Sunday, April 02, 2006

Bullpen Bull

As you can tell from the title of the post, I am not thrilled with the latest decisions regarding the composition of the Royals' bullpen. What once looked to be the sole strength of the team entering the season now looks to be muddled, at best. I will grant that much of the problem stems from injury to Mike MacDougal, but nearly every move made in the shuffle to fill his closer spot looks to be wrong.

Moving Ambiorix Burgos to the closer role was fine, but it created a trickle down affect. Burgos' promotion meant a new hole was created in short relief, and power arms are always preferable in that capacity. Andy Sisco will be returning as the left-handed short man. The righty, in Burgos' place, could have been Joel Peralta or Steve Andrade (who, you will note, The KC Star refers to as "Shane"), but it won't be. Peralta was sent out yesterday, and Andrade was designated for assignment, likely to be reclaimed by the Blue Jays since he was a Rule 5 guy. The Royals kept neither guy, going instead with Steve Stemle, a converted starter who has only been pitching in relief since 2004 and has a career major league ERA of 5.06.

Sorry, I don't get it. Either Peralta or Andrade would have been a better fit, particularly because the other four guys who will start the year in the bullpen are all better suited to be long relievers. Elmer Dessens, Mike Wood, Jimmy Gobble, and Luke Hudson are all former starters, and one of them, Hudson, is probably still best served by being in Omaha's rotation. A pen of Burgos as closer, Sisco and Peralta as the lefty-righty team to get through the 7th and 8th innings, with Andrade as an extra arm for those situations, and Wood and Dessens as long relievers who can spot start is far more attractive.

Yes, it means Jimmy Gobble would have to go through waivers, since this pen only calls for six arms instead of seven and Gobble is out of minor league options. But I've got news for you; Whether he's demoted now or in the future, he's always going to be out of those options and will therefore always have to go through waivers. And let's be clear, Jimmy Gobble WILL be demoted eventually. He's a known quantity, a soft-tossing lefty with a career major league ERA (5.27) significantly higher than his career mark for strikeouts per nine innings (4.18). He's no great loss if some other team wants him.

As it is, Gobble will be the seventh man in a seven-man pen, getting only slop innings. And Hudson and Stemle, two unproven guys as relievers, will be taking innings away from a proven big league pitcher, Peralta, and one with a lot of promise, Andrade. We can only hope that upon MacDougal's return, one of these guys will be cut loose and the pen will revert to be a source of hope instead of heartburn.

Other Royals Notes:

  • Chip Ambres turned down the chance to be a free agent and accepted a minor league assignment in Omaha. That's good news, because having a pair of guys in Triple A (Ambres and Aaron Guiel) with major league experience buys the youngsters in Double A Wichita some extra time to develop and limits Allard Baird's temptation to do something like call up Billy Butler in June. And I'm all in favor of any move that reduces Allard's opportunities to be stupid.

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