Royals still have interesting roster decisions, and it all starts with Infante’s elbow
OK, so it might not qualify as high drama, but there still are some intriguing roster decisions ahead for the Royals between now and next Monday’s opener at Detroit.
And those decisions continue to hinge on the nagging elbow injury (bone spur) to second baseman Omar Infante, and the search to fill one, maybe even two, bullpen spots.
Infante received a cortisone shot in his right elbow last Tuesday but continues to experience discomfort while swinging the bat. The possibility of Infante starting the season on the disabled list remains, although the Royals insist for now that Infante will be ready by next Monday.
But if Infante is put on the DL, the Royals then must decide if they’ll start the season with either Johnny Giavotella or Pedro Ciriaco, who is out of options, at second base. Club officials also are getting more comfortable with the notion of corner infielder Danny Valencia at second base, where he has shown surprisingly solid footwork.
Jason Donald is the other middle infielder in camp, and while Donald has had a solid spring, he is not on the 40-man roster.
The final spot in the Royals’ bullpen remains in limbo as well.
While left-handers Danny Duffy and Donnie Joseph were optioned out Sunday, the final spot has not yet been handed officially to 33-year-old left-hander Francisley Bueno.
Bueno holds onto the spot for now, mostly by default, as the Royals continue to search for a better alternative. We’ve noted in the past that while Bueno is out of options and the Royals generally like to hold onto perceived value, club officials are not all that nervous about losing him on waivers.
In fact, the Royals will be scouring the waiver wire in upcoming days looking for an upgrade.
Also, while there has been an assumption that right-hander Louis Coleman will join Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera to round out the bullpen, Coleman has not exactly enjoyed an inspiring spring.
Granted, it’s only spring training, and the ball flies in the desert air and ground balls get through easily on the asphalt infields, but … Coleman has posted an atrocious 2.67 WHIP and a 13.50 ERA.
Coleman likely has built up enough big-league equity after his terrific 2013 season for the Royals to dismiss his spring numbers, but, hey, you never take these things for granted.
Coleman has not been alone in terms of shaky springs. The Royals’ bullpen, the strength of the team last season, has had some rough moments. Collins has a 1.94 WHIP and Crow has walked six hitters in 8 2/3 innings.
While it has generally been assumed that the loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery could be absorbed with the team’s bullpen depth, the Royals do have some concerns, especially if Crow doesn’t overcome a late-season slump from last year and Herrera doesn’t regain his once-dominating form.
The spring struggles of the ‘pen, in fact, likely have wiped out any notions of starting the season with an 11-man staff in order to carry an extra infielder. Simply put, the Royals want every capable bullpen arm they can find to start the season.
The only other roster battle this spring was for the fifth outfielder spot between Justin Maxwell and Carlos Peguero. But manager Ned Yost indicated recently that Maxwell will make the team.
Peguero is out of options, and it could be difficult to slip him through waivers.
Yost said he would like to have his roster formalized by the time the Royals leave Arizona. The team’s final Arizona game is on Wednesday, followed by a day off, and then two exhibition games in Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.