Hours after Royals pitcher Eric Skoglund was placed on the 10-day disabled list because of an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his pitching elbow, right-hander Brad Keller learned he will make his first major-league start in Skoglund's spot.
Keller threw 33 pitches in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Park and will be brought back on short rest to start the Royals' series finale against the Twins at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.
Keller, 22, has a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings as a reliever this season. Before he allowed one run on one hit on Saturday, batters were hitting him at a .213 clip.
Although he was a starter in the Diamondbacks organization before the Royals acquired him in December's Rule 5 draft, the Royals did not want to rush Keller into their rotation. They maintained a desire to ease him into such a role, given that he hadn't pitched beyond Class AA before he debuted with the Royals on opening day.
Keller was 10-9 with a 4.68 ERA in his first season above Class A last year. He threw 130 2/3 innings, issued 57 walks and struck out 111 batters while pitching for the Diamondbacks' Class AA affiliate.
Without knowing the extent of Skoglund's injury — the left-hander is scheduled for an MRI on Monday in Kansas City — the Royals for the moment no longer have the luxury of time.
Left-hander Eric Stout was recalled to take Skoglund's place on the roster and Keller's in the bullpen. Stout, 25, made his major-league debut April 25 and also made another relief appearance with the Royals this season. He’s 2-1 with a 5.30 ERA in 18 2/3 innings across 14 relief appearances for Class AAA Omaha.
Skoglund labored through 4 1/3 innings in an 8-4 loss to the Rangers on Friday night, yielding seven hits and six earned runs.
When he spoke to reporters after the outing, Skoglund was red-eyed. He'd just visited the team's trainers and knew by then the diagnosis was negative.
"I’ve never had an elbow injury," Skoglund said. "That's what's really frustrating."
Skoglund did not make his season debut until April 10, 24 days after his final Cactus League outing.
He said he's experienced tenderness in his elbow all season. Even when he struck out six of seven batters on his breaking ball in a start against the White Sox on April 28, he felt worse than he had when he allowed 14 earned runs in his first three starts.
"When we were at Detroit, after the series in Toronto, I had a bullpen and (my elbow) was tight," said Skoglund, who has posted a 6.70 ERA in 49 2/3 innings spanning nine starts. "It never went away. I was able to throw through it. I had some swelling, but I was able to throw. My velocity was still there, even throughout yesterday. So it’s like, the velo is still there but something is wrong. We’ll take it a day at a time."