Bruce Chen is in pain.
"It's just constant pain," Chen said. "And it's like shooting pain, burning pain. It's like tightness, tightness all the way into my leg. I'm just saying that today, because today feels worse than before."
OK. I'm not a doctor, but this doesn't sound good.
Chen received an epidural to alleviate his discomfort. However, it will take up to three days before the Royals and Chen can assess how well he feels.
Chen was scheduled to start Wednesday, but has been skipped and pushed back to Saturday. Three days from the time he received the epidural means they won't know until Friday if he can pitch.
It's a tight schedule, but Ned Yost isn't worried. Ned Yost is never worried.
"We don't think we're going to need a fall back," Yost said. "We're not ready to go there yet. We think he's going to be OK. But we'll wait and see."
As McCullough notes, Yost has a history of saying guys are going to be OK and then having them land on the 15-day disabled list hours later. He's like the worst doctor ever.
Chen has been dealing with this for some time. Apart from his first start of the season, his last three appearances have been disasters. Over his last 13 innings, he's allowed 21 hits and 15 runs. That's a 10.38 ERA. You think a bad back is painful? Look at his Game Log.
It sounds like the Royals will need to look to alternatives. They could turn to Danny Duffy, who had made four solid relief appearances before committing a rash of throwing errors on Saturday. I'm sure Duffy is the tentative starter in the Royals minds for Saturday, but Yost himself said he wouldn't hesitate using Duffy out of the bullpen over the next couple of days because he doesn't want to sacrifice a win today for a start tomorrow. Duffy could maybe make an appearance today and still make the Saturday start. But that would be pushing things.
Duffy hasn't been properly stretched out this year. He made 45 pitches in his first relief appearance and threw 38 as recently as a week ago, but the Royals will want at least 80 from a starter. Can Duffy - a self-proclaimed max effort guy - pace himself? And with a notorious pitch inefficiency, how many innings would 80 pitches buy?
If Duffy can't go, the Royals could turn to the farm.
Omaha's contest on Tuesday was washed out. Their Monday starter was Sugar Ray Marimon, who would be in line to start Saturday if they stick to their rotation. If they push everyone back a day to accommodate for the rainout, John Lamb falls into the Saturday slot. Marimon's Triple-A numbers are solid. Through four starts, he has a 2.66 ERA, with a 2.7 BB/9 and an 8.0 SO/9. Lamb on the other hand... Not so hot. He owns a 5.13 ERA with a 3.1 BB/9 and a 9.2 SO/9. He's allowed seven home runs in 26 innings.
Not that Chen was giving Royals value as a starter, but there just aren't attractive alternatives. This is a thin rotation that is about to get even thinner.