January 29, 2023

Royals sign RHP Lyles to 2-year deal, hope for many innings

FILE - Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jordan Lyles throws during the second inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Baltimore. The Kansas City Royals and well-traveled right-hander Jordan Lyles have agreed to a $17 million, two-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams, File)

By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals were specific in their shopping list for a starting pitcher: They wanted someone capable of throwing a lot of innings, which would take some of the strain off the rest of their young and promising staff.
They decided that right-hander Jordan Lyles was the right fit.
The Royals announced their $17 million, two-year deal with the 32-year-old Lyles on Wednesday, a week after agreeing to terms with him. The Royals made space for him by designating for assignment first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, whom they had just re-signed last month to a $1.4 million contract to avoid salary arbitration.
“You never have enough pitching and you never have enough depth. The teams that went to the playoffs this year, they survived a lot of injuries because they had depth,” said Royals general manager J.J. Picollo, who signed left-hander Ryan Yarbrough to a one-year deal earlier in free agency.
“These two signs help us move in that direction where we can manage the season more effectively.”
Lyles has certainly proven to be durable the past couple of seasons. He made 32 starts for the Rangers in 2021, throwing 180 innings, and 32 more for the Orioles last season, when he tossed 179 innings and had a complete game.
“The reason we’re excited about Jordan and Ryan,” Picollo said, “is when we look at their track record, they’ve been able to pitch significant innings. We’re going into this season thinking between the two of them we can secure or stabilize 300 innings, which is a pretty good chunk between two pitchers.”
The trick is to make sure they’re quality innings.
Lyles, who has played for seven teams over 12 seasons, was 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA in his lone year in Baltimore, and his best season came in 2018, when he went 12-8 with a 4.15 ERA during stints in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. But Lyles is just 66-90 with a 5.10 ERA for his career, and his WAR — wins-above replacement — is a negative number.
Lyles said he’s been working on some things during the offseason to gain a tick or two on his fastball, along with trying to be more consistent with his off-speed stuff. And there’s some hope those tweaks, along with a new manager and coaching staff in Kansas City, will allow him to unlock his potential at a later stage in his career.
The Royals hired Matt Quatraro to replace Mike Matheny as manager shortly after the season. Quatraro arrived from Tampa Bay, which has a solid track record of maximizing pitchers. And his new pitching coach is Brian Sweeney, who had been the bullpen coach in Cleveland, which likewise has produced a stellar cast of pitchers over the years.
Lyles also can provide some veteran leadership for a staff full of 20-somethings such as Brady Singer and Kris Bubic.
“I’ve definitely been in that position the last couple of years,” Lyles said, “but there’s nothing I’m going to spring training searching for or looking to do. I just take pride in being the best teammate I can be.”