Kenta Maeda
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Dodgers to move Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling to bullpen

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Right-handers Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling are shifting to the bullpen for the time being, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Sunday. The announcement follows news that closer Kenley Jansen is expected to be sidelined through August 20, if not longer, as he monitors an irregular heartbeat. Jansen is just one of half-a-dozen relievers to hit the disabled list over the last two months, making Sunday’s move a necessary one as starting pitchers Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu prepare to retake the mound in the next week or so.

Stripling, 28, should be available to pitch out of the bullpen by Tuesday evening. The righty has seen impressive results in his first All-Star season with the team; he posted an 8-3 record in 17 starts and delivered a combined 2.62 ERA, 1.4 BB/9 and 9.9 SO/9 through 110 innings out of the rotation and bullpen. Per Roberts’ comments, he’s likely to return to the rotation before the season ends, provided they can bolster the ‘pen with help from other potential starters-turned-relievers like Julio Urias.

Maeda, on the other hand, appears to be headed for a full-time role in relief. The 30-year-old right-hander has had limited exposure in the bullpen this season, pitching to a 7-7 record in 20 starts with a solid 3.80 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 in 109 innings out of the rotation and ‘pen. Still, the decision to convert him to a relief pitcher isn’t a sign of demotion, only a necessary and creative restructuring of a rotation that currently ranks 11th-best in the majors. Maeda will likely be available to pitch by Wednesday’s series finale against the Giants.

Wednesday’s game will also feature southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, who appears ready to resume his role in the rotation after rehabbing a groin strain over the last three months. Prior to his stint on the disabled list, Ryu turned in a 3-0 record in six starts with a sharp 2.12 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 10.9 SO/9 across 29 2/3 innings. He’ll go toe-to-toe with Giants left-hander Derek Holland as the Dodgers close out their homestand.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.