Mar 262013

by John Viril—

The Royals have optioned outfielder David Lough to the minor leagues and released veteran OF Xavier Nady and RP George Sherrill. Manager Ned Yost also pulled Bruce Chen from a scheduled start today and listed him as available in the pen. The change suggests that Luis Mendoza has won the 5th starter job. With these moves, the final shape of the 25-man roster becomes almost entirely resolved.

By optioning Lough, who led all Royals hitters with a .455 batting average this spring, the team has clearly opted for a four-man outfield and two utility infielder bench. That suggests a bench of Jarrod Dyson, utility infielders Elliot Johnson and Miguel Tejada, and either George Kottaras or Brett Hayes as the backup catcher.

The only remaining roster question seems to be who is the 7th relief pitcher. With Mendoza winning (for now) the 5th starter role, Bruce Chen goes to long relief. Greg Holland is the closer, with Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar in single inning set-up roles. Since Yost earlier announced he would use seven relievers, that leaves one more open bullpen job.

This structure leaves the pen with two lefties (Collins and Chen) who have reverse platoon splits vs. left handed hitters.  The Royals need a LOOGY (a specialist reliever that can get out one left handed hitter). If the team follows this logic, then the obvious candidates for the final bullpen spot would be lefthanders Francisley Bueno or Donnie Joseph—and would be bad news for the right-handed Louis Coleman, who has bounced between Kansas City and Omaha for the last two seasons. Veteran Dan Wheeler would also be left out in the cold despite an excellent spring (0.00 ERA, 10 IP and 13 K’s). Twenty-nine year old J.C. Gutierrez is another right handed reliever still in the major league camp, but he has struggled this spring with a 4.91 ERA. Both Bueno and Gutierrez are out of minor league options.

The 32-year-old Bueno is a Cuban refugee who played well in a brief Kansas City stint last season (1.56 ERA in 17.1 IP). Donnie Joseph came to Royals before last year’s trade deadline in a deal which moved closer Jonathan Broxton to Cincinnati. Joseph has been lights-out in Surprise, with 14 strikeouts in 10.0 IP (1.80 ERA). More to the point, his slider has been brutal on left-handed hitters. To my mind, Joseph is the clear choice to fill the left-handed specialist role.

Barring a late trade, the 25 man roster looks close to set.

 Posted by at 10:01 am

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