CLEVELAND | Right-hander Brian Bannister knew something was up Sunday when he exited his start at Class AAA Omaha after two scoreless innings. The word didn’t come until late Monday, though, that he was headed back to the big leagues.
The Royals recalled Bannister prior to Tuesday’s series opener against Cleveland. Plans call for him to replace left-hander Horacio Ramirez as the starter for Wednesday’s game against the Indians at Progressive Field.
Ramirez will remain in the bullpen as a replacement for Doug Waechter, who heads to the 15-day disabled list because of a lateral strain in his right elbow. Waechter’s time on the DL is retroactive to April 18.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Bannister said. “It’s too bad that Doug got hurt, but that’s exactly why you have depth at this level. So I was glad to be depth this year and be ready to go when the team needed innings.”
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The Royals opted for Bannister over right-hander Luke Hochevar, who seemed positioned as the stronger recall candidate even before he limited Albuquerque to one run in eight innings Monday in a 7-2 victory.
Hochevar is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts, while Bannister is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in three starts.
“We had scouts see every one of their starts,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “Both of them were throwing great. It was just easier to line up Banny than Hoch (in the rotation). That’s just the way it fell.”
Bannister, 28, was 9-16 with a 5.76 ERA last season in 32 starts and lost his job in the rotation by continuing to pitch poorly in spring training. He struggled in his first start at Omaha but pitched seven shutout innings April 14 at Round Rock.
Waechter began the season with two scoreless appearances but yielded two home runs in one inning Friday at Texas.
“There was some stuff going on in my elbow,” he said, “and it wasn’t getting any better with what we were doing. They thought it would be smart to have an MRI and make sure I wasn’t doing any serious harm to the arm by continuing to throw.”
The MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam revealed a strain. The Royals hope rest and treatment over the next five-to-seven days will permit Waechter to test his elbow next week on a minor-league rehab assignment.
“As far as I know,” Waechter said, “I’ll start throwing here in a week or less and get right back out there. I’m planning on this not being a big deal at all. I’m planning on being back ASAP.”
Ramirez acknowledged he was disappointed at losing his spot in the rotation, although he had made just one start this season because of open dates in the schedule. He had been slotted to start Wednesday before Bannister rejoined the club.
“I guess it’s best for the team,” said Ramirez, who signed last December with the Royals as a free agent because of the opportunity to pitch as a starter.
“So we’ll just move forward whether I like it or not.”
Ramirez has allowed seven runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings this season while making two relief appearances this season in addition to his one start. But he compiled a 2.59 ERA last season in 15 relief outings for the Royals before an Aug. 9 trade sent him to the White Sox.
“We needed to add another bullpen piece,” Moore said. “After looking at all of the alternatives, we felt Horacio was the best person to go into the bullpen and pitch those middle innings. Then it came down to whom do you want to come up here and start?”