If you’re reading this, it’s too late. Jason Vargas has struck you out. Seriously, though, what an outing by him the other night. He just keeps doing it. I wrote last week about how he’s someone who I perpetually overlook and I’m wrong about. I’m just hoping he can keep it up because this offense needs all the help it can get from the rotation. And thankfully they’ve gotten all the help they can get for the most part. It’s just nice to be in a regular baseball flow after the first couple weeks of the season have strange day games and random mid-week off days. Now the Royals are in the middle of a stretch of 61 games and 64 days and it feels like home.
- The Royals bullpen has quietly been a lot better than people realize, I think. Matt Strahm struggled so bad early that he was sent to Omaha after a week. Nate Karns gave up four runs in 2/3 of an inning. Take those two out and the bullpen has posted a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings. I know, you can’t take them out and all that, but Karns isn’t a reliever on this team and Strahm’s performance seems to be pretty clearly an aberration. Travis Wood is still a bit of a concern with more walks than strikeouts and Chris Young is a blowout pitcher, but everything else seems to be falling into place nicely. I’m a little bit concerned about Kelvin Herrera not missing many bats, but he’s also posted a 2.57 ERA, 0.571 WHIP and walked just one without his strikeout pitch working. It’ll be encouraging if he can figure his slider out because that means he’ll have gotten by really without it. If it doesn’t come back, that’s scary. But then there’s Joakim Soria who has looked fantastic (and looked great in the spring) and Peter Moylan. If Strahm can come back rejuvenated from his vacation in Omaha, this bullpen could find itself in the realm of the very good once again. There are still more ifs than we’re used to, but it’s starting to shape up nicely.
- Paulo Orlando’s struggles may end up really helping the Royals out on the PR front. The decision to carry Raul Mondesi as the starting second baseman was a somewhat controversial one given his debut in 2016. Even with some bright spots in 2017, it’s pretty clear he’s not a big leaguer at this point in his career. But with Orlando’s struggles and the need to recall Whit Merrifield because of them, the Royals may have an opportunity to replace Mondesi at second base with Merrifield in the near future without openly saying that Mondesi lost the job. You see, if Whit hits enough, when Jorge Soler eventually returns, the Royals can say that they needed the extra offense Merrifield provides without having to outwardly say that Mondesi simply wasn’t good enough to keep his job. Anyone paying attention will know what really happened, but sometimes a team doesn’t necessarily need to market to them because they’re already paying attention and are invested in the team. I imagine the Royals are hoping Merrifield does indeed hit for more reasons than the help on the field.
- Now, the question related to the previous point is when will Soler be back? When he was diagnosed with the strain, it was called grade one and the thought was that he could be out on a rehab assignment relatively quickly. He aggravated the injury swinging before he was ready to be sent out and the Royals said he’d take a couple days and then be on an assignment by the end of the week. Let’s just say this wouldn’t be the first time the Royals haven’t been completely forthcoming with an injury. And it’s not that they have to be, but they just haven’t been all the time. If Soler is out for longer than expected, I’d really like to see them give Jorge Bonifacio his first shot. Coming into play yesterday, he was hitting .304/.385/.587 with three homers and three other extra base hits. But maybe more importantly, he’s significantly cut down on his strikeouts with a rate of 13.5 percent compared to 23.3 percent last season. The Royals were high enough on Bonifacio a few years ago to cite him as a reason why they were comfortable trading Wil Myers, and he’s really starting to put it all together this season in Omaha. Maybe, just maybe, he’s the answer in the short-term in right field if Soler can’t come back relatively soon.
- The Royals have allowed seven runs in the last seven games. They’ve won five of them. I mean, that’s not good. I don’t know what the answer is because the main problems in this lineup are the fact that Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Brandon Moss are providing next to nothing. I’m not someone who really believes a lineup makes a huge difference, but I wouldn’t be opposed to Yost shaking things up and going against a tough lefty in Cole Hamels makes that make a little more sense. Go ahead and throw Merrifield at the top and maybe get Moustakas in a spot to hit behind Cain. It’s unreal that Cain has a .462 OBP and has scored only five runs this season. It’s not that I actually believe shaking up the lineup will get the struggling guys going, but maybe they can at least cluster the few hitters who are hitting to get some sequencing in there to score a few runs. The Royals have allowed less than five runs in 10 of their 15 games this year. They’ve won seven of those 10. They’re not wasting the pitching as much as you’d think, but they have to do something.