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Royals remove Kelvin Herrera from closer role

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Royals’ right-hander Kelvin Herrera will step down from the closer role, manager Ned Yost announced Friday. The shift comes as little surprise after Herrera’s implosion during the team’s 4-2 loss on Thursday; coupled with a nagging forearm strain and the Royals’ current position in the AL wild card standings, it’s a necessary, albeit temporary, move.

The 27-year-old righty hasn’t looked quite himself this year, touting career-worst numbers in nearly every category with a 4.24 ERA, 3.5 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 through 51 innings. The forearm tightness he experienced back in August, while a factor in his decline, still appears to be mild and may not lead to a stint on the disabled list. Although the Royals haven’t ruled out Herrera’s return to the mound this season, they’ll push forward with a closer-by-committee approach as they try to vault over the Twins, Angels, Orioles, Rangers and Rays for a wild card spot.

According to Yost, closing duties will be divided among left-hander Mike Minor and right-handers Brandon Maurer and Scott Alexander in Herrera’s absence. Minor and Alexander stick out from the bunch with sub-3.00 ERAs, while Maurer has found it difficult to adjust after a midseason trade to Kansas City, pairing a 7.02 ERA with a 4.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 over just 16 2/3 innings so far.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.