Opinion

Franklin Morales rounds out competition for lefty role in Royals’ bullpen

Franklin Morales struggled as a starter in Colorado last season, but still held left-handed hitters to a .699 OPS. He will not stretch out as a starter at Royals camp, though he has the ability to do so if needed. This could help Morales’ case in the battle for a roster spot.
Franklin Morales struggled as a starter in Colorado last season, but still held left-handed hitters to a .699 OPS. He will not stretch out as a starter at Royals camp, though he has the ability to do so if needed. This could help Morales’ case in the battle for a roster spot. Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram

Here is something you already know: The two most viable left-handed candidates to start the season in the Royals bullpen are Tim Collins and Brandon Finnegan. There are reasons why neither can be penciled onto the Opening Day roster.

Collins spent a lengthy portion of his season with Class AAA Omaha. He suffered a flexor strain in his elbow and also injured his back. Manager Ned Yost was willing to use him on the postseason roster, but he still was far from reliable. He finished the year with a career-worst 4.80 FIP.

Finnegan was a first-round pick in 2014, and if he behaved like most first-round picks, he would be ticketed for a summer spent in the Texas League and the Pacific Coast League. But Finnegan exhibited enough poise and talent to earn a September call-up as a reliever. Now the Royals must decide between the short-term gain of letting him relief in the majors versus the long-range pragmatism of sending him to the minors as a starter.

So, again: You already know this. The difficult part is discerning who are the realistic candidates to challenge them for this spot. A nonroster invitee like Buddy Baumann, Chris Dwyer or Joe Paterson must pitch an almost perfect camp to earn a spot. At this point, the other pitcher rounding at the competition is Franklin Morales.

Kansas City just signed Morales on a minor-league contract. He struggled as a starter in Colorado last season, but still held left-handed hitters to a .699 OPS. In eight big-league seasons, that mark is .624. He will not stretch out as a starter here at camp, though he has the ability to do so if needed. This could help Morales’ case in the battle for a roster spot.

Dwyer has shifted full-time to relief after a torturous season in 2014. He was once a highly touted prospect, and he earned a big-league callup in 2013. But he suffered a recurrence of a thyroid issue that sapped strength from his system and caused him to lose fastball velocity. The team converted him to the bullpen, but his results with Class AAA Omaha remained discouraging: A 5.52 ERA with a 1.577 WHIP in 23 relief appearances.

"It’s just his command," manager Ned Yost said. "It was spotty at times. You get to the position we’re at now, and that’s the last thing you can afford, is spotty command. You’ve got to have guys that we can put in the game and trust are going to throw strikes."

From The Star

1. The Royals gathered together as a team for the first time since game seven. Their inaugural full-squad workout was full of life, and reasons to believe.

2. Mike Sweeney earned induction into the Royals Hall of Fame on Wednesday, and dedicated the honor to his father, who is battling cancer. Here is the story, from Blair Kerkhoff.

3. Blair also detailed Ned Yost’s speech about the power of belief and how it relates to the American League Wild Card game.

4. If you listen closely to our latest video dispatch, you can hear Ned Yost heckling me.

Here is some rock music

"Our Lives Would Make A Sad, Boring Movie" by the Hotelier.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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