Before Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees, Royals manager Ned Yost said right-hander Kris Medlen would “more than likely” make his next start on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves at Kauffman Stadium. But then a shoulder issue surfaced on late Wednesday afternoon, putting that start in jeopardy.
Yost said Medlen would see a doctor on Thursday and have the shoulder evaluated. If he is not able to start Sunday, the Royals could turn to left-hander Danny Duffy or left-hander Brian Flynn, Yost said.
Neither pitcher has been stretched out more than 70 pitches this season. Still, the current state of the Royals’ starting rotation could force one into a spot start.
Medlen allowed four runs in two-plus innings in Tuesday’s 10-7 loss to the New York Yankees here at Yankee Stadium. He failed to survive past the third inning for the second consecutive start. His ERA soared to 7.77 in 24 1/3 innings over six starts. In his last two appearances, he has allowed 10 earned runs (13 total) in four innings.
Earlier on Wednesday, Yost offered a tepid endorsement of Medlen, in part because the Royals lack solid options to replace Medlen in the rotation, especially after electing to start right-hander Dillon Gee in place of the struggling Chris Young on Saturday.
“We could always extend Duffy out,” Yost said. “But the most he’s thrown since the season started is (29) pitches. That would be a lengthy process.”
Flynn, a 26-year-old left-handed reliever, was called up to the Royals on Friday in Cleveland. He has allowed three runs in six innings over two appearances. A former seventh-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2011, Flynn was traded to Miami in 2012 and made five total starts for the Marlins in 2013 and 2014. He was traded to the Royals before the 2015 season in a deal that sent Aaron Crow to Miami. He missed all of 2015 after injuring his latissimus dorsi in his first appearance at Class AAA Omaha.
Flynn, who began the season with Omaha, did throw 66 pitches in one five-inning start for the Storm Chasers.
“He’s got a chance to be extended out,” Yost said.
Another rotation option could surface by the end of the month. Left-hander Mike Minor, another former Braves starter, began a rehab assignment on Tuesday night at Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Minor, who is recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder, allowed three runs (two earned) in 2 2/3 innings for the Naturals against the Arkansas Travelers.
For now, Yost said, the Royals may be inclined to let Medlen sort out his struggles on the mound — if he is healthy. In April, Medlen made four starts, going at least five innings and allowing fewer than two runs in three of them. His issues, pitching coach Dave Eiland said, have come from a habit of rushing through his delivery, which can affect his command and consistency. On Tuesday, Medlen called his latest stretch the worst of his career.
“You go through a little streak, guys start pressing to get you out of it,” Yost said. “It starts when you get shut out three out of four days. The pitchers say, ‘Well, man, our offense is struggling right now, so I can’t give up a run.’
“And when you’re out pressing not to give up a run, instead of just pitching, the next thing you know you’re down 2-0 or 3-0 in the first.”
For Medlen, a start on Sunday would mean an opportunity to face the Braves, the organization that drafted him in the 10th round of the 2006 draft and nurtured his career for the next eight seasons.