The Royals, as an organization, have always had some curious ideas when it comes to constructing a 25 man roster. Dayton Moore has drawn his share of warranted criticism in this respect, but Allard Baird was known to throw together some odd twenty-fives as well.
With the move of Houston to the American League and the subsequent introduction of an inter-league series every day of the season, the Royals will find themselves playing five of their first 14 games in National League parks to start the 2013 season. As a result, how the Opening Day roster is constructed takes on added importance.
Can you forego the use of a fifth starter and gain an eighth reliever AND an extra bat off the bench? Is it worth it?
The schedule offers Kansas City an opportunity to carry both an extra bat and an extra reliever for most of the month. That is, if the team is willing to vary from a strict five man starting rotation and have favored son Luke Hochevar spend the majority of April in the bullpen. Here is how the schedule shakes out the first part of the season, assuming a rotation of James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and Hochevar, in that order.
April 1 at Chicago - Shields
April 3 at Chicago - Guthrie
April 4 at Chicago - Santana
April 5 at Philadelphia - Davis
April 6 at Philadelphia - Shields
April 7 at Philadelphia - Hochevar
Since the Royals need their fifth starter just six days into the season, they will have to go with 'just' seven relievers for the first week, but that seems doable. After this start, Kansas City would not need to send Hochevar out to start until the last weekend of April. In theory, by the Toronto series, Luke would be available as an eighth reliever.
April 8 vs Minnesota - Guthrie
April 9 vs Minnesota - Santana
April 10 vs Minnesota - Davis
April 12 vs Toronto - Shields
Ten games into the year, Kansas City could already be sending Shields out for a third start.
April 13 vs Toronto - Guthrie
April 14 vs Toronto - Santana
April 16 at Atlanta - Davis
April 17 at Atlanta - Shields
April 19 at Boston - Guthrie
April 20 at Boston - Santana
April 21 at Boston - Davis
April 23 at Detroit - Shields
Do you believe in James Shields and the importance of quick starts? Well, 18 games in, Shields has started five of those games.
April 24 at Detroit - Guthrie
April 25 at Detroit - Santana
April 26 vs Cleveland - Davis
April 27 vs Cleveland - Hochevar
And back comes Luke. Maybe a two week 'Greinke Maneuver' helps him out.
April 28 vs Cleveland - Shields
April 29 vs Cleveland - Guthrie
April 30 vs Tampa - Santana
Twenty-five games in the month of April and just two Luke Hochevar starts as opposed by six each by Shields, Guthrie and Santana, plus five more by Wade Davis. Now, you can logically cringe at the idea of extra Santana and Davis starts and wonder if that is any better than having Hochevar get his share under a normal five man rotation.
However, Dayton Moore went hog wild in an attempt to improve the starting pitching of this ball club in the off-season. He gave up $12 million for Santana, three years for the 34 year old Guthrie and one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and the nearest major league ready starter in the Royals system to get Shields and Davis. Let's trot those guys out there like they are the top four of a contending team that Dayton Moore thinks they are.
If Dayton Moore's much maligned off-season is going to pan out for the Royals, it will be almost entirely because those four starters are who Dayton thinks they are. If you believe, then without question you use those four to start 23 of the first 25 games.
As an bit of an added bonus (as if less Luke is not bonus enough), it gives the Royals a glimpse at what Hochevar might look like as a reliever. Certainly it would be an epic failure if any overall number one pick ends up being a setup reliever, but I would rather have a competent reliever for an exorbitant price than an inconsistent starter who absolutely buries his team every third time out.
Many here don't believe in this new rotation and there is plenty of reasons to agree with that opinion. That said, Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, two guys who certainly do believe in this group, would be wise to drop the blind allegiance to Hochevar (quadruple revamped delivery and best shape of his life be damned) and put their 'big four' on the hill as often as they can.
For better or worse, let's trot this group out there and find out.