Royals stick with Jeremy Guthrie in rotation, send Chris Young to bullpen

Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie
Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie AP

Despite giving up eight runs in his last outing, Jeremy Guthrie will remain in the Royals rotation. Chris Young is headed back to the bullpen, manager Ned Yost said before Friday’s game against the Blue Jays.

“It’s the best move for our team,” Yost said.

Guthrie, 7-7 with a 5.65 ERA, will not pitch again until next weekend against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals will skip him for the upcoming series against Detroit, using Monday’s off-day to return the pitching staff to regular rest. But Guthrie will remain among the regular five, despite his team-worst ERA and propensity for implosive performances.

Yost had brief answers when discussing the situation with reporters. Asked why Young was headed to the bullpen, Yost indicated it was because Guthrie had never pitched as a reliever before. But Guthrie had thrown four outings in relief for Colorado in 2012, a brief resume which matches up with six outings as a reliever in Kansas City.

Asked why Guthrie could not adapt to the bullpen, as Young did at the beginning of 2015, Yost dismissed the premise.

“We’re going to evaluate week to week,” Yost said. “So right now, we’re putting Young in the ’pen.”

Young will join Kris Medlen as a long reliever. Even if the situation is fluid, the choice of Guthrie over Young, who’s 8-6 with a 3.25 ERA, is curious. His ERA as a starter is 3.49. Young has shown signs of regression in recent weeks, but even during a two-month stretch where he has posted a 4.42 ERA, he has out-performed Guthrie. In June and July, Guthrie has a 4.87 ERA.

Opposing batters have posted a .713 on-base plus slugging percentage against Young. Hitters have punched up an .849 OPS against Guthrie, which roughly translates into the season Eric Hosmer is having (a career-best .853 OPS heading into Friday).

One must search to find statistical measures in which Guthrie out-performs Young. Guthrie is slightly less prone to walks, and his 5.03 expected fielding-independent ERA (xFIP) is four points lower than Young’s xFIP.

Guthrie has shown a slight ability to last longer than Young. His average start lasts about 5 2/3 innings, whereas Young lasts about 5 1/3. But Yost has also exercised a swift hook with Young in recent weeks, pulling him after three innings against St. Louis on July 23 and midway through the fifth against Cleveland on Tuesday.

Young declined to criticize the decision. He told Yost he intended to be ready to perform however the team saw fit.

“If it’s what he thinks is best for the club, what gives us the best chance to win, I’m all for it,” Young said. “If that’s what’s going to help us get to where we want to go, I’ll contribute any way I can.”

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.