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Royals will allow closer to emerge this spring

MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Unlike seasons past, the Royals come into 2018 without a clear-cut choice for closer.

Right-hander Kelvin Herrera was that guy last spring. But three losses and five blown saves eventually cost him the closer's role to Mike Minor in September.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Unlike seasons past, the Royals come into 2018 without a clear-cut choice for closer.

Right-hander Kelvin Herrera was that guy last spring. But three losses and five blown saves eventually cost him the closer's role to Mike Minor in September.

This Spring Training, manager Ned Yost is viewing the position with an open mind.

"Kel has the inside track because of who he is," Yost said. "But you just don't know. [Brandon] Maurer has experience. But there are so many names and so many variables. There's competition for everything as far as I'm concerned.

"The one thing I've never worried about is the closer. It always takes care of itself. I never worry about it this early in camp."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Yost also recognizes that Herrera seemed more relaxed in a setup role last September, delivering five straight scoreless outings to finish the season. It was a role Herrera excelled at as the bridge to Greg Holland and Wade Davis for several years.

"He was more relaxed at that," Yost said. "We'll see. But I also know last year was a great learning experience for him. He'll come back better for it."

Herrera seems willing to try any role.

"I'm just ready to go wherever they want me to pitch," Herrera said. "I just want to pitch more often, more consistently."

Herrera did hint that, like a lot of relievers, he prefers knowing an exact role, such as the eighth-inning guy or closer.

The Royals enjoyed that for years when HDH -- Herrera-Davis-Holland -- thrived in specific roles from the seventh inning on.

"It's better to know when you're going to pitch so you can prepare for it," Herrera said.

Video: Maurer looks to be fixture in Royals bullpen

But with so many new faces, assigning specific roles may not be practical for Yost, especially early in the season. And the game is evolving beyond specific roles anyway.

"There are just so many names right now," Yost said. "What if Jesse Hahn turns into the next Wade Davis? I'm not saying we're taking [Jesse Hahn] out of the rotation, but what if? Then we got the Rule 5 kids [Brad Keller, Burch Smith]. We got [Scott] Barlow, who is really looking good right now.

"It's my experience that if you let someone just take it and run with it, they can be that guy. Like I said, I just never worry about it this early in camp. Someone will emerge."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Kelvin Herrera