Last year was a learning experience for Royals left-hander Brian Flynn. Not for improving his pitching mechanics, but his perspective in sizing up the roster.
To reset: Flynn, obtained in a trade from the Miami Marlins for Aaron Crow in November 2014, was terrific last spring. In 15 relief innings, Flynn posted 14 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA. His first experience in the bullpen after working as a starter at Wichita State through the minor leagues and five starts over two seasons with the Marlins had been successful.
Flynn thought his chances of making the Royals were solid. Then they weren’t. The Royals went with Ryan Madson to complete the bullpen.
The move proved to be the right one as Madson resurrected his career after a three-year hiatus because of injuries. He spun a 2.13 ERA in 68 appearances. But the lesson for Flynn was received. Don’t worry about anyone else.
“I learned not to add it up in your head,” Flynn said. “When spring training starts winding down, don’t try to start adding up the pieces and where the roster is going to fall. Because you get your hopes up, you get let down.
“Just handle your business, do whatever you can do but (understand) there are other factors going into it.”
The Royals made a business decision. Madson had an opt-out clause in his contract if he didn’t make the major-league club, and the Royals didn’t want to lose him to any of the three teams that had showed interest. Flynn was sent to Class AAA Omaha in a move that pained Royals manager Ned Yost.
“Of all the guys that I’ve ever sent down, Brian Flynn was the guy I felt like got the raw end of the deal, ever,” Yost said.
But the disappointment wasn’t over for Flynn. Pitching in his first game at Omaha, he injured his latissimus dorsi — the broadest muscle in the back — a setback that was expected to cost him three to five months.
This injury occurred a few days before closer Greg Holland went on the disabled list because of a pectoral strain. Flynn, beginning his recovery period at his home in Tulsa, Okla., would have been the Royals’ call-up choice, but now he was unavailable.
“When I got home and get to where you accept it, you get another kick,” Flynn said. “Oh, man, a rough week for sure.”
In a matter of weeks, Flynn thought he’d make the team and lost a call-up spot because of an injury. At least Flynn would have the tail end of the 2015 season.
But he didn’t even have that. Flynn suffered a setback in his recovery and was shut down for the season.
In this case, Flynn saw the delay in positive terms. It served as additional rest and recovery to prepare for 2016.
Flynn pitched briefly in the instructional league. He had lost a little velocity on his fastball, sitting at 92 mph, but expects to add speed this spring.
Most of the bullpen is set. If the Royals begin the season with 12 pitchers, the seven relievers begin with closer Wade Davis and setup men Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria. Another reliever will be either Danny Duffy, Chris Young or Kris Medlen, whichever one doesn’t make the starting rotation.
That leaves two bullpen spots, and the Royals have a collection of candidates with major-league experience. Right-hander Dillon Gee, a former Mets starter, could have the inside track on one of the roles.
But Flynn won’t give much consideration to any of this. He’s not playing the what-if game.
“You just kind of have to focus on yourself,” Flynn said.