Kennedy is not Royals' sole option at closer

August 8th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- A year ago, Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy had to cope with being demoted from the rotation to the bullpen under manager Ned Yost.

That fall was comforted by the fact that Yost eventually made Kennedy the team’s closer -- a prominent position and something the organization had discussed the previous fall.

Now, Kennedy is somewhat in nowhere land. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It would seem that Royals manager Mike Matheny has made the decision to make Trevor Rosenthal, with his 100-mph fastball, the new Royals closer.

Rosenthal, who signed as a non-roster free-agent last winter, has been impressive. So far, Rosenthal has two saves and a 1.59 ERA through six appearances. Greg Holland has the team’s other save.

Meanwhile, Kennedy, who was 30-of-34 in save opportunities in 2019, has found his role change. He has not worked a save opportunity yet, and his appearances have come in innings six through eight.

Matheny said on Saturday that Kennedy’s closer’s role has not been relinquished. In fact, if Josh Staumont had gone down to a back strain Friday night, Kennedy might have been lined up for a potential save. Instead, that save went to Rosenthal.

Matheny said he will continue to distribute bullpen opportunities based on game-to-game matchups.

“It’s nice to have different guys to fill those roles, including [Scott] Barlow,” Matheny said. “It’s more about the lineup matchups. …

“It’s best for our team right now. We’re not getting pushback from anyone. Those saves have value, I know [in terms of salary]. But they all realize [the big picture]…and we have so many unique characters down there. Rosie and Holly... they don’t need labels.”

Matheny said that Kennedy, in the last year of his contract with the Royals, seems to have bought into the Royals’ new strategy regarding the bullpen.

“He seems to have,” Matheny said. “They all have bought into it. They all see what the need is to be successful.“