Royals among teams expressing interest in free-agent reliever Joel Hanrahan

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04/16/2014 11:20 AM

05/16/2014 1:11 PM

As their big-league bullpen flounders in the early weeks of the season, the Royals are keeping their eyes peeled for external upgrades. The team will send a representative to two-time All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan’s showcase for teams on Thursday, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Hanranhan, the 32-year-old right-hander who starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the past, underwent Tommy John surgery in May. He is still in the process of rehabilitating. The team has tracked him throughout the process, and appreciates his past success.

From 2010 to 2012, Hanrahan saved 82 games with a 2.73 ERA. He struck out 10.4 batters per nine and posted a 2.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He injured himself after being traded to Boston after the 2012 season.

The Royals are one of several teams interested in Hanrahan’s services. The attendance list at his tryout reportedly will include the Mets and Yankees, among others. Hanrahan made $7.04 million in 2013.

For now, the Royals will continue to forge ahead with their current crop of relievers. In the wake of injuries to Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno, manager Ned Yost is still searching for concrete responsibilities for each of the seven individual relievers at his disposal.

“Right now, all the roles are open,” Yost said. “Nobody has solidified their roles. And what we try to do is give guys opportunities to see if they can work themselves into the roles.”

Greg Holland is the closer. Wade Davis, despite a few stumbles, is still one of the set-up men. Yost seeks a pitcher to complement him in that department. Aaron Crow flunked a tryout on Sunday. Kelvin Herrera could receive the next chance.

Danny Duffy is the lone left-hander in the bullpen. Both Collins (flexor strain) and Bueno (bone bruise in pinky) resumed their throwing programs on Monday. Collins could miss the rest of the month. Bueno could be ready to return when his 15 days on the disabled list end – if the team still wants him in their bullpen.

Yost insists he is not worried. All relief corps begin the season unsettled, he said. In time, he expects, that will change.

“It fluctuates, but it hasn’t settled itself in yet,” Yost said. “So you just keep looking at the matchups, trying to put guys in where they can be successful, and hope they get the job done.”

Butler still struggling

Designated hitter Billy Butler went zero for three Tuesday with a sacrifice fly. His average fell to .143. All three of his outs were ground-outs, part of a chronic early-season inability to get the ball in the air.

Yost is committed to letting Butler work through his issues. But he might move Butler out of the cleanup spot and insert catcher Salvador Perez there if Butler continues to struggle.

“Billy’s got history,” Yost said. “He’s off to a bad start. You’ve got to give him time to work through it. If, after time, he doesn’t work through it, then you make adjustments.”

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