Royals looking to bolster lefties in bullpen

Royals manager Ned Yost is looking for a couple of left-handers to work out of the bullpen.

Royals manager Ned Yost is looking for a couple of left-handers to work out of the bullpen. Photo by The Associated Press.

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Manager Ned Yost was succinct in his answer to a question about Robert Fish, a left-hander the Kansas City Royals claimed on waivers from the New York Yankees.

Does Yost know much about his new pitcher?

“No,” he replied. But he expects to learn soon.

The fact the Royals picked up Fish, who the Yankees selected in the Rule 5 draft in December from the Los Angeles Angels, speaks volumes about the Royals’ continued search for left-handed help in the bullpen.

While Fish has a mid-90s fastball, he has been erratic in the minors. He went 3-5 with an 8.93 earned run average in 39 games, 12 of them starts, in the Double-A Texas League last season. In Yankees camp, he yielded five runs on six hits and three walks in 42⁄3 innings, while striking out three. Fish has struck out 371 in 3652⁄3 innings in the minors.

Yost said his preference is to have two left-handers in the bullpen, but that could change with nobody yet claiming those vacancies.

“I would like to have two lefties in the pen, but they will have to be two lefties that I can count on to get the job done,” he said. “If we have those two guys at the end of camp, we’ll probably take them with us. If we don’t, we’ll just have to deal with it. I’m not going to have two lefties just to have two lefties. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Besides Fish, the other left-handed bullpen candidates are Tim Collins, Danny Duffy and Blaine Hardy, none on the 40-man big league roster and none with a pitch thrown in the majors. The Royals had hoped Everett Teaford, who is on the 40-man after going 14-3 last year in the Texas League, would earn one of those spots, but he was optioned to Triple-A Omaha with a 22.85 ERA in three spring training outings.

“He really struggled with command every time,” Yost said. “We like his stuff. He’s a guy that commands three or four different pitches. He can change his arm angles. He can change speeds and really work the ball down. We like his competitiveness and his makeup, but command was an issue for him this spring.”

Duffy is a highly touted 22-year-old prospect, but he has struggled in spring training. He is 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in four outings, allowed home runs in his past two appearances, and has walked eight in seven innings.

Hardy has a 6.75 ERA in four appearances, while Collins has a 1.80 ERA, he has yielded seven hits and walked two in five innings. Collins, although he stands 5-7, has a mid-90s fastball, like Fish, and has logged an amazing 329 strikeouts in 223 innings in the minors.

The Royals are still looking for someone or two of that group to solidify a slot.

“We’ve got enough time,” Yost said. “We’ve still got 21⁄2 weeks of spring training left and there are still a lot of unanswered questions in the pen.”

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