Thursday, April 14, 2011

Robinson Tejeda Loses His Setup Role

Entering this season, Robinson Tejeda figured to be one of the few known quantities in a Royals bullpen that had gotten shelled in 2010. The team figured to look to some young arms to help round out it's bullpen and it was expected that Tejada would continue to provide a steady, reliable bridge to closer Joakim Soria.

It was a fair expectation. Over the past two seasons Tejeda has thrown at least 61 innings while posting identical 3.54 ERAs since Dayton Moore plucked the hard throwing righty off waivers from the Rangers. After providing 2.1 WAR in relief the past two seasons, the move stands as a highly successful waiver claim, and one of Moore's better overall acquisitions.

While he does struggle with command (career 5.01 BB rate) and a rather extreme fly ball rate, Robinson has made his living by being able to punch through hitters with a 94mph fastball and a plus changeup at 82-83mph which hitters really struggle against, and he'll show right handers a nice little slider. He's stuff and command probably make him more ideally suited to a 7th inning role than the true high-leverage innings he's been asked to pitch for the Royals the past two seasons, but he's handled the role admirably.

Unfortunately while the the Royals bullpen has received phenomenal performances from rookies Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, and Jeremy Jeffress, Tejeda has struggled. His velocity has seemingly mysteriously disappeared. The career flame thrower is averaging just 88.8mph on his fastball, a huge velocity dropoff.

Following Tuesday evenings extra innings loss to the Twins in which Tejeda had come in for the 10th inning, and allowed the winning run to score I asked Royals manager Ned Yost what he thought about perhaps using Jeffress - who had gone unused that evening - in an expanded role, to which Yost responded tersely, "there's always thoughts."

The following morning Yost informed Bob Dutton that Tejeda had indeed been relieved of his role as the Royals primary setup man and that he would instead use a mix of relievers to fill the setup role. That mixture will likely be made up primarily of the three rookies, though Crow would seem to be the odds on favorite to get the bulk of those innings. In last night's contest however it was Jeffress that got the call.

When looking at the big picture, odds are that Tejeda wasn't long for the Royals anyways. He'll be entering his 3rd and final season of arbitration eligibility following the 2011 campaign and while he's a capable arm (when healthy), the Royals at this point have many options that are pushing him down the depth chart fast, and more, like Louis Coleman (amongst others) are on the way. As it stands he's already likely gone from being the teams 2nd best reliever to it's 5th. By the end of the year he'll likely be just the 6th or 7th best arm.

In short, he's getting more expensive and the Royals have better, cheaper options.

Ideally Tejeda could regain his velocity and effectiveness, reassert himself as another viable option for Yost, and eventually become a valuable deadline trade chip which could allow the team to bring on another potentially useful youngster.

Regardless of where Tejada actually pitches in 2012, or how well he pitches for the remainder of 2011, this is just one more small encroachment that the youth movement of the Royals has made upon the establishment. Tejeda, for all the success he's had, is a member of what will soon be the Ghost of the Royals Past, a category many of those currently on the team will soon be relegated to as the Ghosts of the Royals Future slowly take the reigns.

Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both,, and He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.

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