Kansas City’s Ned Yost is about to find himself with a problem that most managers would love to have at this point of the season as we're barreling toward the dog days of August.
With Kris Medlen activated on Monday and Jason Vargas to follow suit today, the Royals suddenly find themselves with almost as many starting pitching candidates as the Republican Party does presidential candidates.
In this season of lollipops and rainbows, the lone negative has been starting pitching. It's hard to believe the Royals have been as many as 20 games over .500 with a starting staff that has been cobbled together and massaged by Yost, who only asks for six good innings before turning it over to the Fort Knox bullpen.
One pitcher who may lose his spot is Yordano Ventura, the expected ace of the staff. Ventura has experienced a nightmarish season that can only be described as bizarre, as he’s had numerous strange injuries and he’s gone from a poised youngster to an emotional mess. Perhaps the pressure of his newly signed big contract and being anointed the No. 1 pitcher before the season was too overwhelming, as in no way does he resemble the pitcher who was so brilliant in Game 6 of the World Series and arguably the team's most clutch pitcher throughout 2014.
Monday's loss to Pittsburgh was a microcosm of Ventura's season. He sailed through the first inning with no-hit-looking stuff, then was battered in the second inning for five hits and four runs. While his body language wasn't as bad as it's been, it's apparent he's a pitcher who feels like he's alone on an island and no advice is going to make him better. It's not quite like watching Tiger Woods go from world No. 1 to an everyday chopper, but Ventura has only had a few quality starts and seems to be regressing.
Danny Duffy, the alleged No. 2 pitcher at the start of the year, got himself back in the good graces on Sunday with a quality performance against the White Sox. He's actually pitched decent since coming off the disabled list, but he's kind of a left-handed Ventura. You never know when he's going to revert to the pitcher who needs 70 pitches to make it through three innings and that his mind appears to be 70 miles away from the mound.
Edinson Volquez is entrenched as he's been the Royals' best starter all season. Vargas pitched well for the most part before going down and they need him in the rotation because he's left-handed to give it some balance.
Then you have Jeremy Guthrie. They don't call him "J Guts" for nothing, but a big heart can't mask the fact he lugs a bloated ERA to the mound and there's a virtual village of base runners on in every game he pitches.
I think you have to stick with Chris Young. He's been the second-best starter and while he's not built for 200 innings, I think you ride him until he runs out of gas.
Medlen knocked off the rust on Monday. Predictably, in his first game in a year, he wasn't sharp, but you can't ignore his track record. When healthy, he was one of the National League's best pitchers. Hopefully a pair of Tommy John surgeries haven't robbed him of all his talent.
Yost can’t afford to worry about anyone’s feelings at this point. He has to go with his pitchers who give the team the best chance to win and right now Ventura is not one of those.