The fifth spot in the starting rotation for the Kansas City Royals has come down to two players after Luke Hochevar was placed in the bullpen and other candidates were assigned to the minors.
The Royals have done an outstanding job of bolstering the rotation in the off-season by trading for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana. They also were able to re-sign Jeremy Guthrie, which was another major win in the off-season. However, the team still needs a stellar fifth arm to complete the new and improved group of starters.
Bruce Chen was definitely the favorite to land the role coming into Spring Training, but a 7.90 earned run average in 13.2 innings is simply not going to cut it. I am sure fans in Kansas City would love to see Chen get the job, but I believe someone else may take the reins in 2013.
Right-hander Luis Mendoza has been phenomenal this spring. He has posted a 2-0 record with a 0.82 ERA, eight strikeouts and 11 innings in three games (two starts). It is true the 29-year old has gone through his fair share of problems on the mound in the big leagues, but his performance in 2012 proved that he is ready to take his game to the next level.
The fact that Chen is a left-handed pitcher is a good reason why the Royals will strongly consider giving him the job since the four already named starters are all right-handers. However, Mendoza has significantly outplayed Chen is Spring Training, which has to count for something.
Considering Kansas City will be playing in one of the more competitive divisions in baseball, it is important that manager Ned Yost make the correct decision.