There are only two major position battles still remaining for the Kansas City Royals this spring. They are both for the battery positions, in addition to the backup catcher role there is still the fifth starter to be ironed out.
It was already announced that Luke Hochevar was out of contention for the role and would be starting the year in the bullpen and that made Bruce Chen the clear favorite. But he still had quite a bit of opposition. A lot of that opposition was cleared this week though when the Royals sent seven pitchers to the minor league camp. Amongst those seven were rotation candidates Will Smith and Yordano Ventura. The other five were Nate Adcock, Everett Teaford, Blaine Boyer, Michael Mariot and Brian Sanches. Ventura impressed in the spring and Yost made it clear that he would start at Double-A this year.
The only remarkable name in that list is that of Smith, who still had at least an outside chance of making the rotation. He had a 1.64 ERA and a .179 opponents average, but it is hardly a surprise even so. This just leaves Chen and Luis Mendoza as the last two standing. Chen is definitely the front runner, although he has had a few rough outings already this spring. But he has a long history of success at which to point and the selectors will not have forgotten that he has led the team in wins for three years in a row.
Mendoza has had a good spring, which actually started before the formal camp for the Royals when he pitched for Mexico in the Caribbean Series. Whether it is going to be enough to unseat Chen is not clear, but it will be tough. Given Chen’s current lead, Mendoza’s best chance might be to try to get it to and through extra time and win the spot on penalties.