The weather looms as the most significant potential disruptor to the Royals’ rotation over the next five days — storms postponed Friday’s game to a split doubleheader Saturday with the Yankees, and they’re forecast to follow the Royals to their early-week trip to Chicago.
It’s a factor in the short term. But not the only one over the long-term.
Kansas City starters have compiled a 5.39 earned run average this season, 25th in baseball. That’s half a run worse than the mark in 2018. Three men in the rotation — Jakob Junis, Homer Bailey and Jorge Lopez have earned run averages of 5.69 or worse.
The Royals don’t appear to make wholesale changes. With a young team finding its way, there’s an element of patience.
But with a limit.
“There’s still urgency to it,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You’re going to have to come out and do something. We’re not gonna look at it all year long like that. You’re gonna have to do something.”
If — and this is truly an if — they do elect to make changes, there is a candidate making a case for a spot. He’s currently residing in the bullpen.
Glenn Sparkman lowered his ERA to 2.95 earlier this week. He was offered a spot start earlier this month — the second game of a doubleheader — and excelled in that role, limiting the then first-place Rays to four base runners over seven scoreless innings. Even if the performance didn’t seal him a permanent spot in the rotation — his next four outings have come in a relief role — it altered his approach to the game.
“Yeah, 100 percent — that definitely changed things for me,” Sparkman said. “After that, I took a deep breath, like, you know what, I’ve been making it a lot harder than it needs to be. Just trying to stay relaxed out there. Just being confident in myself and trusting everything that I’ve put work into and that it will come out on the field.”
In May, Sparkman has a 0.61 ERA. He’s struck out 13 and walked just two over 14 2/3 innings, with a WHIP south of 1.
The front office still views his future as a starter, even if that future isn’t right now.
“More consistent. More confidence. Trusting his stuff more. More conviction, I think,” Yost said.
The patience is present for now, but if Sparkman continues to throw well, he could force an increasingly difficult decision. Bailey has a 6.13 ERA, though he isn’t much of a bullpen candidate. Lopez is 0-5 with a 6.04 ERA. The Royals remain bullish on his stuff, but it isn’t showing in the results. Not yet.
Well, except in a recent relief appearance. Lopez, who once bolstered Milwaukee’s bullpen, had his turn skipped in the rotation this week. In his lone relief outing of the year on Wednesday, he threw two scoreless innings, allowing just one walk.
He’s in line to start the second half of the doubleheader Saturday.
“His tempo was better. He was more on the attack,” Yost said. “I thought he threw the ball really well (for) two innings. Now take that and put it in your starts, and we’ll have something.”