Monday, March 21, 2005


So D.J. Carrasco has been demoted to AAA and Appier is staying in camp for no particular reason. Now what? I still don't have a clear picture of who's in and out, since the Royals haven't made any of the tough decisions yet.

The bullpen competition seems straightforward enough, but as I've followed spring training thus far, I've become more and more perplexed by the Royals' approach to putting together a rotation this season.

Some things are certain - Lima and Anderson are in merely because of their salaries, and Greinke is on the staff because he deserves it. If Lima and/or Anderson can pitch well through June, they'll make good trade fodder for a contending team. But can someone explain why Runelvys Hernandez is being handed the 4th slot in the rotation without competition? Has he earned it through sustained success in the majors or recent dominance in the minors? No. Is he having a fantastic spring? Not at all. Bautista, Gobble and Wood have all outpitched Hernandez. Is he not coming off major surgery? He certainly is, and I'm surprised the Royals aren't strapping a protective leash on Elvys, especially given his past tendency to to hide injury.

(Sidebar: How old IS Elvys? Yahoo! Sports has his birthdate in 1978, but Baseball Cube has him born in 1980. Anyone know the truth?)

The bottom line is that Hernandez hasn't really earned a spot this spring, and there's nothing in history to argue for a guaranteed spot. Apologists point to his "hot" start in 2003, and suggest that his success would have continued had he not been injured. But not only was that just a one month flash, it was grossly overblown at that. His peripherals were thoroughly medicore during his Cy Young April and he'd have been discovered as a fraud sooner or later if he'd not been injured. In terms of his reputation, Hernandez seems to have actually benefited from his injury - it prevented the league from catching up to him.

The 5th starter competition (is there anything more depressing than to be the 5th starter on the Kansas City Royals?) has proven quite heated, as several candidates have stepped up to claim the job.

-- Bautista? Sure, he's been great against spring training competition, but why rush him?
-- Gobble? He's also pitched very well this spring, but after last year's atrocities, I'm not so sure he doesn't need to prove himself against AAA competition first.
-- Mike Wood? He's been the Royals' the most impressive pitcher this spring, but he's being slotted as a long reliever at this point (which is not a bad idea).
-- Snyder has also pitched very well, but he's not a candidate for the rotation right now.

Of course, nothing is permanent, as the Royals are free to shuttle their pitching prospects back and forth from Omaha at will, and I'm sure they will do so. Although I'd probably prefer to see Gobble spend some quality time in Nebraska this spring and early summer, I'd give him a spot in my preferred rotation along with Anderson, Lima, Greinke and Wood. There's simply no purpose in starting Bautista in the majors right now, and Hernandez hasn't earned it.

Back in reality, the rotation is actually shaping up to be the Four Untouchables and Bautista.


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