KANSAS CITY, Mo. – We already know the strength of this Royals team is its pitching.
And within the next month or so, it could get even stronger with the possible additions of left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Felipe Paulino, both recovering from Tommy John surgery last summer.
Duffy already is on rehab assignment and has moved up to Triple-A Omaha.
Paulino now is set to begin his rehab assignment (30-day maximum) at Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday. He is expected to throw 75 pitches in his first start there.
FOXSportsKansasCity.com caught up with Paulino on Friday in the Royals’ clubhouse, where he was reunited briefly with his teammates after spending most of the last two months at extended spring training in Arizona.
“It feels so good to be back with the guys again,” he said. “I just had a couple of days before I go to Double-A, so I thought I’d stop by Kansas City. I can’t wait to get back. They’re playing well and having fun.
“I want to be part of that.”
Chances are, Paulino will be part of that, if all goes well, within a month. While Duffy is two or three weeks ahead of Paulino in his rehab, Paulino may have a better shot of being added to the 25-man roster when ready. Duffy still has options, meaning the Royals could send him to Omaha after his rehab. Paulino is out of options.
So, where might Paulino fit in? Eventually, he could be inserted into the back end of the rotation, though that could force the Royals into a tough decision. The Royals aren’t likely to bump Luis Mendoza, who has been pitching very well lately. And the Royals seem committed to giving Wade Davis every chance possible to prove he belongs in the rotation.
Paulino, of course, could provide depth in the bullpen, which would buy the Royals some time while his arm continues to strengthen. But even that move might be difficult because the Royals essentially would have to release someone like Luke Hochevar or J.C. Gutierrez, both of whom are out of options.
Bruce Chen has options but has enough service time that the Royals would need his permission to demote him. It seems doubtful he would give that.
Paulino, though, isn’t all that concerned about all the scenarios right now.
“It all works itself out,” he said. “It always does.”
Paulino’s return would be a pleasant boost. He became somewhat of a fan favorite after some impressive and dominating starts in 2011 when he finished 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA. He was even better last year when he went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA before suffering the elbow injury.
“I thought the surgery really went well,” he said. “I had to have it. And now everything is feeling great from being in extended spring so we’re going to speed it up and go to Double A and get some more work at better competition. Extended spring is rookies and first-year guys. It’s not the same as Double A and Triple A.
“It’s all about competition right now.”
Paulino reports that his velocity is in the low 90s.
“I feel the velocity is the same as it was before the injury,” he said. “I’m the same guy. The ball is moving really well.
“I’m throwing all my pitches – fastball, curve, slider and changeup. They’re all working. There hasn’t been a problem. My arm is getting stronger every day. But I have to stay on schedule and go day by day.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.