Greg Holland will not finish the season as the Royals’ closer.
Royals manager Ned Yost said before Tuesday’s game that Wade Davis will move into the role occupied primarily by Holland since the second half of 2012.
Holland’s elbow soreness has forced the issue.
“You know what you have with Wade,” Yost said. “With Holly you don’t know from one day to the next how his elbow is going to react.”
Never miss a local story.
Holland entered Tuesday leading the Royals and ranking fifth in the American League with 32 saves.
But after surrendering two earned runs and taking the loss in Friday’s 5-4 loss at Detroit in 12 innings for his fifth blown save this season, Holland’s ERA rose to 3.83.
In the previous two years in which Holland saved a total of 93 games, his ERA was 1.21 and 1.44.
Last season, Holland won the inaugural Mariano Rivera Award, presented to the top relief pitcher in the American League. Holland tied a major-league record with seven postseason saves.
This season has been marked by a declining velocity on his fastball. Recently, Holland’s fastballs were clocked in the upper 80s, down from the 96-mph heaters he threw over the past few seasons that made him one of the game’s premier closers.
Holland’s future role after he returns from the elbow soreness is uncertain as the Royals close in on clinching the American League Central Division.
“We’ll judge it day to day, see where we’re at,” Yost said. “I don’t really have a defined role for him right now, just depends on usage from everybody else and where we’re at. We know what kind of competitor he is and can get through just about any kind of situation.”
Holland spent time on the disabled list in April because of a pectoral strain. Davis closed then and was called upon to close out games in August when Holland’s elbow flared up.
“Rest isn’t going to help him,” Yost said of Holland. “He’s been functional through it all year long, and it’s gotten a little more sore the last month or so. But he continues to and pitch through it, and he’s been successful for the most part. We just have other options.”
Davis is the best, and he’s familiar with the role. This season he’s recorded 13 saves and owns a 0.88 ERA, having surrendered six earned runs in 61 2/3 innings.
The rest of the bullpen will be advanced an inning, Yost said. Typically, Kelvin Herrera will pitch the eighth with Ryan Madson and Luke Hochevar serving as the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.
Left-hander Danny Duffy, the former starter who made his first appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday and collected his first save with four scoreless innings, is another set-up relief option. Chris Young figures to remain in his long reliever role.
But with two weeks remaining in the regular season and the Royals poised to defend their American League championship, Yost decided now was the time to make the change at closer.
“We’re at a point now where we have 13 games left and you pretty much know what you’re going to put out there, especially when you get in the playoffs,” Yost said. “There are decision we have to make. They’re not easy decisions.”