Their bullpen exhausted after a 12-inning victory on Tuesday, the Royals rushed to add reinforcements Wednesday, summoning relievers Seth Maness and Al Alburquerque from Class AAA Omaha.
Neither Maness nor Alburquerque were on the 40-man roster. To create space, the club made a flurry of roster moves, hastening the possible departure of Christian Colon, a former first-round pick and World Series hero.
Colon and minor-league outfielder Peter O’Brien were designated for assignment to open room on the 40-man roster. Right-hander Jake Junis was optioned back to Omaha after earning his first career win Tuesday in a 7-6 victory.
“We needed pitching — simple,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We used everybody last night.”
The Royals used seven pitchers Tuesday night, including six relievers. The roster moves left them with an eight-man bullpen, including fresh arms in Maness and Alburquerque.
Colon, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, was batting .176 (three for 17) with zero extra-base hits while making five starts. He made the team as a backup infielder out of spring training, in part, because he lacked options. The Royals had to carry him on their 25-man roster or place him on waivers and expose him to other teams. On Wednesday, club officials felt they needed the roster spot.
“This was a decision, quite frankly, that could have been made out of spring training,” Yost said. “But we wanted to try to hold on as long as we could to see if we could get it to work. We just felt like we had other options.”
The Royals will have five days to work out a trade while another team can make a waiver claim on Colon. If he clears waivers, the Royals can outright Colon, 27, to Omaha. He lacks the service time to refuse the assignment.
In 125 career games with the Royals, Colon batted .263 with a .323 on-base percentage and a .652 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage). Yet, his great moments have come in the postseason. He scored the winning run in the 2014 Wild Card Game and notched the go-ahead hit in a decisive Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
“He worked extremely hard,” Yost said. “He came into camp in great shape. (Raul Mondesi) won the spot out of spring training, and then we brought (Whit Merrifield) up when Whit was swinging the bat well. It just evolved to where it is.
“It’s not the end of the chapter yet. There’s a process that we have to go through.”
Maness, 28, joins the Royals bullpen after posting a 3.19 career ERA in four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a 3.41 ERA in 29 appearances last season before undergoing surgery for a torn ulnar collateral ligament last summer. The elbow ligament is associated with Tommy John surgery, but Maness had a cutting-edge procedure called “Primary Repair” and was able to return to the mound within nine months. He allowed one run in his first six innings for Class AAA Omaha. His minor-league contract, signed in the early days of spring training, featured an opt-out clause on May 15.
Alburquerque, 30, is a veteran of six major-league seasons, including five with the Detroit Tigers. He made just two appearances for the Angels last season before signing a minor-league deal with the Royals in the offseason. He recorded a 2.63 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings at Omaha.
Junis, 24, was optioned back to Omaha after throwing a scoreless inning on Tuesday. Yost said the club viewed Junis as insurance against starter Chris Young, who was making a spot start for an injured Ian Kennedy. Junis will return to the rotation at Omaha.
O’Brien, 26, was deemed expendable after a slow start at Omaha. He was hitting just .162 with a .235 on-base percentage and 31 strikeouts. After hitting seven homers during spring training, he had three for the Storm Chasers. O’Brien was acquired in the offseason in a trade that sent minor-league pitcher Sam Lewis to the Arizona Diamondbacks.