The Royals granted reliever Ross Ohlendorf his release Wednesday, two days after the right-handed pitcher exercised an opt-out clause in his minor-league contract.
The decision came as the Royals announced another flurry of roster moves. The club optioned left-handed pitchers Brian Flynn and Scott Alexander to Class AAA Omaha. Catcher Parker Morin and infielders Orlando Calixte and Dusty Coleman were assigned to minor-league camp.
Royals manager Ned Yost described the Ohlendorf decision as a “tough” one. Ohlendorf, 33, signed a minor-league deal with the Royals in February after finishing last season with the Texas Rangers. He allowed five runs in two innings in his first two spring appearances, but he had yielded just one earned run in his last seven innings, including five scoreless outings. When Ohlendorf exercised his opt-out, the Royals were required to add him to the 40-man roster or grant him his release. The club opted to let him walk.
“You can only take 25 guys on your team,” Yost said. “He’s definitely a fit here, somewhere over the course of a year. But starting the year out, not right now. The numbers just don’t match up. I wish they could.”
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The departure of Ohlendorf and the decisions to option Flynn and Alexander offer a measure of clarity as the Royals search for their final bullpen pieces. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, one of the surprises of camp, remains in the fold, as does veteran left-hander Brian Duensing, who has allowed two runs in seven innings while striking out 10.
Among the other pitchers still in camp: left-handers John Lannan and David Huff and right-hander Peter Moylan.
For now, right-hander Dillon Gee and left-hander Danny Duffy are positioned to join Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria and Luke Hochevar in the bullpen. If the Royals begin the season with 12 pitchers, that would leave one vacant spot on the opening-day roster.
In this case, the need to maintain inventory could play a role. Duensing can opt out of his minor-league deal Tuesday if he is not on the 40-man roster. Wang has a similar opt-out clause beginning May 1, which could allow the Royals to send him to Omaha to begin the season. The Royals’ 40-man roster is currently full.
The Royals, meanwhile, will stash two key pieces of bullpen inventory — Flynn and Alexander — at Omaha as the season begins. Both players had options remaining. According to Yost, the Royals believe Flynn can benefit from work at Class AAA after an injury limited him to just two-thirds of an inning in 2015. He looked strong during the opening weeks of camp, but club officials noticed some fatigue as the spring continued.
“He needs to pitch,” Yost said. “He pitched two-thirds of an inning last year. He’s coming back. He’s building strength in that shoulder, getting back to everyday pitching strength. But he’s going to help us this year.”
Likewise, Yost said the decision to send Alexander to Omaha was difficult. Alexander, a sixth-round pick in 2010, hasn’t allowed a run in eight innings during the spring.
“Alexander was one of the guys that came in here, from last year to this year, with great improvement,” Yost said. “I mean, you can really see him getting better and better. That was a tough decision, too. But then again, when you’ve got limited numbers, it’s hard.”