The Royals have released veteran outfielder Michael Saunders and pitcher Ricky Nolasco, bringing the number of players in Major League camp down to 37.
The 31-year old Saunders was vying for a spot in the outfield with the Royals and seemed to have an opportunity when Jorge Bonifacio was suspended 80 games for a banned substance. Saunders hit .275 in 40 plate appearances in Arizona, but with little power. He had signed with the Royals after just two days in Pirates camp. Pittsburgh let him go to give him a better opportunity to make a club, but Saunders will not be going north with the Royals. Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 with the Phillies, but hit just .178 after the break that year and he was released after just 61 games in 2017.
The Royals signed the 35-year old Nolasco to a minor league deal to add potential starting pitching depth. Nolasco struggled last year with the Angels, posting a 4.92 ERA with 15 losses. He appeared in just two spring training games, giving up eight runs with three walks and five hits in 3 2⁄3 innings. Nolasco had an opt-out in his deal today, meaning he could become a free agent if not added to the active Major League roster.
The release of Saunders seems to indicate the Royals will carry just three bench players - Drew Butera, infielder Ryan Goins, and third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert (with Paulo Orlando starting in the outfield) - while carrying 13 pitchers. Nolasco was perhaps a hedge in case any starters were hurt, and when the team added Clay Buchholz last week, Nolasco became expendable.
The Royals have said they will finalize their roster after their exhibition game on Monday in Omaha. They open the season on Thursday at home against the Chicago White Sox.