ANAHEIM -- The Royals on Friday recalled right-hander Heath Fillmyer from Triple-A Omaha, who joined the team ahead of its series opener at Angel Stadium. As a corresponding move, rookie third baseman and designated hitter Kelvin Gutierrez was optioned to Triple-A.
Although Fillmyer has worked primarily as a starter both this season and throughout his professional career, the Royals brought him up for the purpose of long relief. The decision was necessitated by recent heavy bullpen usage, particularly in Thursday’s 16-1 loss to the Rangers, in which four relievers combined for 4 2/3 innings -- including 1 2/3 from utility man Chris Owings.
“I needed a pitcher, simple as that,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I had to have the arm. After using [Glenn] Sparkman two days ago, 60 pitches, he was my long option, he’s not available, and we ran out the whole bullpen yesterday to the point where I had to pitch a position player.
“You gotta cover yourself, and you don’t want anything to happen, but if anything happened early in the game today, line drive off of somebody’s shin or something, I wouldn’t make it. So I had to have the long option in Fillmyer.”
Fillmyer, who turned 25 on Thursday, has prior experience providing long relief at the Major League level. His most recent MLB appearance was a relief outing against the Angels in Kansas City on April 26, in which he allowed one run in three innings. He also made four relief appearances for the Royals in 2018, each of two innings or more.
Fillmyer began the season with Omaha, but came up for a few weeks in April, during which he made four appearances (three starts) and got tagged for 15 earned runs in 15 innings. In three starts for Omaha since his demotion, Fillmyer has allowed six runs in 17 1/3 innings, striking out 20 while walking seven.
In 15 games with the Royals since his April 27 Major League debut, Gutierrez batted .281 (16-for-57) with a home run, a double, a triple and 11 RBIs. The 24-year-old’s available options left him the odd man out in making room on the roster for Fillmyer, but Royals fans haven’t seen the last of him.
“He did a nice job for us,” said Yost. “He’ll be back.”
Royals to skip Lopez’s next start
With two off-days next week, the Royals are opting to temporarily go to a four-man rotation, skipping Jorge Lopez’s upcoming turn.
“That got to be where if I didn’t skip anybody, we had guys going on six and seven days, which was too much,” said Yost. “I won’t need the spot again until [Tuesday, May 28], and it keeps everybody on a five or even a six-day rotation, which is better.”
Lopez was a logical candidate to sacrifice his slot in the rotation. The right-hander has struggled, allowing at least four runs in each of his last six starts. His 6.29 ERA is the highest of any Kansas City starter with at least four starts this season.