Ryan Madson hasn't pitched in a Major League Baseball game since 2011. It's 2015 now, for those who have forgotten the current year. It's been a long time. Despite the very long layoff, Madson has pitched decently enough to make the decisions on roster construction more difficult for Ned Yost and Dayton Moore. The current bullpen locks are basically this (Ned Yost roles included):
Greg Holland - 9th inning closer role
Wade Davis - 8th inning guy
Kelvin Herrera - 7th inning guy
Jason Frasor - 6th inning guy, probably
Chris Young - Long man
Franklin Morales - Lefty specialist because all the other guys are righties
Luke Hochevar will open the season on the DL. Brandon Finnegan will open the season in the minors. Louis Coleman was put on waivers. That leaves Brian Flynn and Ryan Madson for 1 more bullpen spot. Flynn is a lefty, and the bullpen lacks lefties as you can see above. However, Flynn has options, and Madson does not. The Royals would like to keep Madson, but they believe he needs to build up strength. Putting him in the 7th bullpen slot in this bullpen almost assures that he will have plenty of time to build up strength before being pressed into high-leverage duty.
There are a few wrinkles in this decision. Luke Hochevar will eventually come off the DL, and the Royals will probably want to slot him in to the 6th inning spot, pushing Jason Frasor into a smaller role. What happens with the 7th bullpen slot then? It's related to another wrinkle, which is Alex Gordon's wrist. The Royals want to carry an extra bench bat to give Gordon some days off.
However, what happens when Luke Hochevar comes off the DL AND Alex Gordon's wrist no longer necessitates days off? Will the Royals care about an extra bench player? Given this starting rotation, I would imagine the Royals want to go to an 8-man bullpen ASAP. They carried 8 bullpen guys last year, right? In that case, the extra bench player gets sent down, not a bullpen guy. Ryan Madson can be stashed in the bullpen at the beginning of the season, and he can be the 8th guy when Alex Gordon's wrist is ready/Hochevar comes off the DL.
Should the Royals not want to go to an 8-man bullpen once Gordon's wrist is healed and Hochevar is off the DL, then Madson probably doesn't make the opening day roster. They'll have to send down someone in the bullpen in this scenario, which means Brian Flynn is the better option.
All this assumes that Madson's stuff is ready for big league action again. Is that actually true? Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA in 9 Spring Training appearances. We know not to care too much about that. Brooks Baseball, however, has some more relevant information regarding his stuff. First, Madson's velocity is down. Of course it is. He hasn't pitched in a real game since 2011.
The movement, both horizontally and vertically, is more or less still there. Brooks has nothing to say about location; according to them, all 54 pitches they have tracked in Spring Training this year have the same location. Spring Training PitchF/X, you guys.
Overall, Madson seems like he might be ready for low-leverage cleanup duty in the majors. His velocity is down, but he aged a couple years. That's what happens. As he regains strength and feel and whatever else pitchers need to gain, Madson *may* even be available for higher leverage situations. Because Flynn has options and Madson doesn't, I'm inclined to keep Madson for that 7th bullpen slot. This allows the Royals to keep both pitchers. I like both pitchers in the bullpen.