Once again, there has been talk lately in media circles about moving one of the Royals' young bullpen studs into the rotation.
The candidates include right-hander Aaron Crow, left-hander Tim Collins and right-hander Kelvin Herrera. Everett Teaford, another young left-hander, has started this season and although in the bullpen now, would be another candidate for the rotation.
But Royals general manager Dayton Moore is cautious about disrupting the bullpen, which happens to be the team's strength.
"Every organization goes through the same evaluation, searching for future starters," Moore said. "You always start internally. We have several good pitchers in our bullpen. They all have different pitch mixes and because of that you can project them as potential starters.
"But they're all relievers at this point in time for a reason. To all of a sudden, change the course, change direction, you have to be certain. You better be certain."
Taking one or two of the young guns out of the bullpen is risky. As it is now, the Royals are in a position to virtually checkmate opponents when they have a lead late based on the strength of their bullpen.
Diluting that strength could do more harm than good.
"It's a good exercise to go through and evaluate all you pitchers and think about who will be impactful in your rotation," Moore said. "But if they're just going to be average starters, and they're really good in the bullpen, you really have to weigh the risk versus the reward."
Herrera, for example, was a below-average starter in the minors. In 2010, he was 2-3 as a starter at Class A with a pedestrian 4.35 ERA.
But in 2011, Herrera was switched to the bullpen where he could utilize a max-effort type of delivery. His velocity shot up from the low 90s to near 100 mph. And the results shocked the Royals. He quickly got on the fast track to Kansas City, rising through three levels of minor-league ball in 2011 while posting a 7-1 record with a 1.60 ERA and 33 saves.
"That's the debate you would have," Moore said. "If a guy was a starter and then became a great reliever, why would you switch him back? We had a similar debate about Joakim Soria.
"But that's what happens. If guys are really effective out of the bullpen and they can command three pitches, the obvious question is 'Can they start?' But you have to judge whether they have the mindset to start, do they want to start, are they durable enough to start? Can they go 35 starts and 200 innings?
"If a guy is used to throwing 70 innings a year, how is he going to throw 200? Sure, guys can do that. We see it around the league. But you have to evaluate and be sure that guy is the right candidate. "
The other concern, of course, is if the Royals were to take Crow, Collins or Herrera out of the bullpen, where do they find their replacements? It may be another year or two before the next wave of good young relievers come through the system.
"They're not growing on trees," Moore said.
But the thought of converting one of the bullpen arms into a starter no doubt will dominate the off-season chatter about the Royals' 2013 rotation.
""We do have some power arms in the bullpen. No question," Moore said. "But I'm not sure it's a slam dunk solution.
"You have to make tough decisions sometimes. I wouldn't say we wouldn't try it. You have to have an open mind. But I don't have an answer right now on any of the guys in the pen about who we might want to start. I just don't. You don't know it until you do it. Then you have to live with it."