Royals manager Ned Yost spent most of spring training meeting with his coaching staff and going back and forth on which pitchers would break camp as members of the major-league bullpen and which would get an assignment elsewhere.
There were only two relievers he considered locks for the roster: Closer Kelvin Herrera and set-up man Brandon Maurer.
But within 24 hours of Maurer allowing a three-run triple and a home run, the Royals announced Friday that Maurer was being optioned to Class AAA Omaha.
Kevin McCarthy, another right-hander, was recalled to take Maurer’s spot.
Maurer struggled in the 4 1/3 innings he pitched to start the season. His most recent performance punctuated a string of five outings during which he faced 23 batters and gave up six earned runs, eight hits, issued three walks and struck out three. He also gave up three home runs, including a two-run homer that allowed the Indians to walk off with a 3-1 victory over the Royals in Cleveland on Sunday.
“His stuff is still really good,” Yost said. “He just needs to get in an environment where he can have a little success, get his confidence built back up. The reality is, his stuff is eighth inning type stuff. It’s stuff where your closer needs a day, he can come in and close games.”
From 2015-16, Maurer amassed a 3.88 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 124 games with the Padres.
But the Royals haven’t often seen that Maurer. Since he was acquired from the Padres in a late July trade last season, Maurer has posted an 8.88 ERA over 31 games in a Royals uniform.
“He came to spring training and I think wanted to make amends from that and kept pressing, pressing,” Yost said. “It’s just been a struggle for him.”
Like the remainder of the bullpen, which entered Friday with a 6.95 ERA, the third-highest ERA in baseball, veteran Blaine Boyer has also run into early trouble this season. The three runs Maurer allowed on a triple to Shohei Ohtani were charged to Boyer, who’s given up 12 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings spanning five games.
But Maurer, 27, had a minor-league option remaining on his contract.
So the Royals turned to McCarthy, who was optioned to Omaha after the Royals’ penultimate Cactus League game. McCarthy had a 3.20 ERA in 45 relief innings for the Royals last year. Opponents hit him at a .273 clip.
In three games with the Storm Chasers this season, McCarthy allowed two runs on five hits.
Salvy readying for rehab assignment
Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who was placed on the disabled list one day before opening day because of a torn ligament in his left knee, is close to being sent out on a rehab assignment.
The Royals believed it could take him anywhere from four to six weeks to be ready to make his season debut. But Perez, who started taking live batting practice and doing catching drills on the field this week, has quickly progressed.
Perez's rehab assignment could begin in the next few days.
“He feels great. He feels nothing,” Yost said. “The last little bit that he felt in a full squat was some tightness. It wasn’t pain. That has alleviated. Now he’s free and easy.”