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.
The Red Sox have assigned right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to the 10-day injured list after finding a loose body in his right elbow, per a team announcement. In a corresponding move, left-handed reliever Bobby Poyner was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to take Eovaldi’s spot on the 25-man roster.
While the move is retroactive to April 18, there’s little reason to believe that Eovaldi will be back on the mound anytime soon. The veteran righty has a history of elbow issues and missed over two months of the 2018 season when he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow last spring. For now, however, any definite recovery timetable or pending surgical procedures have yet to be announced.
After struggling through his first few outings of 2019, Eovaldi looked like he finally hit his stride during his last start against the Yankees on Wednesday. He tossed six quality innings, allowing just one unearned run, three hits, and three walks, and striking out six of 23 batters in the Red Sox’ eventual 5-3 loss. He currently holds a 6.00 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, and 6.9 SO/9 across 21 innings.
The Red Sox have not formally announced a replacement for Eovaldi in the rotation, but will turn to Poyner as they seek to strengthen a bullpen that currently ranks eighth-best in the AL. The 26-year-old lefty reliever presented well for Triple-A Pawtucket in his first five appearances of 2019, issuing three runs, five walks, and 13 strikeouts through 6 1/3 innings.