There is an excellent that this column will be out of date before Monday night. Ned Yost hinted after today’s loss to the Rangers that roster moves might come as early as Monday as the Royals attempt to pare down the active roster from 40 to the Opening Day 25.
Sunday morning, Bob Dutton summed up the position battles quite well. He throws a few extra names into the equation to account for the players still in camp, but the truth is there is very little going on that is new.
At catcher, it seems a virtual certainty that Jason Kendall will open the season on the disabled list. An aging veteran, rushing back from major shoulder surgery and coming off a disappointing offensive season – it seems appropriate to give him an extra couple of weeks. That also provides the Royals some time to further evaluate Brayan Pena and Lucas May or, at least, delay the decision. Given that both are out of options, I cannot see any reason not to start Manny Pina in AAA.
As Dutton details, the infield situation really comes down to whether Kansas City wants to see Chris Getz try to hit on an everyday basis. The options are Lance Zawadski or Pedro Feliz (yes, Irving Falu is in the mix, but he really isn’t) and it is hard to see a reason why to not give Getz one more shot if those are your options. Truthfully, Getz will have somewhere from sixty to ninety days to give the Royals a reason not to play Mike Aviles at second when Mike Moustakas gets the call up. Obviously, Billy Butler, Kila Ka’aihue, Alcides Escobar, Wilson Betemit and Aviles are locks.
Even Dutton admits that the starting unit was ‘set in the off-season’ and that mentality held even after the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain. Correctly, the organization wants Cain to play every day: he will start out the year doing so in Omaha. My guess is a lot of you who read this site (and those of us who write it) probably would prefer otherwise, but it is what it is: Melky Cabrera is your centerfielder. With Gordon, who has had a great spring, and Franceour, who has not, flanking Melky, it has long been assumed that Gregor Blanco and Mitch Maier (both out of options) would be the fourth and fifth outfielders. Recently, there have been rumblings of something different.
Jarrod Dyson, who probaby had the centerfield job a Melky Cabrera and Lorenzo Cain ago, is back in the mix. What Dyson brings is tremendous speed on the bases and in the field. While the jury is well out on whether Dyson can hit at all in the majors, he is at least different from the very sameness of Maier of Blanco.
Would it be completely silly to carry a player who would be used solely for late inning defense and pinch running? That Ned Yost has been giving Wilson Betemit time at first lately, specifically to ‘play first if Kila or Billy is pinch run for’, tell me that Yost is at least considering the idea.
The pitching staff is not a whole lot clearer than it was last Monday although it now seems certain that they will break camp with just four starters: Hochever, Francis, Davies and Chen. Come mid-April, they will need to pick either Sean O’Sullivan or Vin Mazzaro for the fifth starter and make another roster decision at that point. There is an outside chance that Mike Montgomery gets the nod here, too, but as much as we and the Royals would love to see him in the big league rotation that is probably a move best saved for summertime.
The bullpen, as ludicrous as it sounds, is quite likely to head north with EIGHT pitchers. The obvious are Joakim Soria, Robinson Tejeda and Jeremy Jeffress, but after that it gets pretty muddled. Little lefty Tim Collins is a near lock, but a rough outing a few nights ago did not help his cause. Ned Yost, the man who would prefer to have two lefties in the pen, sure as heck is not going to Kansas City with the only southpaw being Rule 5 Robert Fish, who he has seen throw two innings in his life. So, make Collins a lock after all.
The inside track right now for two more spots would seem to be Kanekoe Texiera and Luis Mendoza. This organization is a sucker for new deliveries, better arm angles and solid spring performances. Hey, it worked for Bruce Chen last year, why not try it, again?
Mendoza and Texiera would seem to be in direct competition with Blake Wood (who seems to be headed to Omaha), Greg Holland, Louis Coleman and even Aaron Crow (although I think that is unlikely). Could it be as simple as the fact that Texiera and Holland already have 40 man roster spots? On a team that is frankly going to use 2011 as an extended spring training, that might be the deciding factor.
That leaves two more spots in this eight man pen: one permanent and one available only until April 16th when the team will need a fifth starter. Given what he has done this spring (and yes I know it is just spring), Nathan Adcock would seem to have pitched himself onto this team. As a Rule 5 guy he obviously have to stay on the 25 man roster all year, but he seems to have done enough to at least start down that road.
Speaking of an open spot and Rule 5, enter lefty Robert Fish. This acquisition was extremely curious given that Kansas City already had one Rule 5 pitcher in camp and that it occurred relatively late into camp. Fish throws hard and from the left side, which is a good way to get a shot. It might be enough to keep Fish around through mid-April and decide if he is worth trying to work out a deal to keep him as I think it is unlikely Ned Yost wants to nurse two Rule 5 guys through an entire season.
The Royals could break camp with an extra infielder (Zawadzki would be the one given Feliz’s $800,000 deal should he stick with the big club), but I have a hunch they will introduce an extra reliever to the Opening Day crowd on March 31st.