The Royals have optioned right-handed pitcher Jake Junis to AAA Omaha. They will announce a corresponding roster move on Tuesday. The 24-year old rookie made his Major League debut on Wednesday against Oakland, tossing a shutout inning, but allowing a hit and two walks. He did not appear in a game this weekend against the Angels.
After deep outings by starting pitchers over the weekend and with an off-day on Monday, the Royals seem likely to drop back down to 12 pitchers. This means the corresponding roster move will likely be another position player, to give added roster flexibility or more offense. Jorge Soler, who began on the year on the disabled list, might be a candidate, but the Royals said he will likely began a rehab assignment this week.
Whit Merrifield seems like the most likely candidate to come up. The utility player is off to a torrid start in Omaha, hitting .412 with three home runs after collecting three hits on Sunday. His presence would free Ned Yost up to make more late inning substitutions, like he did on Sunday against the Angels, using Mike Moustakas as a pinch-hitter and Raul Mondesi as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning.
Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who has yet to make his Major League debut, would be another candidate. The 24-year old is hitting .242/.342/.636 with three home runs in Omaha. Speedster Billy Burns seems less likely, despite decent numbers in Omaha with a line of .258/.410/.258, because the Royals need offense. Peter O’Brien, who impressed in spring training with his prodigious power, is off to a slow start for Omaha, hitting just .167 with no extra base hits and 12 strikeouts.
If the Royals call up another arm, Matt Strahm would be ineligible to be recalled until April 21 unless he is called up to replace someone who has been placed on the disabled list. Right-hander Kevin McCarthy is another possibility, as are veterans Al Alburquerque and Bobby Parnell, although they would require opening up a 40-man roster spot.
The Royals host the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.