In the moments after a 3-2 victory, Royals manager Ned Yost offered little clarity. Reliever Kelvin Herrera had exited in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday while attempting to nail down a save against the Colorado Rockies. He complained of forearm tightness and walked off alongside head trainer Nick Kenney. Yet the club had scant information to update Herrera’s status.
“Forearm tightness is all that we got right now,” Yost said.
And yet, the injury was ominous. It came during a bizarre ninth inning as Herrera recorded two quick outs and appeared ready to cruise to another save. But Colorado’s Jonathan Lucroy lifted a soft blooper to right field that Melky Cabrera played into a triple after an ill-advised dive.
Herrera followed by issuing walks to Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra, loading the bases. When he opened an at-bat to Pat Valaika by throwing two more balls, catcher Salvador Perez stood up and looked toward the dugout.
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Yost had already called down to the bullpen, asking left-hander Scott Alexander to start warming up. Perez, however, was demonstrative in his reaction.
“The last two pitches were like 92 (mph),” Perez said. “So on the first pitch, I go out and talk to him. He told me he was tight a little bit. So on the second one, after I saw the same thing, I think he’s hurt.
“He said he’s tight. But I think he’s hurt. I don’t think you’re going to throw 92 mph in that situation.”
Herrera exited for Alexander, who coaxed a grounder from Valaika and averted disaster, earning his first major-league save. Herrera was expected to undergo more testing late Tuesday night.
“He just wasn’t finishing his pitches,” Yost said. “He got the two outs, and I’m thinking: ‘Man, he’s going to have a good 12-pitch inning and get through it.’ And then he just had trouble. He was spiking his change-up and had trouble finishing his fastball.”
The Royals are already without relievers Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz, who are both on the disabled list. Soria was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday because of a “grade-one internal oblique strain.” Feliz landed on the disabled list one day later with a condition called “ulnar nerve palsy,” which causes numbness in the hand.
In the moments after the victory, Yost declined to speculate on who could fill the closer role if Herrera is sidelined. But the candidates could include right-hander Brandon Maurer, left-hander Mike Minor and some combination of Alexander and left-hander Ryan Buchter.
For now, Yost sought to remain optimistic. Tightness in a pitcher’s forearm is often associated with damage to the ulnar collateral ligament and ultimately can mean Tommy John surgery. But the location of the issue is often critical in offering signs. Yost tried to tamp down concern by pointing out that Herrera’s tightness was in the middle of the bottom part of his forearm, farther away from his elbow.
“It’s in kind of a spot,” Yost said, “that generally doesn’t mean anything (serious).”