The current pitching schedule for the Royals calls for Jason Vargas to start Tuesday against Pittsburgh, which swells their number of starters to six and will force manager Ned Yost to trim one member from the rotation within the next week.
Save for Edinson Volquez, all four other current Royals starters could lose their spot. Chris Young has a 3.24 ERA as a starter, the lowest on the roster, but he succeeded as a reliever earlier this season. Jeremy Guthrie, 7-5, 5.36 ERA, has been the least effective member of the group. Both Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy have minor-league options and the potential to excel in relief.
“It’s about performance now,” Yost said before the start of Friday’s doubleheader against the White Sox.
That decision won’t be made until after the weekend. All five starters will pitch during these next four days. Vargas will fill a vacancy created by the doubleheader.
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The Royals will also recall Kris Medlen next week. Medlen will move into the bullpen, Yost said. He does not intend to use a six-man rotation.
“Six-mans don’t work,” he said.
Vargas, 5-2, 4.10 ERA, has only made eight starts this season. He has not pitched since June 8, as he’s been laid low by a recurring strain of the flexor muscle in his left elbow. Vargas gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a minor-league rehabilitation start in Class AA Northwest Arkansas earlier this week.
Vargas is not the only veteran pitcher to rejoin the Royals this week. The team must activate Medlen from the 60-day disabled list by Monday. His 30-day rehab assignment, from his second Tommy John surgery, ends on Saturday. The team has two built-in days to accommodate the theoretical travel for the player from the minor leagues to the majors.
For Medlen, the travel is theoretical because he is already with the team here in Chicago. But the organization wants to delay the decision for as long as possible, in order to maintain depth. With Vargas and Medlen returning, the team may cut ties with veteran Joe Blanton.
“These things, you go right up to the last minute, in case something happens, in case somebody gets hurt,” Yost said.