke plain.
“For you, I hope somebody picks you up,” Yost told Coleman. “For me, and our organization, I hope they don’t.”
The Royals won in this binary equation. Coleman cleared waivers on Friday afternoon, which allowed the team to outright him to Class AAA Omaha. The maneuver settled one portion of the Royals’ roster debate, which continued heading into the first of two exhibition games with Houston at Minute Maid Park.
The final polishes on the roster cannot yet be completed because of a contractual quirk with veteran reliever Ryan Madson. The Royals granted him a gentleman’s opt-out for the end of camp. If the team decides to send him to the minors, Madson can accept a major-league contract from another club.
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With Coleman out of the picture, the last spot in the Royals bullpen is a contest between Madson and rookie lefty Brian Flynn. Flynn appears to be the team’s preferred choice, and he dominated opposing hitters in the Cactus League. But Madson presents an intriguing option despite missing all of the past three seasons because of Tommy John surgery.
The Royals would like to stash Madson in Omaha to rebuild arm strength. There he would join Coleman and Luke Hochevar, who will begin the season on the disabled list. Madson has expressed a willingness to go to the minors, if necessary, but he would prefer an opportunity with any major-league club.
The stalemate holds consequences throughout the roster. Yost spent his morning on conference calls debating various options with team officials. If Madson does not get an offer, the team can give Flynn a chance. If another team does pursue Madson, the Royals could add him to the roster and option Flynn to Omaha. Or they could shift to an eight-man bullpen, which Yost does not want, and keep an extra outfielder like Paulo Orlando in the minors.
Or, if forced to make a decision, the Royals could let Madson go. He did not make the trip to Houston. He remained behind in Arizona to tend to a personal matter, Yost said. He was not expected to join the club here.
One avenue the Royals will not pursue is adding Madson to the 40-man roster and placing him on the disabled list. Such a move would violate his agreement, Yost said.
So, in essence, the Royals wait to see if another club is willing to grant Madson a major-league contract based on nine solid appearances in the Cactus League. Madson posted a 3.00 ERA, but he has not yet proven he can recover in time to pitch on back-to-back days.
Rival executives expressed some doubt that another club would gamble on Madson. His health is enough to keep teams wary.
Plus, as this time of year, teams often lack space on their 40-man roster, which makes it easier for players to sneak through waivers. Yost and other team officials were surprised Coleman cleared the wire.
Coleman, 29, allowed two earned runs in 29 2/3 innings in 2013. But he bruised a finger during spring training last year and never recovered his form. He spent much of the season in Omaha and his big-league ERA bloated to 5.56.
The Royals still felt compelled to tender Coleman a contract for this season. If Madson joins him in Omaha, the team will possess an enviable surplus of relievers.
“That’s ideal,” Yost said. “Now we’ve got Hoch and Coleman there. It remains to be seen who else is going to be there.”