Royals manager Mike Matheny announced today that pitcher Brad Keller will be moved to the bullpen, and that the starter for Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay is to be determined.
It has been an up-and-down season for the 27-year-old right-hander. He gave up eight runs in just three innings this week against the Dodgers, the second time in three starts he has given up eight runs. But he sandwiched in a one-run, six-inning performance against Boston in between those starts. Overall, Keller has a 4.93 ERA and a 4.66 FIP with a career-low 6.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Keller voiced his frustrations after his last outing.
“It’s frustrating,” Keller said. “The model of this game is consistency. Being inconsistent right now is really frustrating. Having one good one, one bad one follow it. I’ve kind of been pinballing back and forth. I need to level the ship and focus on the next one, and finish the season strong.”
Keller has always walked a fine line due to his inability to miss bats. He is actually throwing a bit harder this year, averaging a career-best 94.4 mph on his fastball. But that may be part of the problem, as Keller has typically thrived when he gets late break on his fastball due to a “seam-shifted wake”, inducing poor contact.
Jonathan Heasley started on Tuesday for Omaha, so he is not likely to be a candidate to start on Thursday. Jackson Kowar started on Sunday for the Storm Chasers which would make it unlikely, although he only went four innings. Max Castillo, who was acquired from Toronto at the deadline went three innings last week and could be a candidate. Austin Cox and Drew Parrish are also possibilities to get called up, although they have had mixed results and would need to be added to the 40-man roster, unlike Castillo. Luke Weaver, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in July, could also be a possibility to start, although he pitched in relief on Tuesday. Carlos Hernandez could also be a candidate, although he has struggled in his MLB performance this year.
Keller will go into his last year of arbitration this off-season, where he will look for a raise from his $4.825 million salary. His performance this year could make him a non-tender candidate, although the Royals may look at his performance in the pen as a way to see if he can still have value. Or the Royals may view the demotion as a brief one, to get Keller to work on mechanics.