The Royals placed first baseman Eric Hosmer on the 15-day disabled list Saturday morning, and in the process left the team imbalanced. Jason Vargas inherited Hosmer’s spot as he returned from an appendectomy in July, and inflated the total of pitchers on the roster to 13.
The customary number of pitchers is 12, and manager Ned Yost initially indicated he intended to correct the discrepancy before Tuesday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks. But before the game on Saturday, Yost explained why the team might delay the decision until it can find a player who fits the profile as an addition to their three-man bench.
“We may ride it longer,” Yost said. “I don’t know. We’re fine right now. I don’t need the extra bench player. I’m not screaming for the extra bench player. It’s a luxury right now.”
Hosmer may miss up to six weeks. A preliminary reading of a CT scan on his right hand concurred with the initial diagnosis of a stress fracture. He is not expected to require surgery. Until he comes back, the team intends to utilize Billy Butler as its regular first baseman and roll with a short bench, perhaps until a sensible candidate emerges on the waiver wire.
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Part of Yost’s hesitancy stems from an inflexible roster. The three prime candidates to lose their spot appear to be lefty relievers Francisley Bueno, Bruce Chen and Scott Downs. Gone are the days when Yost could option a younger player like Michael Mariot back to the minors.
Bueno, 33, possesses a 2.42 ERA. Chen, 37, has value as a swingman. Yost continues to use Downs, 38, against left-handed hitters.
“If we do it, it’s not an easy move,” Yost said. “What move do you make?”
The farm team in Omaha lacks a performer forcing his way onto the big-league radar. The team has discussed promoting players such as infielder Johnny Giavotella, first baseman Matt Fields, outfielder Justin Maxwell and catcher Francisco Pena.
Pena, the 24-year-old son of former Royals manager Tony Pena, may be the best choice, a right-handed hitter with 23 home runs for Omaha. Yet Yost would prefer a veteran who could potentially pinch-hit for Raul Ibanez in late-game situations. He is unsure how a younger player would adapt to that role — which is why the club may just wait.
“You need a veteran guy who understands the process,” he said.