KANSAS CITY -- To no real surprise, Royals manager Mike Matheny said in a Zoom call on Tuesday that right-hander Brad Keller, last year’s Opening Day starter, would not be ready to be on the Opening Day roster.
Keller had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in Summer Camp, and he was just cleared to resume baseball activities on Friday. He threw a 30-pitch bullpen session that morning.
But Keller likely wasn’t going to be stretched out enough to return to the rotation for more than a week.
“He just wasn’t able to progress like we were hoping for,” Matheny said. “The COVID thing [set] him back, and we couldn’t get him in a place where he was comfortable to be ready in time.
“He’s making progressions, and there is a plan in place. That will affect how we go forward with our rotation. We’re still kind of patching this stuff together.”
Keller wasn't taken off the injured list, so in theory, the Royals could use his spot on the 40-man roster to add one of several non-roster players needed on the 30-man Opening Day roster.
Keller’s absence, along with that of Jakob Junis, who is also on the IL, creates openings in the rotation beyond Opening Day starter Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery, who is tentatively scheduled to pitch on Sunday.
Matheny’s options include right-hander Brady Singer, the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Singer pitched well in Spring Training, and he has followed that up with an excellent Summer Camp.
Other possibilities include right-hander Jesse Hahn, who is Wednesday’s starter in the final exhibition game against St. Louis. Hahn also is out of options.
Left-hander Foster Griffin has pitched well in camp, and he is on the 40-man roster, making him a viable rotation candidate.
Around the horn
• The Royals announced that Rule 5 Draft pick Stephen Woods Jr., a right-hander, has cleared waivers. Kansas City has retained him and outrighted him from the 40-man roster. The Royals will have to offer the Rays, his original team, either cash or a player to be named later.