The Royals’ bullpen took another loss yesterday afternoon. How bad has it gotten? Well, there are at least two guys, maybe three, that enter the game with a greater sense of impending doom than Kyle Farnworth. Keep in mind, I sat next to a scout last year that actually laughed at Kyle Farnsworth, so I do not take a Farnsworth appearance lightly.
We can make some legitimate arguments over when and how Trey Hillman might use Joakim Soria and I might offer that Hillman has (rightfully) gotten so paranoid about his relievers that he might be pulling them too often. The Josh Rupe appearance on Tuesday night comes to mind: perhaps giving Rupe at least one more hitter to settle in might have made sense. After all, if you have seven guys out there you don’t trust, how many do you really want to see on one night?
At any rate, it seems more obvious everyday that this group of relief pitchers simply is not good enough. You can match them up anyway you want, assign whatever roles you can think of, and the fact is they are an implosion waiting to happen. Realistically, what are the Royals’ options?
- Bryan Bullington– The former number one pick has tossed 22 innings in Omaha thus far, struck out 15 and walked just 4 batters. Opponents are hitting just .187 against the 6’6″ righthander and he carries a WHIP of just .083. Last year, working exclusively in relief for Las Vegas, Bullington struck out 43 in 38 innings and walked only 7 on his way to a 3.52 earned run average (not bad considering the home park). Sure, Bullington has been a failure on the big league level, but he has had some success (albeit in AAA) working as a reliever.
- Anthony Lerew – I kind of like Lerew, if only because he got two late season starts in an emergency last year and had to face the Yankees and Red Sox and held his own. The club gave him a pretty good look in the spring and decided against keeping him on the roster – but then, do we trust the organization’s talent evaluation at this point? Currently, Anthony has a 3.15ERA in 20 innings, having struck out 14 and walked 6. Opponents are hitting .247 against him and Lerew’s WHIP of 1.20 is decent considering he has been used mainly as a starter.
- Blake Wood – The twenty-four year old throws hard with good sinking action and made a run at the big league roster this spring. After being a starter most of his minor league career, Wood has been moved into the pen – something that was mentioned even back when he was drafted. He gave up one run in his first Omaha appearnce this year and two in his second. After that, Wood held the opposition scoreless in his next five appearances (six innings), allowing just three hits along the way. He was tagged for a two runs, just one earned, his last time out when he allowed no hits, but walked two in two innings of work. Blake has posted a WHIP of 1.09 and opponents are batting just .211. The organization likes Wood and expects him to be in the big leagues at some point this year: tomorrow would be fine with me.
- Carlos Rosa – The organization seems to have soured on Rosa and gave him a surprisingly brief look in spring training. He has posted a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings for Omaha this year, with a warning flag of seven walks to go with his nine strikeouts. Still, Rosa throws 97 easily and often and has been okay in two very brief major league stints in the past two years. Last year, his first as a full-time reliever, Carlos struck out 80 and walked 32 in 71 innings of AAA work. It is hard to see where there is not room for Rosa in a bullpen that is willing to tolerate Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda.
- Matt Herges – You have to love baseball to be forty years old and pitching in Omaha, which is exactly Herges’ situation. He pitches off his changeup and was cuffed around pretty good in the spring. Matt has had little success in Omaha, either, allowing AAA hitters to hit .394. Still, last year in the majors, Herges held hitters to a .246 average over 35 innings, striking out 26 and walking 8. If the Royals are scared to go to a pen full of young pitchers, than Herges (who has an out in his contract if not called up anyway) might be worth a look. At this point, I’m willing to settle on simply different, if not better.
You may be looking for Chris Hayes to be on this list, but he started the year on the disabled list and has given up 11 hits in 5 innings since coming back. We will have to revisit this submarining reliever in a few months. Victor Marte is also on the Omaha roster, but something sticks in my head that he may be hurt right now. Anyway, Marte reminds me too much of Roman Colon (who is also back in Omaha) to discuss any further. Adam Bostick was on the roster and made a bit of an impression in spring training, but he recently drew a 50 game substance abuse suspension.
So, there are your basic options in Omaha, but there are a few more in AA Northwest Arkansas who could reasonably make the leap to Kansas City.
- Edgar Osuna – The Braves did not think he was worth the $25,000 Rule 5 buy-back cost and the Royals were able to keep him. In four starts spanning 23 innings, the lefty has allowed just 21 hits and 2 earned runs. There have been SEVEN unearned runs in Osuna’s starts, by the way – who’s playing defense in AA? Osuna has struck out 20 and walked only 2 as he has held hitters to a .236 average. Having almost made the team in the spring, Osuna has to be on the club’s mind for bullpen help – or at least he should be.
- Federico Castaneda – Just got the call-up to Omaha thanks to striking out 11, walking 1 and allowing only 4 hits in 9.2 innings of AA work. He pitched a scoreless inning in his Omaha debut. After an eight game stint in the rookie leagues, the twenty-six year old threw 27 innings in AA last year. He struck out 27 and allowed just 20 hits in that stretch. With all the retread relievers clogging the Omaha roster, that the organization promoted Castaneda would seem to indicate they are thinking he can help them sooner rather than later in the bigs.
- Blaine Hardy – Has not allowed a run in 15 innings and only seven hits, but he pitched in Low-A Burlington last season. Blaine is already on the fast track, but calling on him now would really be fast tracking.
- Louis Coleman – Just drafted last summer, Coleman is already in AA and holding his own. The Royals drafted him with the idea that he could move quickly as a reliever. Like Hardy, Louis is probably someone we should revisit in June.
- Aaron Crow – He has hit a bit of a flat spot recently and with just 12 strikeouts in 21 innings, plus 10 walks, needs more time. Besides, it is one thing to rush Blaine Hardy, entirely another to rush Aaron Crow.
There are some other intriguing names in Northwest Arkansas, too (Brandon Sisk, Rowdy Hardy, Everett Teaford), but realistically those mentioned above would seem to be actual options in the near term.
Overall, there is some potential to make things better in the Royals’ pen. At minimum, bringing up the likes of a Wood, Osuna and Rosa would at least give those two experience so next year’s bullpen would be at least be better. At this point, you have to wonder what the Royals’ think they have to lose by making more changes?