The Royals have optioned right-handed pitcher Heath Fillmyer to Omaha to begin the year, giving us a better idea of how the rotation will be set up to begin the year. Fillmyer will actually stay behind in Arizona to get some more work in, according to MLB.com reporter Jeffrey Flanagan, and could be up with the Royals again by the time a fifth starter is need in the second week of the season.
Ned on sending Heath Fillmyer to Triple-A: "If he goes down and does his job, he’ll be back when the fifth spot comes up." Royals won't need a fifth starter until around April 10.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) March 23, 2019
Flangan also reports Jorge Lopez and Homer Bailey will also get some extra work this week in Arizona, although they could still make the Opening Day roster. Lopez would have to be on the roster as he is out of options. Ned Yost indicated he may begin the year with a three-man rotation, which could be possibly because the Royals have so many off-days to begin the year. Here is how the rotation could begin the season:
How the Royals’ rotation could begin the season
|Thursday||March 28||vs.White Sox||Brad Keller|
|Friday||March 29||OFF DAY||OFF|
|Saturday||March 30||vs.White Sox||Jakob Junis|
|Sunday||March 31||vs.White Sox||Jorge Lopez|
|Monday||April 1||OFF DAY||OFF|
|Tuesday||April 2||vs.Twins||Brad Keller|
|Wednesday||April 3||vs.Twins||Homer Bailey|
|Thursday||April 4||at Tigers||Jakob Junis|
|Friday||April 5||OFF DAY||OFF|
|Saturday||April 6||at Tigers||Jorge Lopez|
|Sunday||April 7||at Tigers||Brad Keller|
|Monday||April 8||vs.Mariners||Homer Bailey|
|Tuesday||April 9||vs.Mariners||Jakob Junis|
|Wednesday||April 10||vs.Mariners||Fifth Starter|
The Royals were hoping that Danny Duffy could be recovered from his shoulder stiffness in time to pitch by the time a fifth starter is needed, but according to Flanagan, Duffy will need to complete a minor league rehab assignment first, which could delay his return until late April.
Going with a three-man rotation to begin the season could allow the Royals to add another bullpen piece or even another bench player to the roster in the first two weeks. They also would not need to add Homer Bailey to the 40-man roster until his scheduled April 3 start. Bailey has an opt-out in his contract for March 25, but seems unlikely to use it as he seems assured of a roster spot.