After struggling as a starter early in his career Robinson Tejeda found a home in the Royals’ bullpen setting up closer Joakim Soria, as the shorter appearances allowed shaky command to take a backseat to his overpowering raw stuff.
Unfortunately so far this season Tejeda’s velocity is down significantly, with his fastball averaging just 88.6 miles per hour compared to 93.7 mph last year, and after a string of ugly outings the Royals have removed him from the high-leverage setup role.
It’s not uncommon for pitchers to see their velocity dip by a couple miles per hour at times, particularly early in the season, but for Tejeda to go from 93-94 mph to 88-89 mph is a gigantic red flag.
And as manager Ned Yost told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, no one seems sure how to explain it:
We talked to Robby and he’s got no answers. Nobody does. He’s fine. He feels good. I have no doubt that Robby will get his velocity back. We’re just going to have to [wait] until he gets it back.
It’s tough not to assume that the diminished velocity has something to do with his shoulder problems from last year and in addition to the missing miles per hour Tejeda’s performance has also suffered. During the past three seasons Tejeda had a .195 opponents’ batting average and struck out 25.2 percent of the batters he faced. This year opponents are hitting .417 off him and he’s managed a grand total of one strikeout in 26 plate appearances.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.
Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.
I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.
On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.