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Royals rookie trounced in 12-2 loss to Toronto

Published on -5/31/2014, 9:05 PM

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By Andy Mccullough

McClatchy-Tribune

The deluge lasted for 23 minutes before Ned Yost threw in the towel. His walk from the dugout to the mound was slow and doleful, but not nearly as agonizing as what had precipitated his appearance on the field, the 11-batter catastrophe suffered by spot starter Aaron Brooks.

In his first big-league start, Brooks could not complete the first inning. The Blue Jays pummeled him for seven runs in an 12-2 trouncing. His replacement, Michael Mariot, allowed four runs in mop-up duty. The opening salvos left Yost helpless, a spectator to a bludgeoning, unable to find words to console an overmatched rookie like Brooks.

"I don't know what you say after something like that," Yost said.

On Friday, Yost advertised Brooks as a competitive strike thrower, a capable stand-in during Yordano Ventura's one-start absence. Brooks (0-1, 43.88 ERA) did not look the part: He walked the first hitter he faced and hit the second. The inning only spiraled from there, as the first eight batters reached safely.

In his second inning of big-league work, part of a two-frame appearance on May 3, Brooks gave up six runs. Somehow, his third inning in the major leagues was worse. He yielded seven runs, collected two outs and punted the Royals (26-29) into an inescapable ditch on Saturday afternoon.

"I couldn't throw strikes for some reason," Brooks said. "It's difficult to be out there on that stage, and try to fix stuff as it's going wrong."

One loss only matters so much in the 162-game season; the Royals have a chance to win this series on Sunday against Mark Buehrle. But Brooks' plight hinted at a far more troubling issue: The team's lack of minor-league pitching depth.

When this season began, the Royals pegged Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer as their best options to graduate from Class AAA to the majors later in the season. Duffy spent April in the big-league bullpen, and replaced Bruce Chen in the rotation in May. Dwyer has missed all of May on the disabled list.

No top-end replacements are close to the majors. Sean Manaea and Miguel Almonte are soaking up seasoning in Class A Wilmington. Kyle Zimmer, the team's top pitching prospect, strained a muscle in his back two weeks ago. Shut down until July, he is unlikely to contribute at the big-league level this season.

Thus, the Royals lack sterling options. They are left with pitchers like Brooks, who the team's front office presented to Yost as the best option for this cameo. "It's who they recommended," Yost said on Friday afternoon.

The team chose Brooks over Sugar Ray Marimon, a 25-year-old right-hander with a 2.82 ERA in nine starts. The Omaha roster featured few appealing options. John Lamb is homer-prone. Brett Tomko is 41, and has pitched in eight major-league games since 2009.

Brooks left his Class AAA teammates on Friday in Oklahoma City. He didn't arrive in Toronto until midway through the big-league club's game. His stay here will be brief, as lefty reliever Francisley Bueno should take his roster spot on Sunday.

Brooks did little to suggest he should stick around. After walking Jose Reyes and plunking Melky Cabrera, the table was set for the ferocious core of Toronto's lineup.

Jose Bautista roped an RBI double. Edwin Encarnacion walked and Adam Lind ripped an RBI single. Only five men had batted, but pitching coach Dave Eiland had seen enough to lope toward the mound.

His instructions were not heeded. Brooks tagged Brett Lawrie with a fastball. A double by Juan Francisco plated two more runs. Another walk loaded the bases.

"The command just wasn't there," backup catcher Brett Hayes said.

Brooks recovered to field a softly-hit grounder by Anthony Gose. He started a 1-2-3 double play that saved a run and reduced some of the sting. Except a pair of singles from Reyes and Cabrera brought two more runs home.

The hit from Cabrera at last roused Yost from the dugout. A manager cannot wave a white flag in this game. But he may as well have.

"That's tough, facing a club like this," Yost said. "You're really hoping for a Cinderella story. He comes up and gives you five good innings.

"But there was just nothing we could do."

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