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'Bullpen day' on tap with starters on mend

Junis set to return after All-Star break
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Heading into the All-Star break with their starting rotation in flux, mainly due to the injury of Ian Kennedy, the Royals will close out their series against the White Sox with a bullpen day Sunday.

Manager Ned Yost said Saturday that Burch Smith will start the finale and throw about 50-60 pitches, with Glenn Sparkman or Brian Flynn likely picking up in long relief. Smith made his only start of the season last Wednesday, giving up four runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings to the Twins.

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CHICAGO -- Heading into the All-Star break with their starting rotation in flux, mainly due to the injury of Ian Kennedy, the Royals will close out their series against the White Sox with a bullpen day Sunday.

Manager Ned Yost said Saturday that Burch Smith will start the finale and throw about 50-60 pitches, with Glenn Sparkman or Brian Flynn likely picking up in long relief. Smith made his only start of the season last Wednesday, giving up four runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings to the Twins.

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"I was a little concerned that [Smith] was going to go 13 days in between starts, so we were gonna put him in the 'pen anyway tomorrow," Yost said. "He's coming back a day early, but we're looking for three or four maybe from him.

"That way we can get everybody throwing before the All-Star break, so nobody has a longer layover," Yost added.

Yost said Friday that Kennedy would resume baseball activities in five to seven days, and he told reporters Saturday that Smith and Heath Fillmyer will continue to start until Kennedy returns. Kennedy, in the third season of a five-year, $70 million contract, is 1-8 with a 5.13 ERA in 18 starts.

Junis close to returning

Jakob Junis went on the 10-day disabled list just six days ago with back inflammation, but he is already lined up to start after the All-Star break, Yost said. Junis will start the Royals' second game after the break on July 21 against the Twins.

"We're gonna have to make a move, so I don't want to have to rush in and make a move," Yost said. "I want him to get settled, make sure everything's good with him."

In order for Junis to return to his April form, he needs to focus on consistently maintaining command, Yost said. Junis had a 3.62 ERA through his first 12 starts, but he saw that mark balloon to 5.13 over his next five.

"When [Junis] was really, really good, he was commanding his slider," Yost added. "Mechanically, he gets around it at times, which spins it. When he stays on top of it, it's a swing-and-miss slider."

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Kansas City Royals