Righty reliever Robinson Tejeda has been on the DL with 'right shoulder inflammation' since April 13th. His rehab assignment in Omaha has gone well so far, with 4 strikeouts and no walks in 3 innings pitched, and reports indicate that his velocity is back where it belongs in the low 90s.
Tejeda is one of the Royals' best relievers when healthy. Furthermore, the minors and majors are both brimming with projectable young bullpen arms, making the more expensive Tejeda an expendable but potentially valuable mid-season trade chip. It should not be long before he is called back up to the majors. So who steps aside to make way for Tejeda? Analysis after The Jump.
Not Going Anywhere:
Nathan Adcock: A Rule 5 draft pick, which means that if the Royals cut him, they have to offer him back to his original club. He's pitched well enough that the organization will not want to give him up for nothing.
Tim Collins: The only lefty in the 'pen and Ned Yost's go to guy for... well, any and all situations. Barring unexpected injury, he's not going anywhere.
Joakim Soria: The Royals' closer has been dominant since the Royals took him in the Rule 5 draft in 2007. So far this year, however, he has struggled to meet his own lofty standards. Mostly likely he's suffering from a bit of rust and a small sample size, but it's possible he's working around an injury and will need DL time to recover.
Aaron Crow: Arguably pitching the best right now of all our relievers, Crow took over the role of set-up man after Tejeda went down. Great stuff, excellent results, and a first round pedigree (and contract) should keep him with the big club.
Jeremy Jeffress: Acquired in the Greinke trade, Jeffress has looked good in the early going, striking out nearly a batter an inning and allowing just 4 runs in 13.1 innings. His control, however, has been questionable - he's walked 8 batters so far.
Blake Wood: Blake was called up to replace Tejeda in the bullpen and as such is a logical candidate to go back to Omaha when Tejeda is healthy. He's pitched well since he got the call, however, striking out 13 and walking just 4 in 13 innings pitched.
Louis Coleman: The latest addition to the 'pen, Louis replaced Kanekoa Texeira on April 21st. In 7.2 innings, Coleman has struck out a monstrous 12 batters, but has also walked 5 and given up 2 home runs.
The Royals' front office is not known for being predictable. They may do something crazy like send down Sean O'Sullivan and move Crow into the rotation. They may game the DL system and leave Tejeda in Omaha until someone else gets injured. I think, though, that one of our trio of young strikeout artists gets temporarily demoted. I think Jeffress, with probably the worst command of the bunch, is the most likely target for a AAA refresher course.
The great thing here is that no matter what happens, the Royals will look to have a great bullpen going forward. As Royals fans, we are not used to having more viable bullpen arms than bullpen spots, but here we are, forced to send down someone who is pitching well to make way for another solid arm that has more tenure.
Tejeda isn't the only viable arm currently hurling for the Stormchasers either. Greg Holland, who saw time on the big club last year, is another young strikeout machine with great potential, and Everett Teaford may get the call at some point as the Royals search for a lefty complement to Tim Collins. The Royals should have a great, deep bullpen for years to come, a development that I view as an early and exciting indication of the team's bright future.