Royals looking for pitching depth after Greinke deal
By Greg Echlin
December 20, 2010
A week ago, the Kansas City Royals Team Store displayed powder blue number-23 Zack Greinke jerseys, visible from outside Kauffman Stadium. By Sunday afternoon, before General Manager Dayton Moore talked with the media about the six-player trade with Milwaukee, the Greinke jerseys were replaced.
So Greinke is gone and, among the four players the Royals received from the Brewers, there are no starting pitchers who are major league ready. What does that leave for the outset of 2011 in the starting rotation, the makeup of what manager Ned Yost has been on record to say is the backbone of a winning ballclub?
Keep in mind that Bruce Chen, the team's leading winner last season with 12 victories, is currently shopping around for a team as a free agent that's willing to commit to a multi-year deal.
Without those two, that leaves Luke Hochevar who missed the majority of last season with an elbow issue; Kyle Davies who started one fewer game (32) than Greinke but won eight and has yet to have a season, in six years of pitching in the big leagues, with double figure victories; Vin Mazzaro who was picked up in the David DeJesus trade and has a total of 35 major league starts in two major league seasons; and Sean O'Sullivan who was acquired from the Angels in late July but didn't pick up his first win as a starter until late September.
When asked about the starting rotation for the beginning of 2011, Moore brought up the aforementioned pitchers and added, "We'll still look to build some depth there, so we're not done in improving our rotation."
"I think Hochevar will have a much better year next year," said Royals manager Ned Yost at the season-ending news conference. Hochevar was limited to 17 starts last season. He finished with a 6-6 record and a 4.81 ERA.
"I think that O'Sullivan will come into spring training and compete for a spot," said Yost. O'Sullivan is not out of options to the minors.
"He (O'Sullivan) made great adjustments in the last three or four outings. We've got to continue to remember he's only 23 years old, a big burly guy and we forget that fact that he's a young guy."
The two Royals farmhands most mentioned to get a shot at the rotation are Danny Duffy and Everett Teaford.
"Danny Duffy in his last outing in the Arizona Fall League was as dominant as any pitcher that our scouts had seen all year," said Moore.
The question is whether that translates into being effective right away at the major league level. The left-handed Duffy will be 22 when spring training starts. He made only seven starts for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League (Double A) after stepping away from the game all together for personal reasons in the beginning of the season. In those seven starts, Duffy won five including a shutout.
Teaford, another left-hander, is more seasoned at 26. He's coming off his best season in his fifth year since the Royals drafted him in the 12th round of the 2006 draft out of Georgia Southern. He won 14 games for Northwest Arkansas and picked up another win in two starts for the USA team in the Pan Am Games qualifier.
When Ned Yost worked as Special Advisor to Baseball Operations, Teaford caught his attention during spring training last season, not only for his abilities on the mound but for his competitiveness.
Based on his experience in Atlanta and Milwaukee, Yost would prefer the pitchers to be well-prepared to win in the major leagues instead of developing in the major leagues.
In mid-September, Yost said, "Pushing kids, all it does is pacify your own desires. It's not what's good for the organization. It's not what's good for the individual player to get him here before he's ready."
It will be up to Moore before the start of next season to assemble a few more candidates for the rotation in order to prevent the Royals from pushing one of their prized prospects before they're ready.
During the news conference announcing his contract extension at the end of last July, Yost said, "I like to build. I like to build together. I like to do it together and accomplish something great together."
A lot of building remains for the 2011 starting rotation.