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Royals insert Vin Mazzaro into starting rotation

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Yesterday, the Kansas City Royals placed starting pitcher Bruce Chen on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his back. In his place on the roster and in the rotation will be Vin Mazzaro.

Vin Mazzaro was originally slated to join the season the Royals rotation as soon as they needed a fifth starter, however his first game at AAA Omaha was a complete disaster. He walked 7 batters in 2.1 innings and gave up 5 earned runs and pitched his way out of the rotation and the Royals gave Sean O'Sullivan his spot.

Mazzarro's shot at sticking in the rotation begins tonight at Yankee Stadium, which is no small obstacle to overcome. He's a command pitcher who throws a low 90's fastball and relies heavily on his above average slider. He's been working on adding another off-speed pitch to his arsenal, but it's unclear at this point whether he's done so.

The interesting question is what happens if he pitches well until Bruce Chen gets back from his stint on the disabled list? I honestly don't even have an inkling as to what they would do in that scenario. Let's look at each candidate to see what might take place.

Bruce Chen

He's clearly earned his spot in the rotation. When he comes back, he's in the rotation. His injury seems minor, so he should be back soon. He is scheduled to come off the DL on May 21.

Luke Hochever

He started Opening Day and has pitched pretty well though he's still been prone to the big inning. If he's healthy, he's another untouchable guy this season.

Kyle Davies

Kyle Davies demise has been predicted for a long time by Royals fans. He's become the whipping boy of the fanbase and with an ERA of 7.08 he looks like a prime candidate for replacement. However, he's actually pitching pretty well right now. He has a team-leading and career-high strikeout rate that he's matching with a career low walk rate. He finally seems to have begun trusting his stuff and started pounding the strike zone. I know that people want him gone, but I don't envision a non-injury scenario that pushes him out within the next mont.

Jeff Francis

He pitched really well in his first four games, then terrible in the next three and did well in his last start. I don't think anyone is quite sure what the Royals have in Jeff Francis right now. He's not likely in the Royals future plans, but they would like to trade him if the season goes south. If he isn't in the rotation, he isn't going to be traded. He's a veteran presence who the Royals like in the locker room and in the rotation. However, I think he is a prime candidate to be replaced by Mazzaro. If Mazzaro pitches well, I can envision a scenario where Francis could use some time to rest and has a small tweak in his arm. He goes to the DL for a short stint and Mazzaro keeps pitching.

Sean O'Sullivan

The real battle here is O'Sullivan vs Mazzaro. It sounds like a prize-fight from the early 1900's between two New York immigrants, but unfortunately it won't be half as intriguing. O'Sullivan's spot in the rotation belonged to Mazzaro and they will battle it out again for the rights to it. O'Sullivan has been effective, but his numbers indicate that it's all smoke-and-mirrors. His strikeout rate and walk rate are the worst in the rotation and that eventually will catch up to a pitcher. May 21 might not be enough time for Mazzaro to unseat O'Sullivan, but it's looking like round 1 of 15.

The situation is still murky and picking the starting five a month from now is exceedingly difficult. It's possible, though unlikely that the Royals could go with something less traditional like a six man rotation. Ned Yost doesn't seem like a manager who likes to get too far outside of the traditional way of thinking and I don't see him wanting to surrender another bullpen arm. It all starts tonight in Yankee Stadium, and I'm interested to see how it all plays out.

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Nick Scott is a contributor to Royals Authority and is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast, you can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Comments

parrothead8 3 years, 4 months ago

Here comes the decline of the starting pitching staff that both you and I have predicted on more than one occasion.

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kcgregory 3 years, 4 months ago

I actually think this is the first step in improving the starting pitching. I'm not ready to argue that Mazzaro should be in the rotation instead of Chen, but I think he belongs. Hopefully he'll prove that over the next couple of starts and when Chen is healthy he can come back and replace someone else. I'm not ready for Duffy or Monty yet, but talk to me in 4-6 weeks and there's a couple more ways the rotation can improve. I'm still more worried about our bats regressing to prior expectations because the staff has room for improvement and the pieces are in the system to provide it.

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Nick Scott 3 years, 4 months ago

I have a good feeling about Mazzaro. I think he could be a decent upgrade, or at worst a nice replacement for an injured pitcher. Depth is the one thing I think the Royals bullpen has. In the past they would put a pitcher on the DL and replace him with junk.

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camper 3 years, 4 months ago

This is a good move and I'm ok with giving Mazzaro a shot. If he pitches well, the Royals have a "good" problem. If not, they get a chance to preview Mazzaro and find out what they have. Sooner or later a call-up will stick as they say....and I suppose this is how one makes it to the big leagues.

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llama726 3 years, 4 months ago

SOS, I think, could develop into a serviceable #4 starter. The key for him tonight? He brought it, quickly, and had a great rhythm. Mazzaro looked out of sorts, but Sean came out and challenged the Yanks, and worked really quickly. Walks are going down and he's pounding the strike zone. If he can work quickly, I won't worry as much about the punchouts. He'll be sitting at a 4.25 - 4.75 ERA. Workable. Not great. Just need him to chew up innings.

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