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Keller gets chance in rotation with Skoglund out

Rookie right-hander has been reliable out of Royals' bullpen
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The Royals have decided to give rookie righty Brad Keller a spot in the starting rotation while Eric Skoglund is on the disabled list with elbow problems, and Keller could be a viable option for joining the starting five for an extended period if Skoglund's injury turns out to be severe and Keller proves himself up to the task.

Keller, 22, was a starter throughout his Minor League career, starting 100 of 106 appearances over five seasons. This year, his first in the Majors, he has performed well in relief, posting a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings and 21 games. Over the past month, he has become a reliable eighth-inning setup man, with a 1.17 ERA and a low .394 opponents' OPS.

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ARLINGTON -- The Royals have decided to give rookie righty Brad Keller a spot in the starting rotation while Eric Skoglund is on the disabled list with elbow problems, and Keller could be a viable option for joining the starting five for an extended period if Skoglund's injury turns out to be severe and Keller proves himself up to the task.

Keller, 22, was a starter throughout his Minor League career, starting 100 of 106 appearances over five seasons. This year, his first in the Majors, he has performed well in relief, posting a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings and 21 games. Over the past month, he has become a reliable eighth-inning setup man, with a 1.17 ERA and a low .394 opponents' OPS.

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"He's been a starter his whole career and we like what he's doing so far this year," manager Ned Yost said before Sunday's game against the Rangers. "Our goal was to bring him in here and eventually make him a starter anyway. He's just a good pitcher."

Keller has a high-90s fastball and sinker that he supplements with a slider. He said he's more comfortable as a starter than a reliever anyway, and can't wait to make his first Major League start.

Video: TB@KC: Keller strikes out Miller to strand a pair

"Being able to control the game, I think that's a lot of fun," Keller said. "The whole game, the whole tempo and everything is based off you. That's what I enjoy as a starter. I'm super excited about doing it."

Keller may have an abbreviated first start; the most pitches he's thrown in relief this season is 43 in a three-inning outing in Cleveland on May 11 that was his first and only MLB win. If he continues to start, he expects to be unleashed quickly.

"My body feels good right now," Keller said. "I don't know what the pitch count for the first start is -- I don't think it's going to be 80, but I don't think it's going to take long for me to get stretched out."

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington.

Kansas City Royals, Brad Keller