2010 Year In Review: Royals Bullpen

Twenty-two men pitched in relief for the Kansas City Royals in 2010. That seems like an awfully high number, considering a Major League roster only has 25 players. But considering injuries and the constant shuffling of bullpen arms up and down the ranks of the organization, it’s not as much as you’d think.

Of course, when you think of the Royals’ bullpen, only one name comes to mind: Joakim Soria, the team’s closer, the Mexicutioner. And Soria was dominant this year. Besides collecting a career-high 43 saves, he compiled a dazzling 1.78 ERA. But let’s put Soria to the side for now. On Saturday, we’ll unveil the Royals’ 2010 Pitcher of the Year, and I have a hunch we might be discussing Soria then.

The true story of the Royals’ bullpen is the guys who handed the ball to Soria.

For the sake of this article, let’s focus on the four players who pitched the majority of the relief innings for the Royals in 2010: Robinson Tejeda, Dusty Hughes, Blake Wood and Kyle Farnsworth.

We can dispatch with Farnsworth quickly; he was traded to Atlanta in mid-season. But during his 37 appearances in Kansas City, Farnsworth was, surprisingly, brilliant. Over 44.2 innings, he compiled a 2.42 ERA and struck out 36 batters. The first half of the season was probably the best of Farnsworth’s career. In fact, he struggled after the trade to Atlanta, where he posted a 5.40 ERA and pitched only 20 innings for the playoff-bound Braves.

(The moral of the story? This is one of the times when GM Dayton Moore picked exactly the right time to trade a player. The Royals received two mediocre players, Jesse Chavez and Gregor Blanco, and one top-flight prospect, Tim Collins, for Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel.)

Robinson Tejeda was facing a critical year in 2010, and he stepped up to the challenge. Pitching solely out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, Tejeda threw in 54 games and logged 61 innings. His ERA was 3.54, and he struck out 56 batters. Not too shabby. Tejeda is a solid option for setup man next season. Besides Soria, Tejeda has become the biggest sure-thing out of the bullpen.

Dusty Hughes

Behind only Soria, Dusty Hughes appeared in the most games for the Royals’ bullpen in 2010 – 57 – although he threw fewer innings than Tejeda – 56.1. Hughes, a lefty, was given a huge responsibility in 2010 after having only pitched 14 innings of big-league ball in 2009, his first season in the pros. And Hughes, like Tejeda, responded well. His ERA of 3.83 was a touch high, but he was consistently good against both lefties and righties. He’ll definitely be a substantial part of the mix in 2011.

Blake Wood pitched in 51 games for the Royals in 2010, and his ERA was the worst of the Big Four at 5.07. However, Wood could be counted on to eat innings late in the game, and he’ll probably be a part of the bullpen next season.

Royals fans last season also experienced the emergence of Gil Meche as a bullpen arm. After battling injuries, Meche moved himself to the bullpen permanently, and that’s probably where he’ll be in 2011. Over the season, including some rough starts, Meche compiled a 5.69 ERA with 20 appearances, 11 out of the bullpen.

Were there any Royals pitchers who exclusively started last season? Yes, in fact, there were three. Two won’t be surprising: Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies, who made 33 and 32 starts, respectively. The third is a bit of a shocker: Anthony Lerew, who was brilliant in AAA last year but struggled during six starts in the bigs.

Here’s a list of the other players to pitch out of the bullpen for Kansas City in 2010: Brian Bannister (1 game), Bryan Bullington, Jesse Chavez, Bruce Chen, Roman Colon, Juan Cruz, Luke Hochevar (1 game), Greg Holland, Philip Humber, Victor Marte, Luis Mendoza, Sean O’Sullivan (1 game), John Parrish, Josh Rupe, Kanekoa Texeira and Brad Thompson.

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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