After weeks of ineffective performances, Jeremy Guthrie has been removed from the Royals rotation. Kris Medlen will replace him on Monday evening against the Orioles in Kansas City, and Medlen will remain a starter for the foreseeable future, manager Ned Yost said.
Yost framed the decision as an opportunity for Medlen, who missed 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery, and not a referendum on Guthrie, who has posted a 5.65 ERA this season. After Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, the Royals are undecided on the other two members of their playoff rotation.
“We want to find out what we have,” Yost said before Friday’s game against the Red Sox. “We know what we have in Chris Young. We know what he have in Jeremy Guthrie. And while there’s time left, we want to find out what we have in Kris Medlen. It just gives us another option at the end to see which direction we want to go.”
Medlen, a 29-year-old right-hander, has posted a 2.51 ERA in seven relief appearances since joining the team in the second half. The Royals had signed Medlen to a two-year contract during the winter. He is expected to be a member of the starting rotation in 2016, but the organization is also curious to see how much he can contribute in the present.
Medlen logged three scoreless innings on Thursday. He threw 48 pitches. When he learned he would start on Monday, he told pitching coach Dave Eiland not to tell him what his pitch count would be.
“Because that’s all I’m going to be thinking about,” Medlen said.
So if Medlen is currently reading this article, he should avert his eyes. He will be kept on a leash that lasts somewhere between 60 to 75 pitches. But the team intends to build him back up to the 100-pitch mark.
Eiland praised Medlen’s ability to challenge hitters, adapt in the midst of competition and mix his pitches.
“I’m very interested to see how it plays out as he gets stretched out,” Eiland said. “But I’ve got a good feeling about it. I really like what I’ve seen so far.”
Medlen expressed his gratitude for the opportunity. He excelled as both a starter and reliever with Atlanta. But when he blew out his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training last spring, he understood the road back would be lengthy.
“It took a lot of hard work,” Medlen said. “I had to go out there and show that I had feel for my pitches, and that I could compete. Unfortunately, with Guthrie struggling a little bit the last couple times out, I’m more than happy to step in and try to help us win. And just take the opportunity for what it is, which is the opportunity to pitch in a role that I really enjoy.”