Royals

Royals notes: After early struggles, Chris Young hits a groove as a relief pitcher

Royals pitcher Chris Young has no perfect explanation for his recent run of success out of the bullpen. He says there is no secret formula, no major mechanical adjustment. “Just making good pitches,” he said.
Royals pitcher Chris Young has no perfect explanation for his recent run of success out of the bullpen. He says there is no secret formula, no major mechanical adjustment. “Just making good pitches,” he said. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Chris Young has no perfect explanation for his recent run of success out of the bullpen. There is no secret formula, he says, no major mechanical adjustment. There is nothing all that drastically different from his form April and May, when a disastrous stretch cost him his place in the Royals’ starting rotation.

He is healthy now, of course. So that helps. He has also found comfort in the routine of relief pitching. But for the most part, Young says, the success can be attributed to the mundane.

“Just making good pitches,” Young said. “That’s it. That’s the bottom line.”

As bland as that sounds, there is perhaps a method to the staid style. At the age of 37, Young believes in the same maxim he followed at 27. If he executes his pitches, he will be successful. And for much of the last month, he has executed correctly.

In his last five outings, Young has logged 8 1/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. Since July 10, he has posted a 2.87 ERA, with the only major blowup coming in a 13-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on July 26. On Sunday, Young recorded his first career save, working three scoreless innings in an 11-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

It was, as Young joked, one of the final things he needed for his baseball resume.

“That, and a stolen base,” he said.

Even as Young sought to downplay the solid run, his manager and pitching coach noted its important. After injuries to Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar, the Royals’ bullpen has appeared notably thin. With Young pitching well, it’s less so.

“He’s commanding the ball much better,” Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “He’s working ahead in the count now; he’s getting to kind of the Chris Young of old, where they’re starting to see that fastball, they can’t get it, and now they’re chasing that slider.”

For the season, Young is still just 3-8 with a 6.07 ERA. He has allowed 26 homers in 75 2/3 innings, and his performance as a starting pitcher has bordered on unplayable. But with the Royals’ bullpen ravaged by injuries, the relief corps has been in need of help in the middle innings. For five straight appearances, Young has answered the call.

“It’s nice,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “especially with Wade going down. You’ve got (Joakim) Soria, and you’ve got (Kelvin) Herrera, but you’ve really got to mix and match.”

As the Royals opened a three-game series at Detroit on Monday, Eiland suggested that Young could receive more opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings. Which is fine with Young. After a disappointing start, he is focused solely on finishing strong.

“It’s a tough game,” Young said. “Everybody struggles at some point, so it’s how you handle it, and what you keep fighting [for] and working on. That’s my mentality.

“The ending is not yet written. So that’s my mentality. I want to finish strong here.”

Vargas set to move rehab to Northwest Arkansas

Left-hander Jason Vargas is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Class AA Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday, Ned Yost said on Monday afternoon.

Vargas, who is entering the final weeks of recovery from Tommy John surgery, will throw three innings in his first appearance for the Naturals. He was slated to fly to travel to Springdale, Ark. on Monday.

Vargas previously logged two outings for the Royals’ Rookie-league affiliate in Surprise, Ariz. He allowed two earned runs over four innings with eight strikeouts. His rehab clock started on Aug. 7. He can remain on the rehab stint for 30 days.

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