Ryan Madson is not a member of the Royals 40-man roster. This fact counts against him as the club assembles their bullpen for opening day. But Madson has also not pitched in the major-leagues since 2011, and has scarcely been part of a team environment.
“I’ll do whatever,” Madson said earlier this week. “I’ll do whatever.”
Rare is the once-established big-leaguer who embraces the chance to pitch in the minors. But rare is Madson’s situation. He suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2012, experienced setbacks in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in 2013 and pondered retirement as he sat at home in 2014. Because the Royals signed him to a minor-league contract, they can assign him to Class AAA Omaha (or below) without forcing him to go through waivers.
Kansas City took a flier on Madson, a reliable reliever for many seasons with the Phillies, after he impressed team officials in his offseason workouts. He has given up two runs, one unearned, in three innings of work. The Royals have charted a conservative course for Madson, and it sounds unlikely he’ll make the club. But there is still reason for optimism.
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“Madson’s stuff is really, really good,” Yost said. “But not throwing, not pitching the last couple years, he’s still a little rusty in the zone. I’m really pleased with what I’m seeing coming out of his hand. The command of his changeup’s not quite there yet. But the action on his changeup is really nice. That’s encouraging.”
Luke Hochevar looks like a long shot to be ready by April 6. That leaves at least two open spots in the bullpen. Lefty Franklin Morales appears to be pitching his way into one of them. The other could come down to Louis Coleman, Rule 5 pick Jandel Gustave or 2014 first-round pick Brandon Finnegan.
Kansas City could still stockpile arms like Madson in the minors. When he first arrived at camp, Madson professed his preference for remaining in Arizona, the sight of a training facility he frequents. He backed off that stance on Monday.
“Earlier comments, I was just really excited about finding some mechanical things with the people I work out with here,” Madson said. “So I was really over-zealous about ‘I just want to stay down here.’ Looking back, obviously, now that I’m into it and know I can do it, however it’s going to be, it’s going to be. There’s a lot of guys going for those spots.”
Added Madson, “The first game was so-so. The second game was above expectations. I almost felt like I was before, as far as mentally and the feel of throwing the ball. and then last game was a little bit of a tick down, in terms of smoothness and timing and all that stuff. Overall, I’m happy so far.”