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.
Royals’ slugger Mike Moustakas belted home run No. 36 on Friday night, hitting a franchise record for most single-season homers since 28-year-old first baseman Steve Balboni reached the mark in 1985.
The record-tying dinger arrived in the third inning of Friday’s 7-6 squeaker over the Twins, beefing up the Royal’s five-run spread and giving them a two-run advantage Minnesota couldn’t quite shake. With two outs and two on, Moustakas muscled a 2-2 pitch from Dillon Gee, sending it an estimated 368 feet to right field, where it ricocheted off the railing and bounced back onto the field.
It’s been a banner year for the 28-year-old, who earned his second All-Star distinction and touted a .275/.313/.542 batting line and 35 home runs heading into Friday’s win. He went 1-for-4 against the Twins, putting up three RBI and collecting one strikeout in addition to his historic homer. The rest of the Royals, meanwhile, combined for another four runs, giving them just enough of an edge while Kelvin Herrera and Scott Alexander worked to shut down the Twins’ last-minute rally in the ninth.
The Royals are a game and a half out of the crazy AL Wild Card race — six games back of the Indians in the division — so they don’t have a huge margin for error. They got some bad news last night, though, that could have a major impact on their playoff hopes: closer Kelvin Herrera experienced tightness in his right forearm in the ninth inning of last night’s win, forcing him out of the game.
Herrera walked the bases loaded, then went to a 2-0 count on the next batter before leaving the game. That last pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 91 m.p.h., which is NOT a typical Kelvin Herrera fastball. Herrera didn’t talk after the game but his teammate Sal Perez said that Herrera told him “I’m tight. I don’t feel my forearm.”
Reporters left the clubhouse before an official diagnosis or prognosis could be delivered, so expect an update some time today. If Herrera is out the closer duties could fall to Scott Alexander or Brandon Maurer.