On Saturday afternoon, a day after Chris Young spun five hitless in his first start as a Royal, manager Ned Yost continued to heap praise upon the 6-10 veteran. Yost mentioned the trickiness of Young’s delivery, the trouble caused by his slider and the deft ways in which he manipulates hitters.
Yet Yost did not budge on Young’s role on the current roster. Young will return to the bullpen, despite a miserable April for back-end starters Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Asked if Young might start again in the near-future, Yost replied, “Where am I going to give him a start?”
“I’ve got five starters,” Yost said. "I’m not going to get in here talking about the production of our four and five guys, when they’ve had four starts. These guys are veteran guys. They’ll get it together. I’m not going down that road. Our guys are going to be fine."
Young started on Friday due to Edinson Volquez’s five-game suspension for engaging in the brawl with Chicago. He shut down the Tigers to lower his ERA to 1.23 in six outings. Young operated on a limited pitch count due to his usage mostly as a long reliever thus far.
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Young, 35, was the American League Comeback Player of the Year for Seattle last season. The team signed him to bolster their bullpen depth and provide insurance for the starting rotation. While Yost indicated it was far to early to judge his starters, both Vargas and Guthrie have struggled to start the season.
Vargas has a 5.95 ERA in four starts. Guthrie has a 5.87 ERA. Both were walk-prone in April, a quality which is problematic for pitchers who do not rack up strikeouts. Vargas has a 1.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio, well below the 3.12 mark he put up in 2014 in his first season as a Royal. Guthrie has a 1.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, below last year’s 2.53 mark.
The Royals owe Vargas $16.5 million in 2016 and 2017. Guthrie can become a free agent after his season, when he will earn $9 million with a $3.2 million buyout of a team option.
For now, Yost insists, Young will remain in his regular role. That could change in the coming weeks, if the performance from the other pitchers forces Yost’s hand.
“He’s there for instances like last night,” Yost said Saturday. “He’s there for a spot start, or if somebody needs to miss a turn or two. He’s perfect for it.”