Ned Yost announced today that right-hander Nathan Karns has won the fifth-starter job, beating out left-hander Travis Wood. The Royals acquired the 29-year old Karns this past winter from Seattle for Jarrod Dyson.
Ned Yost said the Royals like Karns' power stuff in the rotation and value versatility of Travis Wood and Chris Young in the bullpen.— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) March 20, 2017
Both pitchers had showed mixed results this spring with Karns putting up a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings, but with 14 strikeouts. Wood had a 4.05 ERA with seven strikeouts in 13 1⁄3 innings. Karns has little experience coming out of the bullpen with just eight relief appearances in his Major League career, while Wood was a fantastic reliever for the Cubs last year. In 77 relief appearances last year, Wood had a 2.95 ERA, allowing a line of just .128/.208/.239 against lefties. Wood has had trouble against right-handers, however, suggesting trouble for a starting role. He was an All-Star as a starter in 2013 for the Cubs and has a career ERA of 4.19 in 133 career starts.
Karns has had trouble going deep in games, averaging just 5.4 innings-per-start over his career. He has shown a great ability to strikeout hitters, relying heavily on a knuckle-curve. His best year as a starter came in 2015 when he made 26 starts and had a 3.67 ERA with 145 strikeouts in 147 innings.
Karns joins a rotation that will feature Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, and Jason Vargas. Yost has not officially named Duffy his Opening Day starter, but everyone expects the left-hander to get the start April 3 in Minnesota. Wood will join a bullpen that will likely feature Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, Chris Young, Mike Minor, and one more open spot up for grabs between Scott Alexander, Yender Caramo, Peter Moylan, and a few non-roster invitees in camp like Al Alburquerque and Chris Withrow.