Tim Collins’ torn ulnar collateral ligament appears to have thinned the Royals left-handed herd to two. As Kansas City creeps closer to opening day, rookie sensation Brandon Finnegan and veteran Franklin Morales look like the two best southpaw candidates to fill out the final spots in the bullpen.
The situation remains quite fluid, as the Royals determine the readiness of Luke Hochevar. With the season three weeks away, there is a solid chance Hochevar begins the year on the disabled list, rebuilding arm strength on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Even if Hochevar makes the team, manager Ned Yost is willing to carry eight relievers.
So there is little official. But Morales has out-performed Finnegan through the first two weeks of Cactus League action.
Experience probably plays a legitimate role here. Morales is 29 and has spent parts of eight seasons in the majors. Finnegan won’t turn 22 in April and this time last year was pitching from TCU.
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The Royals selected Finnegan with the 14th pick last summer because they projected him as a future member of their starting rotation. Yet he impressed team officials enough to earn a call-up to the roster for September to aid the bullpen. His success in the final two months of the year merited him an opportunity to make the club as a reliever, even if a significant portion of the organization believes the best course of action for Finnegan would be opening the season in the minors as a starter.
Morales may force Finnegan into that role, anyway. Morales tallied two more scoreless frames in Sunday’s loss to the Rockies. That inflated his total to six scoreless.
“He’s throwing the ball really well,” Yost said. “Doing a nice job. Mixing his pitches. His secondary stuff has got good action on it. Very good curveball. Spotting his fastball.”
In contrast, Finnegan has given up three runs in three innings of work. He served up a homer to an Angels farmhand on Saturday. He will throw 40 to 45 pitches against the Cubs on Tuesday. After that, Yost has said, the team will have a better idea of whether Finnegan will be needed in the majors or headed to the minors.
The bullpen already features five definite pieces: Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Jason Frasor and Chris Young. Hochevar makes six. Louis Coleman is out of options, which may aid his cause. And then there is Morales, who could inherit Collins’ spot on the 40-man roster, and has yet to allow a Cactus League run.
“We’ve seen him in really good spurts in the past,” Yost said. “We knew if he could pitch the way he’s pitched against us in the past he would benefit our staff. We’re seeing that.”
The upcoming pitching probables
Today vs. Cleveland Indians
1. Yordano Ventura
2. Greg Holland
3. Luke Hochevar
4. Louis Coleman
5. Chris Young
6. Buddy Baumann
7. Scott Alexader
Tuesday at Chicago Cubs
1. Danny Duffy
2. Wade Davis
3. Brandon Finnegan
4. Brian Broderick
5. Michael Mariot
6. Jandel Gustave
From The Star
1. Another good story from Pete Grathoff on the intriguing past of Royals outfield prospect Paulo Orlando.
2. Sam Mellinger wrote a column about Alcides Escobar, the Royals’ Iron Man.
3. Alex Gordon could play in a minor-league game by Tuesday. He will take live batting practice with the farmhands today.
4. Here is the daily video dispatch.