Royals closer Wade Davis returns to Kansas City for MRI

Royals closer Wade Davis has posted a 1.60 ERA in 35 appearances this season while struggling at times with his command.
Royals closer Wade Davis has posted a 1.60 ERA in 35 appearances this season while struggling at times with his command.

Royals closer Wade Davis left the team and took a flight back to Kansas City on Saturday night to undergo an MRI on his sore right arm, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Star.

The news sent shockwaves through baseball just two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, ending the speculation that Davis might be flipped for prospects before Monday. For the Royals, a franchise snake-bit by injuries in 2016, the alarm bells sounded once more.

In early July, Davis headed to the 15-disabled list with a forearm strain, spending two weeks rehabbing his ailing right arm. For now, it appears the pain has not subsided.

The Royals confirmed on Saturday night that Davis would undergo an MRI in Kansas City on Sunday. The news of his departure was first noted by a Royals fan, Casey Jones, who spotted Davis at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Saturday afternoon. The club did not make a roster move or officially place Davis on the disabled list. But there was no indication that the MRI was part of a pending trade. Davis, it appears, headed back to Kansas City looking for answers.

“He’s just kind of suffering the same symptoms he had before,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “(It’s just) kind of tightness up here in his forearm.”

In recent days, Davis had found himself in the middle of a swirl of trade rumors. The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers were among teams that reportedly showed interest in Davis, though the Nationals made a trade Saturday to acquire Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has said the club would listen to offers for players under contract beyond this season. But the prospect of a Davis deal appeared to hinge on the Royals being hit with an offer they could not refuse.

Davis, 30, has cemented himself as one of the best right-handed relievers in baseball over the past two seasons. He recorded a 1.00 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 72 innings in 2014 before posting a 0.94 ERA last season. He transitioned into the closer role last September and helped the Royals claim a World Series championship last fall.

In 2016, Davis’ peripheral numbers have regressed. His strikeouts are down; his walks are up. But he has still posted a 1.60 ERA in 35 outings. On Thursday, two days before Davis left the team, he said his issues this season did not have anything to do with his health.

“I don’t feel like my stuff is changing,” Davis said. “I don’t feel like anything is different.”

Davis, of course, did concede that the forearm strain had presented a problem in late June and early July. The Royals placed Davis on the disabled list on July 5 during a series at Toronto. At the time, Yost said the injury was located on the top of the forearm and not a flexor-pronator strain, the ailment commonly associated with ligament damage in the elbow.

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Davis said then. “It’s a muscle that just kind of grabbed up and tightened over a couple of days. I think it didn’t go away as fast as we’d have hoped. But I think we’re in a good spot here, especially with the break.”

Davis returned to the mound after the All-Star break, tossing four straight scoreless outings before allowing two runs and issuing three walks in a 7-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.

“I’ve walked more people this year, which sucks,” Davis said on Thursday. “I haven’t struck out as many. But I’ve also probably had a lot more hitters that I would consider someone I could strike out, put the ball in play early in the count. I’m never trying to strike anybody out early in the count anyway, unless it’s necessary. Sometimes numbers themselves are lucky.”

Two days later, as the trade deadline loomed, Davis headed home to Kansas City to undergo an MRI. For now, the Royals can only wait for the results.

“Everything is a possibility right now,” Yost said. “We just don’t know. He was going to pitch with it the other day. He still feels like he can throw his fastball. But the command of his breaking stuff is where it really affects him.”

Ned Yost discusses Wade Davis' forearm strain