Notes: 5th starter; Mondesi, Perez on track

February 12th, 2020

SURPRISE, Az. -- The Royals have yet to sign a free-agent pitcher to compete for the open No. 5 spot in the rotation.

And it’s sounding more and more like whoever wins that No. 5 spot will come from the present group in the clubhouse.

“I’m anticipating that,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “The [front office] is always doing what it can to help us get better. But I anticipate that starter coming from inside here. And the way the schedule breaks, we’re not going to need that guy until early April at the earliest.”

General manager Dayton Moore discussed during the offseason the likelihood of right-handers and , who had 41 starts in 2019 between them, starting the season in the bullpen.

That leaves the No. 5 spot wide open among the many prospects in camp, such as , , etc., or more familiar faces such as or .

Matheny said his young prospects will get a chance to compete, even if most are likely ticketed for the Minors to start the season.

“This is just a great opportunity for them,” Matheny said. “We have big numbers in camp but I wanted it that way because I wanted these guys to experience camp. I wanted them to be a part of the language we use. I wanted them to view the big league guys in camp. You want them to have the right mentality. There’s a lot of benefit to having them here because they will help us one day.

“I wouldn’t just waste their time here ... they will have opportunities to compete. We know which guys have been built up. And whoever that guy is to [be the No. 5 starter], he’ll have to help us in the bullpen, too.”

Matheny said the Royals almost surely will go with 13 pitchers and 13 position players when they break camp.

Perez, Mondesi on schedule
Matheny said catcher (Tommy John surgery last March) and shortstop (shoulder surgery) are on schedule in their rehab.

“[The medical staff] told me that there aren’t really any restrictions on them,” Matheny said. “The volume we’ll have to watch [with Perez]. But he’s going to have a meeting with his doctor [Thursday]. But everything is pointing in a good direction.

“[Perez] seems to be further along than most of these guys. He’s already thrown to second base more than the other guys at this stage. The normal progression for him is well ahead for someone in spring.”

Matheny said he anticipates Perez playing some first base and DHing early in the season as the team monitors his volume of time behind the plate, although playing first base doesn’t sound that appealing to Perez.

“I’m the catcher,” Perez said, smiling. “If they want me to play some first base a few times, OK. But I want to catch 162 games.”

Mondesi, like Perez, is expected to be ready by Opening Day.

“[Mondesi] has a meeting with his doctor next week,” Matheny said. “He’s right where he should be at this point.”