The Kansas City Royals are 24-22. Fans should be content with that result considering recent struggles. Perhaps one reason the Royals have been unable to gain any traction this season has been their inability to win on the road. They’ve fared well at home, going 13-7 through the first twenty games. But they’ve posted almost the exact opposite record on the road, an 8-13 mark.
Is Mike Minor the solution to the Royals’ pitching woes?
Pitching is where the major concerns and inconsistencies lie. On the road, they posted a 4.58 ERA ahead of last Friday’s game, to go along with a miserable 1.56 strikeout-to-walk. Although the ERA is a dependable 3.31 at home, it is safe to say that it’s not the bullpen causing the damage. It boils down to finding some level of consistency in the starting rotation.
Dillon Gee and Danny Duffy have pitched fairly decent in the absence of Kris Medlen and Chris Young, who are both currently on the DL. However, Gee or Duffy may not necessarily be the long term solution to the Royals pitching problems. Kansas City needs help in the starting rotation, plain and simple. That help could soon be on the way, in the form of Mike Minor.
Minor pitched in five seasons with the Atlanta Braves and started 110 out of 111 games, with a career 4.29 ERA. He joined the Royals’ organization when he signed a two-year, $7.2 million contract after missing all of 2015 with shoulder surgery. Minor is recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which required an operation last May. After spending all of April and early May in Surprise, Arizona, he made two starts for Class-AA Northwest Arkansas, allowing three earned runs in 7.2 innings. When healthy, Minor has pitched pretty well. During the 2013 season, Minor started 32 games, throwing 204.2 innings for a 3.21 ERA. Minor started alongside Medlen in Atlanta. The presence of a familiar face should help Minor when he gets back to the big leagues this season. Ironically, Minor and Medlen are both fighting for a starting rotation spot.
In his third rehab start, the lefty allowed four runs and five hits in five innings for Class-AAA Omaha on Friday night in Reno, Nevada, against the Aces, the Class-AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Minor struck out five and walked three while throwing eighty-two pitches. It was his longest outing since departing extended spring training earlier this month. Overall, Minor has a 4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings in three rehab starts in AA NW Arkansas and AAA Omaha. Although that sounds underwhelming, he has recorded seventeen strikeouts.
The good news is that Mike Minor is throwing harder in his rehab assignment at AAA Omaha than he did in his dominant 2013 season for the Atlanta Braves, when he finished 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA in thirty-two starts. That was the last season Minor was fully healthy. Now, he’s hitting mid-90s on the radar gun. Minor will be eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list in June. Barring any setbacks, Royals officials believe he could be ready to join the team during the first week of the month. It’s worth noting his role is still uncertain. He could bolster the starting rotation, or slip into a role out of the bullpen.
Nevertheless, the Royals could use the help. Despite solid performances by Gee and Duffy subbing for injured starters, the Kansas City starters rank eighth in the AL with a 4.59 ERA. The idea is that Minor will join the Kansas City Royals rotation as the guy that put up a 13-9 record with a 3.21 ERA in the National League before his shoulder injury. The news of his increased velocity is a promising sign that he could be the missing puzzle piece to the Royals rotation.