Yost keeps open mind with 'pen configuration

February 20th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- When the Royals’ offseason started, the general consensus among team officials and manager Ned Yost was that if either Heath Fillmyer or Jorge Lopez didn’t make the rotation, the other would slide into bullpen duty.

That thinking has changed with the additions of relievers Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman and Drew Storen, which, along with Wily Peralta, gives Yost a veteran presence in the back of the bullpen.

“I don’t know that if they don’t make the rotation, that they make the bullpen,” Yost said on Wednesday. “You just look at the numbers down there. You got Boxberger, Diekman, Storen. It changed. Things change from day to day. You can’t solidify your plans because you don’t know what your plans are going to be.

“I didn’t know if we would get Homer Bailey.”

The Bailey signing also could change the equation for Fillmyer or Lopez as they try to grab the No. 5 spot in the rotation. However, Lopez is out of options.

Fillmyer does have Minor League options, which could hamper his chances of making the 25-man roster if he doesn't win a job in the rotation. And aside from the veterans mentioned, left-hander Brian Flynn is also out of options, which could consume another spot.

And the Royals are hoping Rule 5 Draft picks Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis show enough to make the team. Left-hander Tim Hill seems likely to be a bullpen lock, and right-hander Kevin McCarthy has a track record, though McCarthy has options.

But Yost likes the competition.

“I like the way it looks right now,” Yost said. “I like the people we have competing. I think we’ll be in pretty good shape overall. Starters. Relievers.”

Sparkman to start Saturday

Right-hander Glenn Sparkman will start Saturday’s Cactus League opener against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium, Yost said.

McWilliams will start on Sunday, and right-hander Scott Barlow will start on Monday.

Alex Gordon backing off?

Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon is legendary for his fitness and health routine, which one could say is close to obsessive.

But Yost has noticed Gordon may be backing off a bit, and Yost thinks it’s a good thing.

“He has changed,” Yost said. “In years past, I would get here at 5:15 [a.m.] every day and work out. By the time I get done it’s 6:30, and Gordy always was working in the weight room already.

“Now it’s 6:30 and he’s not here, so he’s getting a little more sleep. That’s good. He needs the rest.”