Madson, Young are rewarding Royals' faith
Veteran pitchers helping club's rise to top of AL Central
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals knew they had to find that legit middle-of-the-lineup bat after the loss of free-agent designated hitter Billy Butler to the A's, so they signed Kendrys Morales, who has stepped in and been just what Kansas City ordered in the cleanup spot so far this season.
That is the easy decision.
Then there is the matter of sorting out the journeyman types who every offseason are looking for that non-roster invite to Spring Training with the hope that if they can just get a decent chance in March, they can force their way onto a big league roster by April.
That is the challenging decision.
It's also the rewarding decision when the pieces fall in place like they have for the Royals in the opening weeks of the defense of the American League pennant they claimed a year ago.
In a season in which the rotation has yet to meet workload expectations, it's the bullpen that has been so critical in Kansas City's climb to the top of the AL Central.
It's Chris Young, who was sitting at home in late February when the Royals called. Young didn't hesitate, taking "the first big league offer I got," and he is now rewarding this club -- following up five relief appearances in April by responding to an emergency starting assignment on Friday night and turning in five no-hit innings in a 4-1 victory against the Tigers.
It's Ryan Madson, who missed the last two seasons with Tommy John surgery. He was so anxious to get back into the game the past offseason that the right-hander called up Jim Fregosi, Jr., the amateur scouting director with the Phillies who originally drafted and signed Madson, and asked for a chance with Kansas City, for whom Fregosi is now a pro scout.
Madson got it, and he hasn't disappointed. In adding two no-hit innings in relief onto Young's effort on Friday, he lowered his ERA to 1.38, having allowed two runs in 13 innings, in which he has struck out 14.
"It speaks volumes about [general manager] Dayton Moore and how he evaluates, and what he sees in people," Young said. "He measures you with more than metrics. I hope to reward him for that. He took a chance on me and Maddy both."
It is not like it was that big of a gamble. The two pitchers, combined, are making $1.525 million in base salary -- $675,000 for Young and $850,000 for Madson. They have already paid off, helping the middle-inning efforts of a bullpen that has been without All-Star closer Greg Holland (right pectoral strain) since mid-April.
And on Friday night, it was Young who stepped into a starting assignment for Edinson Volquez, who was serving the final game of his five-game suspension from last week's brouhaha in Chicago.
"It shows the great job Dayton Moore did, trying to look ahead and envisioning a scenario like this where we were going to need guys to step in," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
With Holland out, Wade Davis has moved into that ninth-inning role, and Kelvin Herrera has been called on in the eighth. That's left a void in the earlier innings where Yost said, "We have to mix and match. [Young] and Madson and [Jason] Frasor have gone a great job of getting us through those innings and then to get [Friday's start]. ..."
It wasn't just the seven no-hit innings combined by Young and Madson, it was the seven no-hit innings against the Tigers' explosive veteran lineup. Young and Madson combined to retire 21 of the 24 batters they faced.
And those three they didn't retire ... well, Young did make it somewhat interesting. With one out in the fourth, he walked the bases loaded, including an 11-pitch battle that he lost with Victor Martinez. Young, however, rebounded to strike out J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes.
Not too bad for a guy who admitted "it crossed my mind" last winter that his career could be over, even if Young didn't want it to be.
"I was fatigued [at the end of last season], but wouldn't common sense say that two years out of the surgery [for thoracic outlet syndrome] I'd be stronger than I was one year out?" Young asked.
So far, Young has been, handling the adjustments to the bullpen well and showing no trouble in making that spot start on Friday.
And Madson has no complaints, either. When he decided to try a comeback after missing the two seasons, his only call was to Fregosi, who lives near Madson in Southern California.
"All I wanted was a Major League invite," Madson said, "but I had been out so long, I wanted to go to a team where I had some references. Jim was there, and Mike Arbuckle was with Philadelphia, too. I felt like they knew what I was capable of when I was healthy."
And 23 games into the season, neither Young nor Madson have done anything to make the Royals question their willingness to take a shot on both of them.