Mired in the worst stretch of his career, Royals pitcher Chris Young will transition back to the bullpen as the club finishes out the first half of the season this weekend against the Seattle Mariners. Royals manager Ned Yost revealed the move Thursday, after discussing the decision with club officials and informing the veteran right-hander.
The Royals have yet to make a decision on who will start in place of Young on Sunday afternoon against Seattle. The task, Yost said, will likely fall to right-hander Dillon Gee or left-hander Brian Flynn. But both pitchers will be available to pitch in relief in the days before, leaving the starting slot open for now.
“We might need one of those guys to help us win a game before that,” Yost said.
The decision to remove Young from the rotation was a practical one. It came just two days after he allowed six runs and four homers in an 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto. Young, 37, lasted just 2 1/3 innings as his ERA jumped to 6.90 in 60 innings. He allowed his league-leading 26th homer.
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He will now work in long relief as he sorts through the worst results of his long career.
“He’s real frustrated by what’s going on,” Yost said. “He and (pitching coach Dave Eiland) have got some ideas, some things to work on. I thought the first two innings that we saw in Toronto the other day was like: ‘Here we go…’ and then it just fell apart in the third.”
Gee made four starts earlier this season when Young was on the disabled list with a forearm strain. Gee allowed 13 runs in 19 1/3 innings. Flynn has posted a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings out of the bullpen. He made five total starts for the Miami Marlins in 2013 and 2014. Both players would appear to be stop-gap measures.
After Sunday, the Royals will have a week to assess their starting rotation and seek a post-All-Star break answer in the No. 5 spot. For now, the options appear limited.
Yost said Thursday that right-hander Kris Medlen would be shut down for two to three weeks after suffering a Grade 1 strain in his right shoulder during a rehab start. Left-hander Mike Minor remains with the club after experiencing shoulder fatigue during a rehab assignment in late May. He is currently throwing side sessions, but there is no specific timetable for his return.
With their internal options thin, the Royals have continued to monitor possible pitchers who could be available before the July 31 trade deadline. The Royals have scouted Oakland’s Rich Hill in recent days, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The club has also looked at arms in the Tampa Bay starting rotation, a group that includes left-hander Matt Moore, according to a source with a rival club.
The return cost for Hill or Moore would likely be steep. And the Royals’ farm system was thinned out last season after acquiring Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist in marquee deals before the deadline. For now, the Royals will seek a patchwork plan to fill out their rotation.
“We’re just going day to day with it right now,” Yost said. “We don’t have any plan going forward right now.”