Yost says Royals' bullpen strategy is trendy

Manager feels confident handing ball off to versatile group of relievers

Yost says Royals' bullpen strategy is trendy

OAKLAND -- The Royals' bullpen had a rare hiccup Sunday and gave up two runs in a 3-2 loss to the Oakland A's at the Coliseum. Still, with a back end that includes Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria and Wade Davis -- all three of whom have closer capabilities -- Kansas City has one of the deepest bullpens in baseball.

It was a key component to the ballclub's championship run in 2015 and is something that manager Ned Yost is noticing becoming trendy around the rest of Major League Baseball.

"You do see teams doing it more," Yost said Sunday before the Royals closed out their three-game series in Oakland. "The teams that are doing it feel good about it because there's something real special about getting through the fifth inning and knowing that you're probably going to win that game if you're tied, one run down or even ahead by one run.

"It just shortens the game so much and makes it nice, but it's hard to do, too. It's hard to get a group of really quality guys down there."

The Royals aren't the first team to attempt to build a deep, versatile bullpen. The Yankees have subscribed to the theory for several seasons. Most recently, Athletics manager Bob Melvin championed a similar approach a few years ago with Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Other teams have followed suit, though Yost joked, "I don't want them doing that."

Kansas City's six saves through 13 games are tied with Washington for most in the Majors this season, with Davis serving as the team's designated closer with five. But that's only a small fraction of the story.

Whereas teams once sweated getting to the eighth or ninth before turning the game over to the closer, Yost said he only needs to get to the sixth before comfortably handing things off to the bullpen.

"It's a long season so we try to milk every out that we can out of our starters, but we're not going to be stupid either and lose a game after the sixth inning with the group of guys we have down there," Yost said. "We're going to try to be as smart as we can about it but … every out that you get, that means that's one less out that they have to get. Over the course of a long year that stuff adds up when you get into August and September."

Yost said that the Royals never intentionally set out to have this type of bullpen. It simply happened through a series of roster moves.

"It just evolved," Yost said. "When I first got here we had Soria and it was funny because my whole goal was just get to the ninth inning so [he] could come in. Then Greg Holland got here and it was, 'OK, let's just get to the eighth.' And when Kelvin came it was , 'OK, let's just get to the seventh.' Now it looks like, 'Let's just get through the fifth and then we're in pretty good shape.'"

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.