KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals yielded to the crushing evidence of Jonathan Sanchez's ineffectiveness Tuesday afternoon by designating him for assignment before their game against the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium.
The decision came one day after Sanchez's record dipped to 1-6 and his ERA climbed to 7.76 after allowing seven runs in 1 1/3 innings in a 9-4 loss to the Mariners.
“Outing to outing, we just kept evaluating it,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We just felt a change was required at this point in time.”
The Royals also optioned outfielder Jason Bourgeois to Triple-A Omaha to clear the necessary roster space to recall left-hander Ryan Verdugo and right-hander Vin Mazzaro from the Storm Chasers.
Verdugo, 25, made his major-league debut Tuesday as the Royals' starting pitcher, while Mazzaro will serve as the bullpen's long reliever.
Both could be short-term fits.
All signs point to lefty Will Smith being recalled prior to the weekend to fill Sanchez's spot in the rotation. Smith, 23, was unavailable Tuesday because he threw 102 pitches last Friday in seven innings.
Smith is 3-0 in his last four minor-league starts while allowing just four earned runs in 27 2/3 innings. He was 1-2 in three big-league starts earlier this season while allowing 14 runs in 14 innings.
Manager Ned Yost conceded Verdugo's promotion stemmed largely from “availability,” and would “probably” get only one start before returning to Omaha or, possibly, shifting to the bullpen.
“We'll see,” Yost said, “but you look at his numbers, and they're pretty good down there. He's got 19 less hits (allowed) than innings pitched. Mazzaro is here right now just to provide protection. I don't know how long it's going to be. This is all day to day.”
Tuesday's moves addressed an immediate need for a starting pitcher and a long reliever following Sanchez's disastrous start in Monday's loss. Yost used Louis Coleman for 2 2/3 innings before calling on Everett Teaford for five innings.
Teaford had been scheduled to start Tuesday's game.
Verdugo is 6-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 18 games at Omaha, including 15 starts, and is well-rested. He has pitched just one inning since July 5 largely because the Royals wanted him available if needed for a spot start.
Mazzaro, 25, returned from Omaha for the third time this season. He is 3-3 with a 5.70 ERA in eight previous big-league games, including six starts. He hadn't pitched since Friday, when he worked two innings in closing out Smith's latest victory.
Bourgeois' playing time dwindled when Lorenzo Cain returned last Friday from the disabled list. Bourgeois was eight for 19 in 12 games following his June 27 recall but has served only as a pinch-runner since Cain's return.
“We want him playing,” Yost said of Bourgeois. “He did a really nice job, once he got into the swing of things, in a platoon situation. We don't want him just sitting up here as a pinch runner.”
Sanchez admitted he is frustrated at his season-long struggles.
“When it doesn't work,” he said, “it's pretty frustrating. What can I say? I've just got to move forward and keep working and see what happens.”
By designating Sanchez for assignment, the Royals effectively acknowledged one of the worst trades in franchise history: They sent outfielder Melky Cabrera to San Francisco on Nov. 7, 2011, for Sanchez and Verdugo.
Heading into Tuesday's games, Cabrera was batting .353 while leading the National League in hits and was picked last week as the Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium.
“Based on all of the information we had at the time,” Moore said, “and where we were economically — and opening up an opportunity (in center field) for Lorenzo Cain — it was the right baseball move for our team.
”We were a better team, on balance and on paper, when we made that deal. You want them all to work out (for both teams), but most of the time they don't — unfortunately. It's just part of the business, and you move on.“
The Royals will eat about $2.5 million in guaranteed salary to Sanchez barring a trade or a waiver claim. Neither possibility seems likely — especially a waiver claim, which would require a club to take on the balance of Sanchez's salary.
Moore and Yost each expressed hope Sanchez, if he isn't traded or claimed, would agree to go to Omaha.
“His stuff is still there,” Yost said. “You watch him on the side. When he throws on the side, it's there, but it gets lost in the transition somehow (to the game).”
Sanchez has sufficient service time to reject a minor-league assignment and become a free agent while receiving the balance of his salary. Another club could sign him as a free agent for a pro-rated portion of the $480,000 minimum salary.
The Royals would be obligated for the balance of Sanchez's $5.6 million deal.
“I'd love to have him in Omaha,” Moore said, “and try to work through some things. Let me put it this way: If he was just released by another organization, we'd be pursuing him to go to Triple-A.”