What’s on Tap: Previewing Monday’s action

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We don’t give reliable back-end starting pitchers enough credit. I’ve thought as much since, as a Phillies fan, I watched nearly a decade of Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick certainly wasn’t a perennial Cy Young candidate, but he made 30 starts in four of his eight seasons with the Phillies and even worked out of the bullpen, particularly in 2011-12. Fans didn’t like Kendrick, though, because when he got hit, he got hit hard. I’d imagine Yankees fans feel similarly about Ivan Nova.

I preface that because Nick Tropeano is going for the Angels tonight against the Rangers’ A.J. Griffin in a 10:05 PM EDT start at Angel Stadium. Tropeano wasn’t supposed to be in the Angels’ rotation, but Andrew Heaney suffered a flexor strain at the start of the season. Tropeano, 25, made seven starts and one relief appearance for the Angels last year, serving mostly as an emergency starter until rosters expanded in September. He finished with a 3.82 ERA and a 38/10 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings. Very solid numbers. So far this year, Tropeano has a 3.12 ERA with a 66/30 K/BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings spanning 12 starts.

Assuming he’s able to continue pitching well through the end of the season, Tropeano has likely secured himself a spot in the Angels’ rotation next year, as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will become free agents. The rotation will then include Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and Heaney.

Tropeano has pitched excellently, but he would still be plenty valuable even if his ERA were 4.12 instead of 3.12. Maybe even 5.12. Nearly a decade ago, Jeff Sackmann of The Hardball Times found that the MLB average ERA for a number five starter was 5.94. As run-scoring has gone down since then — 4.86 runs per game in ’06, 4.48 in ’16 — it’s not quite that bad, but still shows just how tough it is to get reliable starting pitching at the back of the starting rotation.

To the Kyle Kendricks, Ivan Novas, and Nick Tropeanos of the world: I see you, and I respect you.

The rest of Monday’s action…

Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ New York Yankees (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Mets (Steven Matz) @ Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 7:05 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) @ Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 7:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 8:15 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Christian Friedrich) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Leake), 8:15 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly) @ Colorado Rockies (Tyler Anderson), 8:40 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Mike Fiers) @ Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman), 10:05 PM EDT

Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale) @ Seattle Mariners (Wade LeBlanc), 10:10 PM EDT

Royals’ John Sherman optimistic about new ballpark, current team

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The first thing that Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman thinks about when he wakes up each morning is how the club, stuck in what seems like an interminable rebuild, will play on that particular day.

Not where they will play four or five years down the road.

Yet given the modest expectations for a team that lost nearly 100 games a year ago, it makes sense many Royals fans are just as interested – quite possibly more so – in the plans for a downtown ballpark than whether infielder Bobby Witt Jr. can double down on his brilliant rookie season or pitcher Brady Singer can truly become a staff ace.

That’s why Sherman’s second thought probably moves to the downtown ballpark, too.

“This is a huge decision, and I look at it as maybe the most important decision we’ll make as long as we have the privilege of stewarding this team,” Sherman said before the Royals held a final workout Wednesday ahead of opening day. “I’m probably as anxious as you to get moving on that, but it’s a complicated process.”

The Royals have called Kauffman Stadium home since the sister to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, opened 50 years ago next month.

And while most stadiums are replaced because they have become outdated, the unique, space-aged look of Kauffman Stadium – built during an era in which teams trended toward impersonal, multisport concrete donuts for their homes – remains beloved by Royals fans and visitors alike.

The problem is that despite numerous renovations over the years, the very concrete holding the ballpark together has begun to crumble in places. The cost simply to repair and maintain the ballpark has become prohibitive.

So with the decision essentially made for them to build an entirely new stadium, the Royals revealed plans to build an entire development in the same mold of The Battery Atlanta, where the Braves built Truist Park, and the Ballpark Village in St. Louis, where the new Busch Stadium is merely the centerpiece of a whole entertainment district.

No site has been secured, but several of the most promising are in downtown Kansas City, where the Power & Light District along with T-Mobile Center have spearheaded a successful era of urban renewal.

Sherman has said that private funds would cover the majority of the stadium cost and the entire village, each carrying a price tag of about $1 billion.

But if any public funding will be used, as it was to build and maintain Kauffman Stadium, then it would need to be voted upon, and the earliest that it could show up on a ballot would be August.

“You look at Atlanta, they took some raw ground – they started with 85 acres – and that has been a complete home run,” said Sherman, who purchased the Royals in August 2019, shortly before the pandemic wreaked havoc on team finances.

“This is one of the reasons we want to do this: That’s helped the Braves become more competitive,” Sherman said of the vast potential for increased revenue for one of the smallest-market teams in baseball. “They have locked up and extended the core of their future, and the Braves are in a great position from a baseball standpoint.”

So perhaps the first two thoughts Sherman has each day – about performance and the future – are one and the same.

When it comes to the team itself, the Royals were largely quiet throughout the winter, though that was by design.

Rather than spending heavily on free agents that might help them win a few more games, they decided to stay the course with a promising young roster in the hopes that the development of those players would yield better results.

In fact, Sherman said, the club has been discussing extensions for some of the Royals’ foundational pieces – presumably Witt, who was fourth in voting for AL rookie of the year, and Singer, who was 10-5 with a 3.23 ERA last season.

“We’re having conversations about that as we speak,” Sherman said. “We have a number of young players that we’re trying to evaluate and we’re talking to their representatives about what might work.”

Just because the Royals’ roster largely looks the same, that doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The Royals fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore in September and moved J.J. Picollo to the role, then fired manager Mike Matheny in October and replaced him with longtime Indians and Rays coach Matt Quatraro.

Sherman said the new voices created a palpable energy in spring training that he hopes carries into the regular season.

“When we acquired the team, we had three primary objectives,” Sherman said. “One was to win more games; we’re working on that. The second was to secure the future; that’s what (the stadium) is. And the third was to do good in the community.

“But the first priority,” he said, “is really the on-field product. That’s what really lifts everything else up.”