Royals pitchers watched with great interest when Houston relief pitcher Collin McHugh entered a game at Arizona earlier this month.
It was the manner in which McHugh left the bullpen in Phoenix that was so intriguing: he was the first pitcher to use the Diamondbacks' bullpen cart.
“That very first ride, we were watching McHugh and were like, ‘Man, I hope he does well.’ He’s the example," Royals pitcher Kevin McCarthy said. "He was the first one to do it and if it doesn’t go well ... but he did well, so now some more guys are going on it. I think it’s one of those things that as it catches on it won’t be as big a deal."
Once a staple in the 1970s, the carts were ditched sometime in the following decade. In the past few years, there has been a buzz to bring them back. In fact, one former Royal was an early proponent.
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“I remember when (Luke) Hochevar was here, he was plugging to get it put back. Back in '16, he was calling for it," McCarthy said.
While the Royals don't play at Arizona this season, I asked members of the pitching staff if they'd use the cart if it was available again in Kansas City.
"Probably not as a rookie," Jason Adam said with a laugh. "Maybe if I had five or six years, I’d think about it. Seems nice, though. Saves the jog."
Nathan Karns, who is on the disabled list, didn't think he'd use it. He referenced how Mariano Rivera would run to the mound while "Enter Sandman" played at Yankee Stadium.
“I think it’s kind of weird, but that’s just because I’ve never seen it," Karns said. "I like to jog in. I like when you see a bullpen guy coming in during a game, especially to start a fresh inning, like you see (Kelvin) Herrera come in and it’s just like everyone knows it’s the ninth inning. You can just see the guy's face.
“I don’t know if the fans feel the same way about it. I don’t know if they care about seeing a guy jog 250 feet to the mound."
Nationals closer Sean Doolittle used the bullpen cart and said it helps conserve energy. McCarthy said that argument makes sense, but said there might be a greater expectations as well.
"I think it’s a lot more pressure to go in and pitch well if you’re cruising in on a bullpen cart," McCarthy said. "Until it’s a little more accepted, I feel like there’ll be a little more pressure to finish well."