The mantra was repeated again and again this offseason: as good as the position players are (and will be) for the Kansas City Royals, the team will fail to contend unless the pitching is adequately addressed. Two weeks into the 2012 MLB season and the evidence is already starting to pile up. As the Royals have lost four straight, they find themselves with an overburdened bullpen and a losing streak of four games, including being swept in the home opening series against the Indians.
At this point, the Royals need someone -- anyone -- to pick up the mantle and turn this thing around. Luke Hochevar fell apart in his second start. Luis Mendoza was disastrous. The bullpen is overused already and Mitch Maier came in to pitch yesterday. Yes, Mitch Maier.
With the loss of Joakim Soria, the Royals bullpen lost a key pitcher and it lessened the depth that Dayton Moore had stocked up over the winter. While they should technically have more than enough arms for a standard roster, the Royals have zero starters they can rely upon to carry the team for a solid seven. Most nights they will be lucky to get five or six decent innings out of a starter. Unfortunately even in the last few games, they're already in the hole after the first two or three.
Last night's loss was the icing on the cake. The Indians scored 13 runs in the final game of the series and the weekend that left a sour taste in every fan's mouth. While the team will go through its fair share of ups and downs with such a young roster, it's also clear that the roller coaster is more about the lack of pitching talent than it is just a series of growing pains. Simply put, the Royals aren't ready to contend.
It's early in the season, so there's always a chance the team could turn around its fortunes. There's reason for hope in the bigger picture as well. However, the predicted reality before the season hit the Royals as squarely as it could this weekend -- with a second class AL Central franchise taking them out at every turn. This isn't about growing up. It's about reshaping the entire staff.