Royals Bullpen will have a different look in 2017

Royals Bullpen

MARCH 2017 – Once upon a time, the Kansas City Royals bullpen had HDH, a dominant shut down trio of pitchers.

That would stand for Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

A couple of spring trainings ago, manager Ned Yost was told other teams were trying to replicate the Kansas City Royals’ success with similar bullpens.

“Good luck with that,” Yost replied on finding arms like Herrera, Davis and Holland to close out games.

The Royals bullpen is now down to Herrera. Holland had elbow surgery late in the 2015 season. He sat out last season and signed as a free agent this winter with the Colorado Rockies. Davis was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for right fielder Jorge Soler.

“It’s not going to be the 1-2-3 punch we’ve had the last couple of years,” Royals bullpen coach Doug Henry said of this bullpen.

Herrera will assume the closing role with his high 90s mile per hour fastball. Herrera collected a dozen saves last year when Davis was on the disabled list. He had a 2-6 record with a 2.75 ERA in 72 appearances, striking out 86 in 72 innings while allowing only 57 hits.

“I think he’s ready,” Henry said. “Last year when he took over for Wade a little bit, he showed he was ready to do it.”

“Right about the time Holly was taking over as the closer, I didn’t think Kelvin was ready yet. He learned being the set up guy. He learned being the setup guy that he can get people out at any time. He was facing the top guys in the lineup almost every time.

“He’s definitely got the stuff. He’s definitely got the mentality now.”

Yost and Henry have confidence if the Royals have a lead in the ninth that Herrera will hold it most of the times.

The problem with the Royals bullpen could be getting the ball to Herrera with a lead.

There can be blown saves in the seventh and eighth inning, too.

Joakim Soria, a one-time all-star closer who is coming off the worst year of his career, and rookie left-hander Matt Strahm, who was electric in 21 outings with a 1.23 ERA and striking out 30 in 22 innings

Soria’s seven blown saves ranked third in the majors. He had blown only 28 saves in his previous 10 years in the majors. He logged a career-worst 4.05 ERA with a 5-8 record. Batters blasted 10 home runs off Soria in 66 2/3 innings.

Yost made it clear the Royals need a much better season from Soria, who is in the second year of a three-year $25 million contract.

“He’s got to bounce back from what he did last year,” Yost said. “Jack could still close, in my estimation. And do I think he’ll bounce back? Yeah.”

Soria said the day after the 2016 season, he put it out of his mind.

“It’s not that I don’t think about it,” Soria said. “But you have to move forward. It’s like in any job, you have rough days, you have rough years. But you have to move forward.

“If you’re stuck, you’re just going to be stuck your whole life. And I don’t see myself that way.”

Henry said, “there’s no reason why he can’t be,” a solid reliever again.

“There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be,” Henry said. “He’s been there before. He knows what it takes to do it. We’ve all got faith it’s going to happen this year. And we’re going to need it to happen. He’s going to be a big part of our bullpen.

“As a pitcher we all struggle with confidence every once in a while. It’s a new year. That’s behind him. We’re looking for good things out of him this year.”

Other pieces of the Royals bullpen will be settled in spring training. Left-hander Mike Minor, who has been chiefly a starter throughout his career, has been shifted to the bullpen. He has not pitched in the majors the past two years after having shoulder surgery.

Chris Young, Nathan Karns and Travis Wood are candidates for the final rotation slot, but whomever does not win that job could be a long man out of the Royals bullpen.

Australian Peter Moylan is back on a minor-league with his effective side-arm delivery. Reclamation projects in camp include left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, his second go-around with Kansas City, and Brandon League, who logged 37 games in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners, but did not pitch in the majors last year. The Los Angeles Dodgers released him on July 10 with shoulder issues.

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Article by Alan Eskew.

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