One thing that’s almost certain about Monday’s postponement of Opening Day is that Royals left-hander Horacio Ramirez will get his first starting assignment one day earlier.
Gil Meche, by starting on Tuesday (assuming the game does indeed dodge through the Chicago weather), would be in line to start again on Sunday against the New York Yankees in Kansas City. Ramirez originally was slated for that day but now probably will start on Saturday night instead. That would have been Meche’s spot originally to keep him on a regular four days’ rest.
The effect of that is that Ramirez likely would be wiped out of any bullpen duty against the White Sox. He was to be available in the first two games of the series, just in case. Oh, he could be used for an inning on Tuesday and then start Saturday but that probably won’t happen with every reliever well-rested and primed for the opener.
Zack Greinke will start on Wednesday and Kyle Davies on Thursday as scheduled. And when Sidney Ponson is put on the roster for his start Friday, one player will have to be dropped.
With Monday becoming an open date, the Royals plan an optional workout at U.S. Cellular Field at 1 p.m. CT. It will go on, no doubt, primarily indoors in the batting cages just like Sunday’s workout.
By the way, anyone walking down Michigan Avenue on Sunday evening would not have questioned the White Sox’s decision to bang Monday afternoon’s game. The wind was howling and pedestrians were stung by snowflakes as well as raindrops. It was nasty indeed.
Manager Trey Hillman didn’t come out and exactly say it on Sunday but he came close to anointing Kyle Davies as the Royals’ No. 3 starter.
“I think that you can assume that,” he said, knowing full well that we’ve been assuming that for two or three weeks now.
Davies will pitch on Monday, right after No. 1 and 2 Gil Meche and Zack Greinke, so he’s right on target to start the third game at Chicago.
Just who will start the April 10 opener remains in question, of course, because the fourth and fifth spots are still undecided. So it’ll be either Horacio Ramirez, Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister or Sidney Ponson. It can’t be Meche because he’d have only three days of rest, not four, before the first home game against the Yankees.
Gil Meche’s excellent outing on Friday against the Dodgers gives the Royals’ rotation picture a huge boost.
Sure, everybody knew he was much better than he’d pitched this spring. He was not a 10.45 ERA guy. He’d proved himself in the last two years. Even so, there were those nagging thoughts: What if that back problem really hadn’t gone away? What if he’d just lost something? What if, what if?
Anyway, Meche blew away the doubts with seven shutout innings, breezing through in about 80 pitches and using just three in the last inning. So he looks ready for Opening Day.
Zack Greinke will go in the second game and, even though manager Trey Hillman won’t say so, Kyle Davies has the third starting job sewed up.
So how does it shake out for the other two, with Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar, Horacio Ramirez and new arrival Sidney Ponson in the shootout?
Here’s a guess: Hochevar gets one spot because, frankly, he’s looked good enough to win it. The other spot goes to Ramirez unless that loose fingernail problem pops up again and proves to be a problem. The Royals badly want a left-hander in the rotation, just to break things up, and they think Ramirez will be better once he unleashes his cutter. He’s purposely held off on that pitch, which might be his best, while he improves his other pitches.
Bannister, who’s struggled most of the spring, gave himself a boost with five shutout innings in a Minor League game the other day. But it’d be easy for the Royals to send him to Triple-A Omaha to work on finding himself again. Likewise, because Ponson has pitched in just one Cactus League game and there’s time for him to pitch just one more, it’d be logical to send him to Omaha for more tune-ups. Then if somebody falters or gets hurt, the call can quickly go out to Bannister or Ponson.
The Royals can dip down and pull up a proven Major League starter. It’s nice to have that kind of depth and it’s something they haven’t had for a while.