On the first day of Baseball’s Winter Meetings, the morsels of news can be scarce. But Royals manager Ned Yost offered a window into his thought process for rounding out the Royals’ starting rotation.
“(We have) Chris Young and probably Matt Strahm, right now, that are probably going to compete for that spot,” Yost said during a morning press conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
The key phrase, of course, is right now, with more than two months remaining before the start of spring training. Nothing is set in stone. The roster could yet see additions before spring training in February. But at the moment, Yost appears confident handing the ball to either Young, a veteran coming off a dismal 2016, or Strahm, a left-hander who flashed dominant stuff after making his debut as a reliever last season.
“I just feel very strongly that Chris Young is going to bounce back really well,” Yost said. “We saw how effective Matt Strahm can be in the pen last year.”
For now, the top four slots in the Royals’ starting rotation appear close to locks. And barring trade or injury, that appears unlikely to change. While Yost did not bite on naming an opening day starter, the candidates appear to be left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Ian Kennedy, with right-hander Yordano Ventura and lefty Jason Vargas filling out the the third and fourth spots in the rotation.
Young is entering the final season of a two-year, $11.75 million deal signed in the aftermath of the 2015 World Series. He posted a 6.19 ERA last season, allowing 28 homers in 88 2/3 innings while losing his spot in the starting rotation. He battled a forearm strain during the season and never quite settled in, even during a solid tour in the bullpen in August. He then underwent offseason surgery to repair the muscles in his right abdominal area and groin. Royals officials believe that a full offseason will help Young, who will turn 38 in May. Yet it is unlikely that Young can be counted on for a full workload as a starter. That means that Strahm will likely get an opportunity to start as well, whether that is in the season-opening rotation or later in the season.
The Royals have other internal options. If healthy, left-hander Mike Minor has experience as a starter with the Braves. Right-hander Josh Staumont, the top pitching prospect in the Royals’ organization, could be a midseason addition if he continues to progress.
Strahm, meanwhile, posted a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings out of the bullpen, striking out 30 hitters while issuing 11 walks. If he does not begin the season in the rotation, Strahm, 25, will likely take on a role in the Royals’ bullpen.
“He’s a nice piece to have down there but I’m not counting him out as a starter, either,” Yost said. “(We’ll) see where it goes.”
Salvador Perez to play in the World Baseball Classic
Royals catcher Salvador Perez is officially slated to play for his native Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Major League Baseball announced on Monday.
In a news release, Perez was one of 24 All-Stars who is committed to play in the event. Royals left-hander Danny Duffy said earlier this week that he was set to pitch for Team USA. Rosters for the every-four-years international tournament do not have to be set until January.
General manager Dayton Moore said he was comfortable with Duffy participating in the event.
“Playing the game, being competitive, representing your country is important,” Moore said. “It’s not only important for the player; it’s important for the game.”
Yost celebrates birth of second grandchild
Ned Yost said his annual trip to the Winter Meetings was delayed by the birth of his second grandchild on Sunday. Granddaughter Amber Lin was born to Yost’s son and daughter-in-law back home in Georgia. Yost, 61, also has a young grandson.
“My son’s wife, she hunted every day until two weeks before Amber Lin was born,” Yost said. “So I imagine that Amber — she missed a big 11-point [buck] two weeks before she was going to give birth — I imagine Amber Lin is going to be an outdoor girl.”