04/01/09 4:15 PM ET
Ponson, Ramirez round out KC rotation
Pair will start during first series at renovated Kauffman Stadium
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Ponson and left-hander Horacio Ramirez will join Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies in the rotation.
Ponson will start on April 10 against the New York Yankees in the Grand Re-Opening of the ballpark. Ramirez will make his first start on April 12 against the Yankees.
The Royals also optioned pitcher Brian Bannister to Triple-A Omaha, asked unconditional release waivers on pitcher Joel Peralta and placed pitcher John Bale on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 27.
Earlier on Wednesday, they traded first baseman Ross Gload to the Florida Marlins for a player to be named.
All those moves left the Royals with 32 players on the camp roster. They leave Arizona on Thursday for two exhibition games at Texas.
"Sidney Ponson will start Opening Day at the K, and our No. 5 starter will be Horacio," Hillman said. "Horacio will start the season in the bullpen, and he'll be in our starting rotation, but swinging back and forth as needed between the 'pen and the rotation."
As the schedule falls in April, with three open dates, Ramirez likely will make two starts during the month.
Ponson pitched in just two Cactus League games and gave up 13 runs -- two of them unearned -- for a 9.58 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. He was signed as a free agent after competing in the World Baseball Classic.
"He's had limited appearances here, but we've also had personnel follow everything he did in the [Classic] so, to some degree, that comes into play in the evaluation," Hillman said.
Ponson was drilled for seven runs in a 7-2 loss to the Oakland A's on Tuesday.
"I'm never satisfied with seven earned runs on the board, but there's always a bigger picture when you're evaluating skills and talent level and Spring Training statistics," Hillman said. "We just felt like it was the best way for it to fall. He's excited about getting a turn through the rotation."
Ramirez will be available in the bullpen, notably on Opening Day next Monday in Chicago.
"If nothing else happens, Horacio's first start will be on the 12th, but I would doubt very seriously that will be his first game action," Hillman said.
Bannister will start the season in Omaha's rotation along with Luke Hochevar, also a Royals rotation candidate until he was optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday.
"I think Hoch is going to be a very good pitcher for us for a long time, but right now it's a good chance for him to go down and develop some of his pitches and more stamina," general manager Dayton Moore said.
"And for Banny, he's pitched a lot of innings for us over the last two years, and we're comfortable with what we have in Banny. He's got an option, and we just need to control as many starters as we can at this point."
Moore said the deadline for pitcher Jamey Wright being assigned to the Major League roster has been delayed by mutual agreement. Wright, on a Minor League contract, could have opted for free agency if he wasn't placed on the 40-man roster by Wednesday.
But that was put off, indicating there's a strong possibility he'll be in the bullpen. Bale, who is recovering from thyroid surgery, will not.
"It really doesn't make any sense for us to take him to Texas and put him a little bit more in an adrenaline-charged situation to try to force the issue and get him ready for the season," Hillman said. "When we get him back, I don't know."
Peralta was dropped after three years with the Royals. He struggled in the Cactus League with a 6.23 ERA and was unable to shake his propensity for giving up home runs. He surrendered four in just 8 2/3 innings.
Peralta was claimed off waivers from the Angels before the 2006 season, and he was 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA in 64 games that year. His best season was 2007, in which he worked 87 2/3 innings, second-most among American League relievers, and had a 3.80 ERA with a 1-3 record.
Last season Peralta, admired for being a gritty reliever, struggled with a 5.98 ERA and was tagged for 15 homers in 52 2/3 innings.
The Royals have some options left as they continue to trim toward Sunday's 2 p.m. CT deadline for setting the 25-man roster for the opener.
Ponson is on a Minor League contract, so he would not have to be added until April 10 when he pitches the home opener. That means the Royals could keep an extra position player for the first three games at Chicago.
Because of that, Moore indicated the Royals may open the season with just 11 pitchers -- instead of 12, as earlier expected -- and 14 position players. That could buy time for such players as Ryan Shealy, Mitch Maier, Tony Pena Jr., Brayan Pena and Shane Costa, who were vying for backup position roles.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.