The Royals required a reinforcement for their bullpen after short outings by Chris Young and Kris Medlen earlier this week. They zeroed in on Brian Flynn, a towering left-hander who nearly made the club out of spring training last season.
The Royals officially recalled Flynn, 26, from Class AAA Omaha before Friday’s series opener against the Indians at Progressive Field. He took the roster spot of outfielder Terrance Gore, who was optioned to Class AA Northwest Arkansas after Wednesday’s 13-2 loss to Washington at Kauffman Stadium.
Flynn, who pitched at Wichita State, pitched four innings Friday against the Indians, giving up two runs, three hits and two walks. He also recorded two strikeouts.
Before Friday, Flynn had not appeared in a big-league game since Aug. 7, 2014, when he was a member of the Miami Marlins. The Royals acquired Flynn along with minor-leaguer Reid Redman from the Marlins in exchange for Aaron Crow in a Nov. 28, 2014, trade.
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The 6-foot-7 Flynn was a breakout performer during spring training in 2015, transitioning to a bullpen role and posting a 2.40 ERA in 12 appearances. He injured his latissimusi dorsi muscle during his first outing with the Storm Chasers last year and missed the rest of the season.
“He would have made our team out of spring training,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “But being gone all year last year, he needed to develop arm strength and build up his arm.”
The Royals were in need of an extra bullpen arm after Medlen made it through just two innings in Wednesday’s loss. Friday began a stretch of 13 games in 13 days, and Yost said he desired insurance for the bullpen. The decision came down to a group of pitchers at Omaha, including left-handers Brian Duensing and David Huff and right-hander Peter Moylan.
Duensing has posted a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings, while Moylan has a 0.79 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. But the Royals went with Flynn, who has a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings. One reason: Flynn was already on the club’s 40-man roster, meaning his addition did not require a corresponding move.
“Maybe a little, but not a whole lot,” Yost said, when asked if the 40-man roster math played a role in decision. “Flynn’s been throwing the ball well.”
Flynn is coming off the best outing of his season on Monday. He threw five scoreless innings while making a rare start. He struck out six in the performance. Flynn said he has recently begun re-incorporating a curveball and changeup into his mix — pitches he used as a starting in the Marlins organization — and club officials wanted to give him extended innings to work on the pitches. When he was optioned to Omaha near the end of spring training, club officials told him that they wanted him to spend a month in the minors.
“They had told me after the spring I just needed to get some reps in, get the feel of a season back, knock some rust off,” Flynn said.
Flynn also walked nine batters in 16 inning while at Omaha. Three of those came in a two-inning performance on April 20, when Flynn allowed four runs in two innings against Round Rock. As he re-joined the Royals on Friday afternoon, he said some of the struggles stemmed from a bout of arm fatigue in early April.
“I got some bad habits when it wasn’t feeling good, trying to throw harder when my arm wasn’t there,” Flynn said. “That was just a matter of getting rid of the bad habits and getting back on track to where I was.”