Chen returning to rotation as Mendoza heads to 'pen
NEW YORK -- Bruce Chen is moving back into the rotation. Royals manager Ned Yost said Monday that Chen will start Friday in place of Luis Mendoza, and the latter arm will slot into the bullpen as a long reliever. Mendoza went 2-5 with a 4.87 ERA in his first 16 outings.
Chen, meanwhile, has gone 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his first 19 relief appearances. The veteran southpaw has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons with the Royals, and he's managed to post a 37-33 record and a 4.37 career ERA in games after the All-Star break.
Both Chen and Mendoza competed for the fifth-starter's slot in Spring Training, and Yost said that the team always kept Chen's return to the rotation in mind.
"That was kind of the plan all along," said Yost of flipping the two arms. "[Mendoza] had pitched winter ball and was in a spot where he could be highly competitive in Spring Training. Bruce is always a slow starter in Spring Training, so we made a decision early knowing that, at the halfway point, if Mendy was struggling a little bit, we'd have a fresh Bruce, a Bruce that's won more games than any pitcher we've had over the last three years. Hopefully, Bruce will step in and finish it out strong."
Chen has been lightly used, but he threw a season-high 85 pitches in relief of Mendoza in Sunday's 10-4 loss to Oakland.
Mendoza, meanwhile, is still figuring out where he fits best on a Major League staff. The 29-year-old set a career best with 166 innings last season, but he's struggled to find consistency this year. Now, with the move to the bullpen, the Royals can pick and choose their spots for Mendoza.
"It could kind of be the best of both worlds for us," said Yost. "Mendy fits really good in the 'pen as a long guy and a middle guy, so we think it's beneficial."