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Starting Pitching Strikes Again

It’s never good or fun to lose to the worst team in baseball. The only fun part about that is the fact that the Twins actually are the worst team in baseball. That’s something I’ll never get tired of hearing. Last night was ugly, and for many fans, the thought is that it spelled the end of Sean O’Sullivan’s tenure as a pitcher on the Kansas City Royals, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. Yes, he was awful last night, and yes he’s been awful pretty much all year, and yes he was pretty awful with the exception of a handful of late season starts, but the Royals traded a pretty productive player for him, and I tend to think that clouds their judgment somewhat when it comes to making decisions.

Let’s get things straight before I go on any further. I am not a Sean O’Sullivan fan. I think I’ve made that painfully clear since starting this blog, and if I haven’t, then I apologize because I think he is absolutely terrible. I just don’t think he’ll get replaced following this start, though he probably should. In the Royals defense, who is available to come up? Mazzaro hasn’t been too bad in AAA, but we’re not even a full month removed from his debacle against the Indians. I’m just not sure you can put him back on a big league roster with a straight face until August or so. I’m still convinced he’ll give you a 4.75 ERA in the back end of the rotation, which isn’t good, but is way better than the alternatives, but I do understand that need to keep him down. Jeff Suppan is no better than O’Sullivan. Mike Montgomery is regressing with his command and is beginning to get hit more than he had, so he has to stay in AAA for awhile longer. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to see what Kevin Pucetas can do, and find out if the Royals truly fleeced the Giants, but he hasn’t been good in AAA either.

The Royals will also point to some bad defense behind O’Sullivan last night in determining whether or not he should make another start. In that six run third inning, O’Sullivan probably would have gotten through that inning allowing only two runs if Mike Aviles hadn’t made the error he did in fielding a pretty easy ground ball. That leads me to my next point. I have been a Mike Aviles supporter for a long time, and I still think he’s a better player than Chris Getz, but he is playing worse baseball than just about anybody on the team right now. He’s unable to make plays on defense, and his offense has been pretty non-existent for awhile now. I’m not exactly sure what to do with him, but if the Royals need a roster spot for Mike Moustakas, I doubt the Royals would lose much sleep over losing Aviles. The only problem is then you don’t have someone who is as versatile as Mike is, and you lose your best option to back up Alcides Escobar. I was a fan of Lance Zawadzki in spring training, but he hasn’t done much in AAA, so he’s not really an option to come up and get playing time at the big league level.

I’ve been beating the Johnny Giavotella drum for awhile, and I’ll do it again here. I would have absolutely no problem with Aviles being taken off the roster in some fashion and replaced with Johnny Giavotella. The only problem is the one I stated above about having no utility infielder since Chris Getz is apparently unable to play anywhere but second base. If he could fill in occasionally at short and third, as well as second, then I’d be ecstatic with this move. Now I’m really getting into the armchair GM mode, but if the Royals can flip Betemit for a capable starter of some sort, then they can bring up Moustakas and Giavotella together and not really miss a beat offensively while simultaneously upgrading their rotation. In trading Betemit I’m not talking about acquiring a Josh Johnson or anything, but maybe a guy like Jason Vargas from the Mariners. I’m talking about a serviceable starter who can give the Royals some innings and not embarrass himself out there. I’d even take a shot on a guy like Carlos Villanueva who Ned Yost knows from his Milwaukee days and has done some starting throughout his career. I don’t know much about him, so it might be a terrible idea, but I’ve seen him pitch five times in my life and he was nasty each time. The point is that the Royals are at the point where they can use their minor league depth to improve the big league club without even trading away their minor league depth. Did that makes sense? I hope so.

One more quick meandering thought before I wrap this thing up. Joakim Soria pitched last night for the first time since being stripped of the closer’s role after Monday’s game, and I have to say that he looked great. His command wasn’t quite at the level of the Soria of old, but it was much better than we’ve been seeing from him. He got a couple swings and misses as well as induced some very weak contact on a couple of ground balls from the Twins in his two innings of work. He got some help on a great play by Escobar, but even that ball wasn’t hit hard at all. We saw some of the awkward swings we’ve grown accustomed to from Joakim Soria’s pitches, so that was a pleasant departure from the rockets he had been giving up. After struggling to record 1-2-3 innings all season (just five total prior to last night), he had two of them in one game. I think the Royals will be pretty quick to get Soria back in the closer’s role, which might be a bit of a mistake, but if he has three or four more outings last night I think we’ll see him entering the game to flames and Welcome to the Jungle again. If they can solve that problem, that would help a great deal.

Back to the original point of this post; we knew coming into the season that the starting pitching would be the Royals biggest downfall, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed. Injuries have proven to be problematic more than in past years because the depth just isn’t there yet to replace the starting pitching like it is in the offense and in the bullpen. It will be soon, though. In spite of their poor play in recent weeks, I’m still very much encouraged about the future of the Royals. I truly believe they are just two good starters and a big bat away from contending in the American League Central. I still think 2013 is the target year, but if Dayton Moore can make a couple of shrewd trades and maybe a couple of nice free agent signings, the division seems up for the taking as soon as next season. Sean O’Sullivan, though, well he can’t be a part of it all.

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