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Notes: No. 5 starter unsettled; Keller on OD?

@FlannyMLB
March 8, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The front four of the Royals’ rotation was set long before the team even arrived at camp: Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery. The fifth spot, however, remains the same mystery it was over the winter. Granted, because of early off-days, the Royals won’t

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The front four of the Royals’ rotation was set long before the team even arrived at camp: Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis and Mike Montgomery.

The fifth spot, however, remains the same mystery it was over the winter.

Granted, because of early off-days, the Royals won’t need a fifth starter until at least April 8. But trying to identify the potential candidates for that spot has created some intrigue.

Right-hander Jorge López started 18 games last season, but the Royals have talked frequently about converting him to the bullpen as a long reliever. He is being stretched out to potentially be that fifth starter.

What about Brady Singer? The right-hander, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Royals’ No. 2 prospect, is still in camp, which is interesting. Manager Mike Matheny said Sunday that Singer will pitch again sometime later this week.

“We’ll keep him going, keep watching him,” Matheny said. “We’ll maybe even give him another start.”

Singer, who has pitched well in three of his four spring outings, could stay in extended Spring Training until the Royals would need him in April, if the Royals choose to go in that direction and seriously consider him an option at No. 5.

In any event, Matheny isn’t fretting the decision about a No. 5 at this point.

“I don’t see urgency right now,” Matheny said. “It’s more urgent to see who we break camp with. That’s more important than having that fifth guy that we won’t need for a while.

“We’ll stretch out as many guys as we can. You’re looking at potential Triple-A starters who could do it, guys [in relief] who can be extended out. Just let them keep competing.”

There’s another option: an opener.

“We talked about it earlier about having someone who is a good matchup at the top of the order,” Matheny said, “and then bring in someone who is stretched out. Call it an opener or whatever you want. I think that’s a real possibility for our team.

“But if it’s someone we’ve stretched out who will start, we still have to keep that person relevant at the start of the season.”

Keller likely Opening Day starter
Matheny isn’t ready to officially name his starter for Opening Day against the White Sox on March 26, nor his starter for the home opener on April 2 against Seattle. But all signs point to Keller, last year’s Opening Day starter, to get the honor again at Chicago. And that could, in turn, set up Duffy for the home opener.

“Obviously, Brad was our guy last year,” Matheny said. “And there would be nothing to lead us in a different direction at this point unless he has any setbacks.

“It’s a big deal to make that announcement. Danny would, obviously, be a great option, too.”

Up next
Montgomery will start for the Royals against the D-backs at 3:10 p.m. CT on Monday at Scottsdale, available on Gameday Audio. Lefty Madison Bumgarner will start for Arizona. Montgomery will be making his third start of the spring. He gave up three runs and three hits over two innings in his last outing.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.