Friday night’s I-70 Showdown against the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t hold many positives for the Royals, but one positive was Glenn Sparkman’s performance in relief.
Sparkman came on for starting pitcher Burch Smith in the second inning after Smith had given up five runs on six hits.
In 4 1/3 innings of work, Sparkman allowed just one run on four hits to stifle the early assault from St. Louis.
Following the 7-0 loss for the Royals, manager Ned Yost said that he only expected to get 3 1/3 innings out of Sparkman. But after seeing how well Sparkman was doing, Yost tried to push him as far as he could.
“He saved us,” Yost said. “It was big that he came up and gave us 4 1/3 (innings) and allowed us to get through that without using half the bullpen.”
His long relief effort was impressive. And such success on the mound could suggest that a role in the starting rotation may be in the cards for Sparkman in the future.
Sparkman has two strong pitches. He operates primarily with a four-seam fastball that can reach well into the 90s and a hard slider that has strong 12-to-6 movement. The third weapon in his arsenal would be a change-up. He hasn’t put it on display much in the Majors, but it produces a lot of backspin and can be an effective pitch at making hitters whiff.
Sparkman’s relied mainly on the four-seam fastball Friday night against the Cardinals, and he recorded 25 strikes on 46 pitches.
“Fastball location was the main thing that helped me,” Sparkman said following the game. “Slider was the second pitch I was going to.”
Yost’s willingness to keep Sparkman in for a long stretch could indicate Yost is considering bigger things.
The idea to slot Sparkman in the starting rotation isn’t just a pipe dream. The right-handed pitcher has started 16 games in the minor leagues this season with the class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers and AA-affiliate Northwest Arkansas.
In that stretch, Sparkman has a record of 7-3, an ERA of 3.69 and has given up 102 hits with 61 strikeouts over 88 2/3 innings.
“We like him coming out of the pen right now,” Yost said. “Down the road, will we look at him as a starter? Maybe next spring, yeah, we will.”