Fifth starter spot remains question for Royals

Gee picks up slack in relief after Flynn goes just 2 1/3 in loss

Fifth starter spot remains question for Royals

KANSAS CITY -- With left-hander Brian Flynn providing several solid outings of multi-inning relief throughout this season, there was hope that he might be able to help ease the Royals' fifth starter woes, even if it was just for a spot start.

But in a 7-3 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night, Flynn struggled to command his four-seamer, which hurt him in three specific at-bats. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs, as the Royals dropped to 8-17 in games started by anyone other than Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez.

"Just looking for a guy right now. We've got time to think about it," manager Ned Yost said of the fifth starter's spot. "We've got an off-day on Thursday, so we'll be able to skip that spot next time around."

Flynn's struggles presented themselves early on. On a 2-0 count in the first inning, he tried to work Mike Napoli inside, but the pitch stayed over the plate. Napoli made him pay, knocking his 21st home run over the left-field wall.

"[The four-seamer] is going to haunt me a little bit," Flynn said. "You've got to command both sides of the plate, being a lefty facing righties. [I] wasn't successful getting the ball in to those guys tonight."

Earlier in the year, Flynn posted several outings longer than his Tuesday start to save the bullpen. Among those games was a four-inning appearance against the Indians in his season debut, as well as a five-inning outing against the Astros on June 24.

But on Tuesday, the roles were reversed. The Royals had to call on right-hander Dillon Gee as the long man. Gee made his way through 5 1/3 innings, tying a career high for his longest relief outing, before Yost turned to right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to finish out the game.

"My mindset is just to eat as many innings as possible, save the bullpen," Gee said. "It's been a little while [since Gee's last outing on July 10], but I felt fine."

"Outside of the three-run fifth, he limited the damage really great," Yost said. "He pitched some strong innings for us."

But the biggest question remains at the fifth starter's spot. The Royals have tried several pitchers between Flynn, Gee, Chris Young and Kris Medlen, but there still isn't a definitive answer moving forward.

"[We'll] consider all of our options," Yost said.

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.