CLEVELAND -- The Royals currently are operating with a seven-man bullpen but, with the starting pitchers going much deeper into games this season, would manager Ned Yost consider going with six relievers?
"Not really," Yost said. "Because we're not scoring enough runs. Even though our starting pitchers are going deep, I still have to use these guys every day to protect a one-run or a two-run lead. Look, I just want to score enough runs to win. But when you're protecting a one- or two-run lead from the seventh inning on, you're using your main guys every day to do it."
Yost pointed to Monday night's 2-1 Royals victory over the Indians. James Shields left after six innings and Yost used three relievers in left-hander Bruce Chen and right-handers Aaron Crow and Greg Holland.
"We've got a tied ballgame [1-1 in the eighth]. If we had a one- or even a two-run lead in that game, I would not have had to take Bruce out against a right-handed hitter [Mark Reynolds] who has a chance to hit the ball out of the park and bring in another reliever [Crow] there. Heck, Bruce might have been able to get us out of the eighth inning instead of using two more pitchers. But I've got to do that to maximize my matchups. When you do that, you're using those relievers more."
Switching pitchers to take advantage of matchups naturally occurs more often in close games and Yost is doing that more often this year than in 2012.
"No. 1, we're ahead a lot more this year and, No. 2, the run differential hasn't been that great lately," Yost said.
Could Yost ever envision cutting back to six relievers and adding another bench position player?
"Once we start getting three and four runs ahead, then yeah. But we're not doing that right now, so we've got to keep those options open," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.