Ned Yost peered over the hood of a golf cart and took stock of the pitchers before him. As Royals pitchers threw bullpen sessions of Friday morning, Yost got his first look at several new faces in camp, including Jandel Gustave.
Gustave, a 22-year-old with lightning stocked in his right arm, is in the mix for one of the final spots in the Kansas City bullpen. The competitors include Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Ryan Madson, Chris Dwyer and plenty of others. As a Rule 5 pick, Gustave must spend the entire season on the Royals roster or be returned to Houston.
Thus, each glance at him has some importance. Yost has said repeatedly this spring he intends to keep an open mind about the vacancies on his roster. His first impression of Gustave was solid.
“I liked what I saw,” Yost said. “First time I got a chance to look at him. Has a quick arm. Got great stuff. The ball just explodes out of his hand.”
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Gustave stands 6-2, but his weight is listed as 160. His calling card is his fastball. It has been clocked as speedy as 101 mph. “That’s all fine and dandy, but you’ve got to be able to command it,” Yost said.
Gustave does not possess sterling control. He has averaged 6.7 walks per nine innings in his minor league career, though he lowered that number to 3.3 per nine in 2014. The flip side to his improved command last season was he lugged around a 5.01 ERA in the Class A Midwest League.
For the Royals, the real test will come when Gustave appears in games.
“It’s just a side session,” Yost said. “You don’t want to get too wrapped up in side sessions. You want to see him compete. But the pure stuff is definitely there.”