Mike Matheny has settled on a five-man rotation to begin the year and has already decided on the first four spots, according to his comments to Anne Rogers on Monday. The skipper indicated Zack Greinke will begin the season opener against Cleveland on Thursday, followed by Brad Keller, left-hander Kris Bubic, and fireballing right-hander Carlos Hernández.
The leaves one more spot in the rotation, and Matheny indicates that it will likely come down to lefty Daniel Lynch and right-hander Brady Singer.
“Truthfully, it’s coming down to Lynch and Singer,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “… Some of it is how guys respond out of the ‘pen, and we’ve had a chance to see Heasley out of the ‘pen. For whatever reason, his mind is built to do that. Jackson seems very comfortable with it.
Singer has been part of the rotation the past two seasons with a 4.62 ERA in 39 starts, but a 4.05 FIP and 192 strikeouts in 192 2⁄3 innings. He received a Rookie of the Year vote in 2021, but his numbers took a step backward last year. He did suffer from some bad luck, like a .350 BABIP, and he was still one of the best in the league last year at keeping balls from leaving the park and had the third-best called strike rate in the majors. The Royals have tried to get him to develop a third pitch to go with his sinking fastball and slider, but Singer threw his change up just 89 times last year, although with some effectiveness.
Daniel Lynch had an inauspicious MLB debut, but pitched much better after a demotion to Omaha and return to the big leagues in late July. He tossed eight shutout innings against Detroit and finished with a 4.35 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 60 innings over his final 12 starts. The lefty featured a great slider that opposing hitters whiffed on 41.8 percent of the time, hitting just .188 against. But they hit .381 against his fastball, which sets in the mid-90s.
Lynch made his last spring training start on Sunday, giving up three runs in 4 2⁄3 innings against Seattle. He ends the exhibition schedule with a 4.38 ERA in 12 1⁄3 innings with 7 strikeouts and 2 walks. Singer has a 6.14 ERA in 7 1⁄3 innings with 7 strikeouts and 7 walks.
Daniel Lynch on making a case to be on the roster to start the season: "I came in really prepared. I did everything I needed to do, and the rest is not up to me. Obviously, I really want that." #Royals pic.twitter.com/duZNlqRUCw— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) April 4, 2022
The Royals plan to have rookies Jackson Kowar and Jonathan Heasley as starters, but they will begin the season in the bullpen as long relievers. With a shortened spring training, many expect starting pitchers to be on pretty limited pitch counts initially. Kowar and Heasley can piggy-back with starters to give the Royals more innings. General Manager J.J. Picollo expects the pitching roles to be pretty fluid to begin the year.
“We’re going to reach a point where if the starters are throwing well, the long man isn’t going to be as necessary,” Picollo added. “When you’re talking about young prospects in the Major Leagues not pitching a whole lot, then we’ll have to make some choices. That won’t be until the first week of May, and so many things can happen between now and then. But it is something we have to prepare for. The way we break, we’ll have plenty of innings in the bullpen.”
Because the schedule was re-done, the Royals will have an off-day the day after Opening Day, but won’t have another one until April 18. Rosters will be expanded to 28 until May 1, allowing the Royals to carry more pitchers than they ordinarily would.
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