Sixty-one days after he last pitched in a game for the Royals, Bruce Chen stood outside the home dugout and signed autographs for 10 minutes. His excitement was obvious. Even after appearing in parts of 16 big-league seasons, the 37-year-old lefty delighted in returning to baseball’s highest level.
“I feel good,” Chen said earlier in the day, after the team announced his activation from the disabled list. “I feel like I’m ready to help this team win.”
An interested observer walked past. “You better feel good,” catcher Salvador Perez said.
The importance of Chen (1-2, 7.45 ERA) may be overstated. He lost his spot in the starting rotation to Danny Duffy, who started Tuesday against the Dodgers. Manager Ned Yost assigned Chen to the role of long reliever — a man capable of bringing a mop to a mess or picking up a start in case of an emergency.
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The return of Chen was far from surprising. More interesting were the moves necessary to remove him from the 60-day disabled list. The Royals optioned left-hander Tim Collins to Class AAA Omaha. To make room for Chen on the 40-man roster, the team designated left-hander Donnie Joseph for assignment.
The maneuver with Collins kept Michael Mariot, a seldom-used rookie, on the roster. Collins departed the majors with a 4.15 ERA, but far more troubling peripherals. He was striking out a career-low 5.2 batters per nine innings and walking opponents at an identical rate.
Collins has never excelled at fastball command. He survived by upsetting right-handed hitters with his changeup and fooling left-handed hitters with his curveball. Yost sensed Collins lacked trust in both pitches this season.
“He needs to go back and get comfortable and confident throwing his secondary pitches for strikes,” Yost said.
The plan sounds similar to one drawn for right-handed submariner Louis Coleman. The Royals demoted Coleman on Sunday after he failed to heed their instructions on his last stint in the minors. Yost stressed the need for both pitchers to contribute to their bullpen this season.
The team is not counting on Joseph. He can now be claimed off waivers by any club. In his lone big-league outing this season, Joseph did not exactly showcase his skills. The Tigers pounded him for six runs, including a grand slam, and Joseph could not finish his inning.
“I think that Donnie still has a chance to be a real effective situational lefty,” Yost said. “But he, like everybody else, has got to throw strikes.”
Dyson gets night off
Even after Jarrod Dyson’s sterling outing Monday, with three hits and two RBIs, Yost declined to deviate from his outfield platoon. Justin Maxwell started Tuesday against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. On Sunday, Yost said he would go with “the hot hand” in divvying up playing time between the two outfielders, but that logic did not apply Tuesday.
“I’m not going to put Dyson in against Kershaw,” he said. “You kidding me?”
The Royals had only one prospect chosen for the annual Futures Game, which occurs on July 13, the Sunday before the All-Star Game next month. Their entrant is right-handed pitcher Christian Binford, who will play for Team USA. In 13 starts for Class A Wilmington, Binford has a 2.35 ERA with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings and a 7.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
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