With Brandon Finnegan dispatched to the minors, the Royals roster picture has nearly clarified. Manager Ned Yost indicated that he was now leaning toward carrying seven relievers on the Opening Day roster and using the last roster spot for an extra outfielder.
“We’re looking at all options right now,” Yost said. “But what wins you more ball games early? The extra guy on the bench that you can utilize as a pinch-runner, defensive replacement, compared to the extra arm with the off days?”
Yost said he favors that additional position player to go along with infielder Christian Colon, outfielder Jarrod Dyson and likely backup catcher Erik Kratz. As currently constructed, the bullpen has six spots filled in, with Yost conceding that left-hander Franklin Morales will likely make the team. He cast the final four for the last spot as Luke Hochevar, Louis Coleman, Brian Flynn and Ryan Madson.
Hochevar will likely begin the season on a rehabilitation stint. Madson looks bound for a minor-league assignment as he rebuilds arm strength. Because Coleman is out of options, he could have an advantage over Flynn, who is on the 40-man roster and under team control for the season.
Flynn headlined the two-man package the Royals acquired from Miami for reliever Aaron Crow. He is an imposing 6-foot-7 southpaw. He had spent most of his career as a starter. Converted to relief here in camp, he has given up two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and only one walk.
“He’s been really impressive,” Yost said. “To come in and do what’s he done has been impressive. We traded for him for a reason, because we liked his stuff. We expected him to come in with good stuff. And he’s done it. He’s thrown strikes with it. He’s done a nice job.”
Yost mentioned Paulo Orlando and Moises Sierra as the two candidates for that outfield role, although minor-league hitter of the year Whit Merrifield is still in camp. There are 37 players left in camp.
“If they’re still left, they’re still in contention,” Yost said. “Guys that have been booming out of here, they’re not in contention. So if you’re still left in that room, you’re still left in contention.”
Orlando, a 29-year-old Brazilian, was added to the 40-man roster for the first time this winter. Team officials consider him an excellent defender. He punched up a .770 on-base plus slugging percentage in Class AAA Omaha last season.
The Royals claimed Sierra, 26, off waivers in October. He finished 2014 with a .606 OPS in 170 plate appearances between the Blue Jays and the White Sox. He is not on the 40-man roster, which could hamper his chances to make the club.