Royals

Ask Andy: Could Royals use Johnny Cueto on short rest in October?

Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto acknowledges the cheers from the fans Monday after his complete game shutout of the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto acknowledges the cheers from the fans Monday after his complete game shutout of the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Kauffman Stadium played host to a series of strange occurrences on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday evening, Royals manager Ned Yost decided, almost at random, to allow starter Edinson Volquez to cough up a two-run lead to the Tigers in the eighth inning of an eventual loss. The unraveling occurred while Kelvin Herrera was loose and ready to enter the game.

The next night, a packed house watched Wade Davis and Greg Holland fritter away a four-run lead against the Angels. Davis gave up two runs for the first time since last April. And Holland imploded, falling victim to the looming waves of regression we’ve written about for months in this space.

Before Wednesday, the Royals had won 111 consecutive games when leading after the seventh inning, according to Elias. Now they’ve lost two in a row.

An analysis of Holland’s struggles – he finished Thursday evening with a 4.15 ERA – does not require an advanced degree in rocket science. He’s lost about 2 mph on his fastball. With less life on the heater, hitters can lay off his offspeed with more confidence. In addition, his command has suffered. Even before Thursday’s debacle, Holland was walking nearly five batters per nine.

In theory, the Royals could remove Holland from the closer’s role. I doubt they will. In addition, as we’ve also written before, it doesn’t matter what inning Holland pitches in. You can blow a lead in the seventh as easily as you can blow a lead in the ninth.

The most critical issue for the Royals is fixing Holland so he can find his All-Star form from previous years. His excellence was critical to their October run last year, and the club was constructed in 2015 depending on his ability in the late innings. His revival is vital to their chances.

Let’s answer some Royals questions.

I don’t think so. In the most likely scenario, the Royals will roll out a four-man rotation of Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. There is a chance, a small chance, that either Kris Medlen or Chris Young could start in place of Ventura (or Duffy, if he collapses), but most likely, those are the four ticketed for October.

But, in the interest of due diligence, I asked Ned Yost about his feelings on a three-man rotation in the playoffs.

"It depends on the situation," he said. "But generally, you don’t really want to. But when you get to that point, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do."

It is important to note that it is always the player's choice if he wants to pitch on short rest. I don't know what Johnny Cueto would say if the Royals posed the question. But he has never thrown on less than four days of rest in his major-league career in the regular season.

It’s expected that Gore will get called up. Even if the Royals aren’t running as much as they did in the past, Gore still represents a tremendous asset. As long as he is healthy – and he returned from an ankle injury on Wednesday – he should be up.

Now, will he make the postseason roster? That’s a more complicated question. The Royals need to make a few tough decision on that front in the coming weeks.

No.

No. It is very difficult to make the Hall of Fame.

Sure. I would also eat an apple if it meant I could inherit the Minute Maid fortune.

It will not be easy to move Greg Holland this offseason. Even with his ERA rising above 4.00, he still has 25 saves. He will earn a rain through arbitration, and receive a salary larger than $10 million.

Given his obvious deterioration this season and his escalating price, it will be difficult for the Royals to move him for a suitable return. Rival scouts have always raised questions about his long-term ability to stay healthy. In 2015, he’s spent time on the disabled list and been shaky for a significant portion of the season. Why would another club give a useful asset in exchange for that player?

Besides, the issue with re-signing Gordon (who is a much higher priority than Zobrist, who is also expected to leave in free agency) does not stem from the ability to afford his salary in 2016. It’s more about having to pay him that same salary, say somewhere from $17 million to $20 million, in 2020.

Freeing up some cash for next season doesn’t change this reality: In order to re-sign Alex Gordon, the Royals must offer him the largest contract in franchise history. It’s possible they will. But until they make the offer, it’s hard to bet on it.

Please do consider growing up.

Thank you for the offer, but only losers watch wrestling. You know that stuff is fake, right?

I predict gullible wrestling fans will be duped into believing that a 50-year-old man who has not engaged in athletic competition in 18 months will be able to hang in a physical confrontation with one of the most fearsome fighters on the planet.

I tried them when I was in my early teens, but my fingers are too large. I like my glasses. I’m used to wearing them.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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