Royals look to figure out starting rotation

The biggest challenge facing the Royals the rest of the season, beside trying to crawl back to .500, will be finding some healthy and competent bodies to settle into the rotation below Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen.

And at this point, the Royals may not be that picky.

The Cardinals’ bashing of the Royals last weekend exposed the 3-4-5 trio of Vin Mazzaro, Luis Mendoza and Jonathan Sanchez for all its weaknesses.

And the season-ending injuries to Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino have left general manager Dayton Moore scrambling for solutions.

“It’s going to be a work in progress from here on,” Moore said. “I wish I had the answers. If I had the answers I would make the moves right this second. But I don’t.”

For now, Sanchez and his unsightly 6.21 ERA will stay in the rotation. So, apparently will Mendoza, who at times has looked like the answer at the No. 5 spot, but too often follows a solid outing by an awful one.

Mazzaro, apparently, will head to the bullpen, along with his 5.24 ERA.

On Wednesday, left-hander Everett Teaford, just called up from Omaha, offered some hope by giving the Royals five respectable innings, allowing just two runs.

But in reality, the Royals are still looking for three dependable starters to follow Hochevar and Chen, and the search may go on all season.

Moore definitely will be looking beyond the 25-man roster.

“We’re going to look everywhere,” Moore said. “Whether it’s from waivers, a trade, from our own system…we don’t know right now. But we’ll have to figure it out.”

Here are the options:

Sanchez: It would be hard to envision Sanchez suddenly finding any command, and thus becoming an effective starter. But Moore and the Royals simply have no better option right now than to continue to give him chances. Yet if Sanchez continues to struggle and dig the Royals into huge holes, Moore may have to make a hard decision.

Mazzaro: “He’s not someone you want to give up on,” Moore said. “He had the rough outing last weekend but he has thrown two very good starts, too.” At some point, Mazzaro may get one more shot at the rotation, particularly if Mendoza falters again.

Mendoza: Skipper Ned Yost seemed to indicate the Royals are leaning toward using Mendoza in long relief. Now, though, it appears Mendoza will get another shot at winning a rotation spot. “Luis is a guy who has given us some good starts into the fifth and sixth inning,” Moore said. “Is he better in long relief? Is (Mazzaro) better in long relief? What if they’re not effective in long relief? I’m not ready to make any quick decisions there.”

Teaford: Teaford has been solid at Omaha and he can be sneaky good at this level, too. The Royals would like to see him stretch out into the sixth or seventh innings. After a good outing Wednesday, Teaford likely gets another shot.

Will Smith (Omaha): The 6-foot-4 left-hander was outstanding in one start against Cleveland, and overmatched in two others. “But it’s that one start that always gets you thinking,” Moore said. “He was dominant against Cleveland. He really had his curve working and you wonder if that’s repeatable.”

Jake Odorizzi (Omaha): The prized prospect has moved up with general ease from level to level, and there’s little doubt he’s close to being ready to make the leap now to the big leagues. But Moore is fond of saying he’d rather be a month late in promoting a prospect than a month too early. Odorizzi will get the call this summer but the guess here is Moore explores other options first.

Mike Montgomery(Omaha): The Royals have been patiently waiting for signs that Montgomery is improving. They’re still waiting. He’s 3-4 with a 4.76 ERA at Omaha and been nothing more than serviceable.

Doug Davis (Omaha): Davis, 36, certainly doesn’t fit into the Royals’ long-term plans, but he has been pitching well at Triple-A – 3-1, 3.08 ERA. He could eat some innings at the big-league level. “You can’t necessarily just send kids out there at the big-league level all the time and watch them get beat up,” Moore said. “That wouldn’t help them. At some point you stop the fight, and you bring in a veteran guy to help out.”

Ryan Verdugo: Acquired along with Sanchez from the Giants for Melky Cabrera, Verdugo has been good enough to get a call-up from Omaha where he is 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA. He’s given up 13 homers in just 79 innings, but opponents are hitting just .212 off him.

Chris Dwyer: Making some strides but the next step is a promotion to Omaha. Might be a factor in 2013.

Present bullpen: The Royals could stretch out one of their bullpen members, such as Aaron Crow, but that seems highly unlikely this far into the season. “You’d have to be careful there and make sure it was done carefully,” Moore said. “Obviously, that would require a significant stint in the minor leagues, and that’s not ideal at this point.”