It was not exactly a stellar day for the Royals yesterday. There was a split-squad day-night sweep at the hands of the Angels and Giants, but actually seemed secondary to what transpired earlier in the day.
Of course, I am referring to the sudden announcement that pitching prospect Danny Duffy had essentially quit baseball. Greg Schaum tells you all you need, or at least all there is, to know. The young left-hander was in every-one’s Top 10 of Royals’ prospects, with a real chance at competing for a big league rotation spot as soon as next spring.
While that damages the club’s long-term rotation plans, the recurring shoulder stiffness of Gil Meche might well devastate the current rotation plans. Yesterday, as I sat in the Arby’s drive thru lane, I heard Soren Petro and Frank Boal on WHB radio discussing the Meche situation. Both intimated that there was at least one school of thought during the off-season that Meche should have had surgery, but that Gil himself refused and intended just to ‘pitch through it’. Let’s just say that bit of knowledge, coupled with the news that Meche’s next trip to the mound will be in a ‘controlled simulation’ this weekend. Last time I checked, healthy pitchers don’t take their turn in the rotation on a back mound somewhere pitching in a controlled environment.
That brings us back to the state of rotation right now, with or without a healthy Meche, and specifically the fifth starter spot.
We have watched Kyle Davies, Robinson Tejeda, Kyle Farnsworth and now Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna all compete for this position, with none of them really doing anything to actually win the job. The state of this competition is such that Kyle Davies is considered the front-runner based upon having ONE good outing this spring. Given the situation, it begs the obvious question: How often do the Royals really need a fifth starter?
Below, you will see that I have run the schedule, pitching the first four starters on normal rest and skipping the fifth starter where I could.
In April, all of the first four starters make five starts a piece, but the fifth starter only makes three. In May, the schedule tightens up some.
Even with just two off-days between April 23rd and the end of May, the Royals could still be in a position to use Zack Grienke 7 times in May, Gil Meche (please be healthy, please be healthy)and Luke Hochevar for six starts, Brian Bannister for five and the fifth starter for five more.
In all, my May 31st, Greinke could have 12 starts under his belt compared to just 8 by whoever the fifth starter turns out to be. Now, you can run the numbers using just a straight five man rotation and discover that Greinke would get 11 starts by the end of May without any juggling of the rotation at all. The fifth starter, however, would start 10 times instead of just 8. I do not think we even need to look up any stats to decide that more Greinke and less Davies is good for the team.
All of the above, of course, assumes that Gil Meche is healthy. I would offer that if Meche is more injured than the club is letting on, then juggling the rotation to avoid the fifth spot is even more critical. Keep in mind, an injured Meche means that the fifth starter is the runner-up in the current competition.