Ned Yost never hid his skepticism about Ryan Madson. It was a reasonable stance, considering Madson’s tortured history after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
As manager of the Royals, Yost saw the club sign Madson on a minor-league contract this past winter and essentially shrugged. He knew Madson’s resume and once spring training began he recognized his talent. But Madson had not pitched in a major-league game since the 2011 playoffs. There was little reason to bank on him contributing in 2015.
“When he came to spring training,” Yost said after Monday’s 6-2 victory over the Indians, “I’m like ‘OK. What is this?’
“And after the first day of watching him throw B.P., it’s like ‘Wow, this could turn into something that was really, really nice for us.’ And he just kept getting stronger and stronger, and better and better. He’s just been dynamite.”
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Even so, when camp ended, Yost appeared more interested in retaining towering left-hander Brian Flynn. A contractual quirk — that the Royals might lose him if another team offered a major-league deal — shepherded Madson onto the 25-man roster. The Royals have benefited from this decision. Flynn strained a latissimus dorsi muscle in his first outing for Class AAA Omaha, while Madson has given up one run in 9 2/3 innings.
Madson displayed his talent once more on Monday, with a pair of strikeouts in the sixth inning. Madson disabled Cleveland slugger Brandon Moss with a devastating changeup. His fastball velocity has been steady at 93 mph, only a tick below his heights with Philadelphia. His ERA is 0.93 with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
And yet Madson isn’t the only non-roster invite excelling for the Royals. Brought in to bolster the team’s depth and challenge southpaw Tim Collins, Franklin Morales has posted a 1.17 ERA in nine appearances. He followed Madson on Monday night and provided a scoreless innings of his own.
“He’s proven to be very durable, coming in and throwing strikes,” Yost said. “Very effective.”
The Royals bullpen has been superlative through the season’s first month. Heading into Tuesday, it had given up five runs, in all. To put that statistic in perspective, the Baltimore bullpen has given up a league-high 38 runs. St. Louis has yielded the second-fewest with 11. The Royals bullpen leads the majors with a 0.73 ERA.
And its depth remains outstanding. The club has lost Greg Holland to the disabled list and not missed a beat. Luke Hochevar is building arm strength in Omaha. The bullpen figures to carry this club again this summer.
FROM THE STAR
1. The Royals thumped Corey Kluber to cease a brief losing spell, and Mike Moustakas continues to hit.
2. Edinson Volquez dropped his appeal. Chris Young will likely pitch in his place on Friday.
THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)
HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC
“The Very Edge of Its Flame” by Benoit Pioulard.