Tag Archive | "Spring Performance"

St. Louis Cardinals’ Bullpen Battle Takes Center Stage for Roster Decisions

The St. Louis Cardinals came to spring training with very few roster decisions to make.  Most of those decisions have been reached in the last few days.

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Kolten Wong appears to be the starting second baseman, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos will share time in center field, Joe Kelly will be the fifth starter, Carlos Martinez will serve as the eighth-inning reliever and Pat Neshek has seemingly made the club.  That leaves only one decision to be made: Which pitcher will join the bullpen as the seventh reliever?

The competition comes down to three young hopefuls: Jorge Rondon, Scott McGregor and Keith Butler.  Those three arms head into the final week of spring training hoping to win a spot on the roster of players heading north to Cincinnati for Opening Day.

Butler is the known commodity of the group, having pitched 20 innings over 16 games for the Cardinals in 2013.  His performance was far from dominant, walking 11 hitters while striking out 16, but it is enough to earn him consideration yet again.

His spring performance does not look that great either, having thrown just over eight innings and surrendering eight runs.  His five walks this spring may raise a flag concerning control.  His minor league stats from 2013 do not seem to suggest it is a long term problem, as he only walked 11 hitters over 41 innings.

Rondon is another in the long line of power arms the Cardinals seem to be able to produce from their farm system.  The difference with him is that he may not have full control over the lively stuff he pushes across the plate.  He has only walked three hitters this spring while striking out seven.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that Rondon has yet to surrender a run.  Rondon did pitch in Memphis last season and did well despite the control issues he faced.  In just under 68 innings, he walked 37 hitters while striking out 42.  He may need a little more time in the minors to prove he has his control settled before making the team.

Manager Mike Matheny shared his thoughts on Rondon with Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

With Rondon, you’re looking at stuff and someone who has improved.  We gave him a task of pounding the strike zone and simplifying his approach. He’s done well and seen some results.

The long shot of the group is McGregor, who is a non-roster invitee to camp.  His four innings over three games this spring have yielded three runs, two walks and a pair of strikeouts.  McGregor spent 2013 as a starter in the Cardinals’ minor leagues and is seemingly being looked at as a long relief option.

While he struggles for consistency as well as playing time, his placement on the team would also require a subsequent roster move to make room on the 40-man.

Rondon and McGregor may have taken advantage of the situation to get their names in the minds of those in charge.  Unfortunately, it may come down to experience and the product Matheny already knows.

The final relief position likely belongs to Butler unless something goes horribly wrong.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.

Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Kansas City Royals’ Rotation Finalized: What About Danny Duffy?

The Kansas City Royals have put the final touches on their starting rotation.  Throughout the spring, a competition was formed between Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura for the final spot in the rotation.  On Monday, that competition officially came to a close.

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Manager Ned Yost announced on Monday to a group of reporters, including Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, that there was no reason to hold back the announcement of the decision for the fifth starter.  With Duffy struggling this spring and Ventura being downright dominant, the time had come to make the decision official.

Ventura had thrown six shutout innings, striking out six Texas Rangers, on Monday night to solidify the decision.  That performance lowered Ventura’s spring ERA to 1.76 while elevating his strikeout total to 15 in just over 15 innings pitched.  The hard-throwing youngster did everything to prove that he was ready for this opportunity.

Competitions have winners and losers, however, and Duffy now finds himself on the outside looking in.  Early indications of the competition were that the loser would likely find himself in the starting rotation at Triple-A Omaha.  Due to the injury sustained by Luke Hochevar, now Duffy will be given the opportunity to claim the last bullpen spot.

The subject at hand is now which role better benefits Duffy in the long term?  He may be capable of claiming the final bullpen role but, despite his oddly weak spring performance, he has traditionally been a more than capable starter.

Ultimately, Duffy could see time as a starter this year and likely stands as the first player to receive a start should any of the current staff falter or become injured.  While sending him to Omaha may not be the best choice for his confidence, it may be the best option the team has for utilizing him efficiently later. Should someone find themselves hurt, it may be harder to slide Duffy out of the bullpen and into the rotation than it would to simply call him up from the minors.

Ventura pitched well enough to prove that he was ready.  He is likely the right man for the job.  Duffy carries the confidence of past success.  He has proven he can win at this level.

Both men will likely be in the rotation before the end of the season.  Until then, the question remains, what should be done with Duffy?

 

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season

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Five storylines from Kansas City Royals camp

This has been an interesting spring for the Kansas City Royals. Some position battles have been settled, while others are still being hotly contested. Some players have sizzled in the Cactus League, while others have struggled. There is no shortage of news as Opening Day is inching closer and closer. Here are five storylines from Royals camp:

1) Yordano Ventura will crack starting rotation

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Ventura was in a battle for a spot in the Royals rotation this spring, with his main competition being Danny Duffy. Well it didn't end up being much of a battle in the end. Ventura has dazzled this spring forcing manager Ned Yost to name him as one of his five starters. After Ventura pitched six scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Rangers on Monday there really wasn't a choice for Yost.

"We knew this was probably the way it was going to go," Yost said after Ventura pitched six innings of four-hit ball in a St. Patrick's Night, 6-0, greening of the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. "After tonight I think we've just seen enough. There's no reason not to announce this now." -Royals.com


Yost also told Royals.com that Ventura will slide into the third spot in the rotation behind James Shields and Jason Vargas, rather than as a fifth starter like many expected. This spring, Ventura has a 1.76 ERA over 15.1 innings and has held batters to a .185 average.

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Fourteen Players, Three Roster Spots

For the first time in several years, the Royals lineup, starting rotation and bullpen is pretty much set, barring injuries. But opportunities exist for some players to get a spot on the bench.

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It’s likely Manager Ned Yost will go with 12 pitchers and a backup catcher. Add the eight position players and the designated hitter and there’s only three reserve player spots available. How many players are vying for those three spots? Fourteen.

Of the fourteen, three of them are long shots. Infielder Brandon Wood signed a Minor League contract and is a non-roster invitee. A former top prospect with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Wood’s last stint in the Majors was 99 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.

Royals Minor League infielder Anthony Seratelli is a non-roster invitee who provides Spring Training depth, but little else.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Luis Durango played 39 Major League games from 2009-2011 with the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros. He’s likely be in AAA Omaha’s outfield or could be released.

The next group could make the club, but a few things are going to have to go their way. Non-roster invitee Xavier Nady is an 11-year Major League veteran who’s played with several different teams. He’ll get an opportunity as a reserve outfielder or first baseman.

Former Royal and non-roster invitee Endy Chavez will see some time in the outfield during Spring Training, but barring a great spring performance or injuries to other players, Chavez has a slim chance.

The Player to be Named Later in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade is utility infielder Elliot Johnson, who played 123 games for the Tampa Rays last year. Being the Royals newest player, Johnson will get a long look as a backup to shortstop Alcides Escobar.

Non-roster invitee outfielder Willy Taveras provides some speed and seven years of Major League experience. If he has a good spring, he could be a reserve outfielder if Jarrod Dyson falters.

Royals infield prospect Christian Colon only has two seasons of pro baseball, but if he plays well, he might be in the mix for second base. But if the Royals think he needs more seasoning, he’ll go back to the Minors.

Outfielder David Lough played 20 games last year for the Royals, but Dyson will have to stumble for Lough to make the club.

And there’s longtime Royals farmhand Irving Falu, who played 24 games for the Royals in 2012. Seeing how few opportunities the club gives him, it’s likely Falu ends up in Omaha, even if he deserves a real shot of making the club as a utility infielder.

The next group is the most likely to make the club, due to their contributions to the Royals last year or their veteran status.

Whoever loses the second base battle between Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella will end up on the bench, so that leaves two spots on the bench.

Outfielder Jarrod Dyson had a solid 2012 filling in for the oft-injured Lorenzo Cain. Dyson isn’t much of a hitter, but he’s got speed and plays a decent outfield. If Cain stays healthy, Dyson is a good fourth outfielder and will take the second spot on the bench, with one spot left.

So who gets the last reserve roster spot? I believe the Royals will give it to six-time All-Star and 2002 MVP infielder Miguel Tejada. He’s not the player he was ten years ago, but as a bench player in a limited utility role, he can play a serviceable third base, shortstop and even second. Perhaps “veteran leadership” is a baseball myth, but Tejada has the right attitude to provide guidance for a young team.

Sure, some fans might think the Royals have no business giving a roster spot to a 38-year old player whose best days are behind him. But he’s not taking the starting job of a younger player and you have to admit he’s probably a better player than Yuni Betancourt.

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