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Bullpen Takes Shape

I really hope that Dusty Hughes wasn’t in Kansas City for Fanfest because that would be an incredibly awkward conversation that Dayton Moore would have been forced to have with him if he was. Hughes was designated for assignment to make room for Jeff Francis on the 40 man roster which pretty much opens the door for Tim Collins to make the Opening Day roster as the main lefty out of the pen. When I wrote my post about the bullpen a couple of months ago, I left Collins off because he had so little experience in AAA, and I thought that the Royals would want to leave him down there for a bit to get a little more experience. At the time I would have had no qualms about him being in the Major League bullpen and I still don’t. I think it’ll be nice to have a lefty out there who can strike people out with some regularity.

The Royals did Dusty Hughes a favor. They have allowed him to start his journey to play for 14 different teams and be one of the guys who ends up on a roster out of spring training that surprises fans. The phrase, ‘he’s still playing?’ should be one that he overhears in the stands a lot as his career goes on. Gil Meche’s retirement opens up the door for Bruce Chen, so the 40 man roster is again sitting at 40 players, which is an incredibly novel concept. With the retirement of Meche, the Royals bullpen has gone from a good mix of veterans and younger players to Soria, Tejeda and younger players. Just so we’re clear, I’m very pleased with that. I’m not quite sure who gets the golden ticket to replace Meche, and there’s every chance that it’s someone like Kanekoe Texeira who is legitimately probably not a part of the future, but it could also be someone like Louis Coleman or even a chance to break in someone like Aaron Crow out of the bullpen. As it stands right now, the bullpen is pretty righty heavy, but there are left-handed candidates like Everett Teaford or any of the young lefties if the Royals want to go the Earl Weaver way.

The thing that I find amazing about this Royals team is that about six weeks ago, they were carrying over $60 million in payroll and now they’re sitting at under $40 million (I think, I haven’t added it up in the last couple of days). The highest player on the roster right now is Joakim Soria with a $4 million salary, and could only be replaced by Billy Butler who has asked for $4.3 million in arbitration while the Royals have countered with $3.4 million. I think it is at least a possibility that the Royals don’t meet in the middle and give him a little more, and I think it’s also a possibility that they work out a long-term deal that pays him about $4 million in 2011. Either way, barring a surprising trade, the Royals highest paid player will make under $5 million.

The amazing thing about that is that this team actually has a chance to be way more talented than last year’s squad that had a payroll of about $70 million. They could very well lose 110 games in 2011, but it should be plenty of fun to watch this team this year because players all around the diamond either have upside or interesting stories. Cabrera and Francouer are probably the two most boring players on the roster until Kendall returns, which is hopefully a long, long time, and even they have a career to revitalize. Those stories always interest me. Jose Bautista is an extreme example, but watching him do what he did last year was absolutely fascinating to me. Watching a player on the tipping point of his career, which is where Cabrera and Francouer are, is truly fun to watch. Now, if it’s clear by mid-May that their career is not getting righted, then it gets boring.

Back to the bullpen, though, I love the versatility that Yost is going to have. I hope he continues to use Tejeda in his role as the stopper, and he’s brought into games whenever needed, especially if a strikeout is the cure for what ails the team at the time. I love the Coleman could be brought in for a bit of a weird angle from the right side while Collins can be the surprising little guy who can throw in the 90s. I think if Sean O’Sullivan is in the pen that he might actually be quite effective as a long reliever. With the inexperience and question marks in the Royals rotation, the bullpen is actually an incredibly important part of this team in cleaning up messes and pitching a fair amount of innings. Normally, it’d bother me for a team to leave such an important responsibility to young guys, but this team is learning and rebuilding and it’s fine with me. It probably helps that one of the top five closers in all of baseball is anchoring the back end of the pen.

I keep saying, and I’m not going to change my tune; this Royals team may be terrible, but they are going to be fun to watch and just get more entertaining as the season goes on. I’ve got stir fever with baseball. Just 24 more days before pitchers and catchers report and then it’s finally here. I cannot wait.

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  1. TCreecy
    January 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I have a feeling that by season’s end this bullpen(consisting of Coleman, Collins, Blaine Hardy, Tejeda and Soria) will be the best pen the Royals have had in a LONG time. If you think about the 2008 season when Mahay & Ramon Ramirez were rock solid, setting up Soria the team was near unbeatable with a lead after 6 or 7 innings. I have a feeling that this will be the case again late this year. The problem(at least in 2010) will be finding starting to get them there.

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