Opinion

Royals mailbag: What to make of Brett Lawrie’s comments? Why did Bubba Starling get promoted?

Oakland’s Brett Lawrie was restrained by home plate umpire Greg Gibson after Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera was ejected by Gibson for pitching inside to Lawrie in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game at Kauffman Stadium.
Oakland’s Brett Lawrie was restrained by home plate umpire Greg Gibson after Royals relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera was ejected by Gibson for pitching inside to Lawrie in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

It’s the morning after the storm in the Windy City. The Royals could face another round of suspensions after their role in a fight with the White Sox on Thursday night.

Until then, let’s ruminate about the issues surrounding the team besides their fisticuffs. It’s time for the weekly mailbag.

Brett Lawrie is entitled to his take. As a journalist, I fully support athletes saying interesting things. You may dislike Lawrie’s assessment of the weekend at Kauffman Stadium, but I’ll never criticize an athlete for voicing an opinion.

I will say this: The Star adheres to a strict policy on sourcing, and discourages reporters from utilizing anonymous voices to criticize people. So I am unable to relay the general assessment of Lawrie as a player I heard from various scouts and executives over the past few days. But, man, some of these opinions were hilarious. Scouts know how to talk.

Lawrie is 25. He has never played more than 125 games in a big-league season. He has never played in the postseason. He has been traded twice already in his career. So, from the Kansas City perspective, his critiques of their leadership void may ring hollow.

Then again, I wrote these previous three paragraphs before Thursday night.

Teams tend to go through a similar process in this situation:

1. The first option is almost always internal veteran options. Managers like players they can trust, players with a proven track record. In the case of the Royals, this would be Chris Young, who has been solid in relief, and Joe Blanton, who has a 3.24 ERA in three starts for Class AAA Omaha.

2. If there are no sufficient veteran choices, a team looks for younger internal candidates. For the Royals, this would be pitchers like Aaron Brooks and Christian Binford, both of whom are in Omaha.

3. At some point, a team wants to test the readiness of its top prospects. By the middle of the summer, the team will have a better gauge on how pitchers like Brandon Finnegan or Miguel Almonte might perform as big-league starters. For now, guys like Kyle Zimmer and Sean Manaea are on the outside of the picture, due to injuries.

4. Then, when an organization has scanned its ranks far and wide, they will turn to the trade market for help.

A few of them were mentioned in the previous answer, but I suspect Almonte and Binford will both contribute at the big-league level this season. The most likely role involves relief in September. Royals officials feel Binford could be a quality long reliever in the majors right now. They are still grooming him as a starter.

Royals officials say they noticed improvement in Starling’s approach at the plate during spring training. He can recognize breaking balls better and he began to string together higher-quality at-bats. That characteristic transferred to his first two weeks in Class A Wilmington. I am aware this sounds vague, but it’s not like Starling discovered some secret. He just looks more comfortable at the plate, team officials say.

As for the strikeouts, that’s just part of the package right now. It’s definitely a concern, but the team can live with it as long as it doesn’t overwhelm him like it did last season. It will be interest to see how Starling fares in Northwest Arkansas.

It takes 763 miles to drive from Kauffman Stadium to Comerica Park if you stay on Interstate 94. If Interstate 70 is your preference, it takes 761 miles, but the ride lasts about 10 minutes longer.

Honestly, I have no idea the difference between the two teams. They haven’t even played three full weeks yet.

This is your weekly reminder that there is little sense speculating on who Luke Hochevar will replace when the team deems him ready for big-league action. Greg Holland could still be on the disabled list. Kelvin Herrera could be suspended. Another pitcher could have suffered an injury, or proved suddenly ineffective. Yohan Pino has minor-league options, so his departure makes sense. But saying anything definitive right now would just be a guess.

The Royals will re-evaluate Rios early next week. Manager Ned Yost estimated he would require at least two weeks before the team could chart a recovery path.

Kansas City will pay Rios $9.5 million in 2015 (and his contract should total $11 million if his mutual option isn’t activated next season). This is the second-largest salary on their roster for 2015. He was hitting .321/.345/.464 when he landed on the disabled list. In order for Rios to land on the bench, Paulo Orlando would have to hit a heck of a lot triples.

I’ve muted a lot more people.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4730 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

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