Rustin Dodd of The Athletic reports that Royals manager Ned Yost has decided to move struggling starter Jason Hammel to the bullpen. Burch Smith will start in Hammel’s place against the Twins on Wednesday.
Hammel, 35, is 2-11 with a 6.16 ERA and a 66/31 K/BB ratio in 102 1/3 innings this season. He leads all starters in losses, hits allowed (134), and earned runs allowed (70). He is taking the move in stride, saying, “It’s a little slice of humble pie. But sometimes it’s necessary to reshape, reinvent, right the ship. I’ll go down and help out.”
Hammel is in the second year of his two-year, $16 million contract signed in February 2017. The contract includes a $12 million mutual option for the 2019 season with a $2 million buyout. The Royals will likely elect to buy him out after the season.
The Royals acquired Smith, 28, from the Mets in exchange for a player to be named later or cash last December. Smith has pitched 38 1/3 innings, all in relief, for the Royals this season, compiling a 5.40 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 21 walks. Yost said of Smith, “He’s got more of a starter’s mentality than a reliever, if you understand what I’m saying. It takes him a long time to get loose. He’s got routines. It’s not good for a reliever.”
The Mets have acquired right-handed reliever Brooks Pounders from the Indians for cash considerations, the teams reported Saturday. Despite his limited and varied major-league experience, Pounders has put up intriguing numbers at the Triple-A level and is expected to step into a not-insignificant role with the Mets’ relief corps.
Pounders, 28, signed a minor-league deal with the Indians last December and pitched to a healthy 2.31 ERA, 2.8 BB/8, and 11.8 SO/9 over his first 35 innings in Cleveland’s farm system. He hasn’t taken the mound in a major-league setting since 2018, however, when he appeared in 14 games with the Rockies and labored through a much more unsightly 7.63 ERA, 1.2 BB/9, and 10.0 SO/9 across 15 1/3 frames. Still, his peripherals are promising, and there’s no question the Mets could use some help bolstering a bullpen that currently ranks eighth-worst in the league with a collective 5.31 ERA and 0.2 fWAR.
In subsequent roster moves, fellow righty Tyler Bashlor was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse for the second time this season, while Héctor Santiago was designated for assignment, Tim Peterson was optioned to Triple-A, and Chris Flexen was recalled from Triple-A. It’s been a less-than-ideal campaign for Bashlor so far this year: through 13 relief appearances for the club, he lost control of a bloated 5.23 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, and 9.3 SO/9 in 11 2/3 innings and had not been utilized in a game since June 2.