Kansas City Royals move struggling young pitchers Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic to bullpen

·3 min read

Right-handed reliever Kyle Zimmer will start Friday night for the Kansas City Royals in the “opener” role as they begin a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said starting pitchers Jackson Kowar, 24, and Kris Bubic, 23, will both be available out of the bullpen. Matheny, always wanting to keep opposing teams in the dark on potential bullpen or bench moves, did not specify whether there was a set plan or target length for either Kowar or Bubic’s usage in relief.

The Royals, who had an off day on Thursday, will move Brad Keller and Mike Minor up one day in the starting rotation. Keller will start on Saturday, while Minor will start on Sunday. The Royals will have another day off on Monday.

“We had off days so we could leave Keller and Minor on regular rest,” Matheny said. “... The rest of them, we’d always talked about from the beginning we were going to try to be as creative as we can throughout the long haul of this season.

“Whether it’s to cut a guy short or skip a guy or we talked about having a six-man (rotation) at some point, which we really haven’t. But it’s just not taking anything off the table to help our guys through this. I think it’s really well documented right now that baseball is struggling to keep their starters on the mound. This is just trying to think outside the box a little bit and maybe help out some of our younger guys.”

The Royals also announced they’d selected the contract of right-handed veteran pitcher Anthony Swarzak from Triple-A Omaha. They optioned outfielder Edward Olivares to Omaha on Thursday without making a corresponding roster move.

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Swarzak, the Royals placed right-hander Ronald Bolaños on the 60-day injured list because of a right forearm strain.

Kowar, rated the No. 74 prospect in the minors by Baseball America, has allowed eight runs in two total innings in two starts in the majors after dominating at Triple-A.

On Wednesday in the series finale against the Detroit Tigers, Kowar warmed up in the bullpen during the ninth inning though he did not enter the game. Kowar had been on schedule to start again on Friday, but Matheny said after the game that the Royals had not decided on a starter for Friday and indicated that Kowar could pitch out of the bullpen.

Bubic (1-2, 4.01) has had two shaky starts after having looked like he made impressive strides from last season, when he debuted. He made two sparkling long relief outings before moving back into the starting rotation.

However, Bubic has allowed seven home runs in his last two starts.

Matheny said the hope is that to move to the bullpen will allow them to maximize their “stuff” while taking away the expectation to pitch deep into the game each time out.

“It’s something that we always talked about with each of the young guys,” Matheny said. “How do we view them long-term with their routine, all things considered? Their makeup. Will this guy have an easier transition into the league one way or the other. That’s something that we’re always talking about, is there a way that we can help them in their progression.”

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