Royals “now appear open to trading” Robinson Tejeda

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Joaquin Benoit opened the free agent market by signing a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Tigers and various other relievers are reportedly shopping for three-year contracts as well, so Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals “are now open to trading” Robinson Tejeda.

Dutton notes that general manager Dayton Moore has been open to trading setup men in the past, parting with Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez two offseasons ago, and is willing to deal Tejeda now because his value will never be higher given the market for relievers.

After years of splitting time between the rotation and bullpen Tejeda was a full-time reliever for the first time this season, posting a 3.54 ERA and 56/26 K/BB ratio in 61 innings. He has a 4.16 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 167 career innings as a reliever, has always possessed top-notch raw stuff with a hard fastball-slider combo and a quality changeup, and figures to make around $2 million in 2011 via arbitration.

More position players have pitched this year than ever

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Yesterday, in Milwaukee, utilityman Hernan Perez pitched two scoreless innings, and backup catcher Erik Kratz pitched one himself, mopping up in a blowout loss to the Dodgers. In doing so they became the 31st and 32nd position players to pitch this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most position players who have taken the mound in a season in the Expansion Era, which began in 1961. Presumably far fewer ever did so when the league had only 16 teams.

It’s pretty remarkable to set that record now, in this age of 13 and sometimes 14-man pitching staffs. That’s especially true when teams shuttle guys back and forth from the minors more often than they ever have before and when, due to the shortened, 10-day disabled list, it’s easier to give guys breaks because of “injuries” than it ever has been.

Pitcher usage is driving this, however. While teams carry far more relievers than they ever have before, they actually carry far fewer swingmen or mopup men who are capable of throwing multiple innings in a blowout to save other pitchers’ arms. Rather, teams focus on max-effort, high-velocity relievers who go one or two innings tops, thus requiring catchers and utility guys to help do the mopping that actual pitchers used to do.

I don’t know if that’s a bad thing necessarily — some of these backup catchers throw harder than a lot of pitchers did 30 years ago and it’s always kind of fun to see a position player pitch — but it is yet another way the game has changed due to a focus on specialization and velocity when it comes to pitchers.