2:50pm: Vargas tells reporters that further tests revealed that there’s no damage to his UCL (Twitter link via McCullough). He’s hopeful that he can begin to play catch next week and only miss “a few” starts, though the team has yet to announce any form of timetable.
2:32pm: The Royals will place left-hander Jason Vargas on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his left elbow, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. While there’s no further news on Vargas’ condition yet, McCullough notes that Vargas could be out for months. The team also must be concerned with the possibility of Tommy John surgery, as flexor injuries can often be a precursor to the operation. Vargas’ roster spot will be filled by Yohan Pino for the time being.
Vargas, 32, is in the second season of a four-year, $32MM pact with Kansas City signed in the 2013-14 offseason. While some questioned the deal at the time it was signed, Vargas made good on the first year of the contract, firing 187 innings of 3.71 ERA ball with 6.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 38.3 percent ground-ball rate. Fangraphs valued his contributions at 2.2 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference pegged him at 2.4. Vargas also pitched well in the postseason, winning a pair of games in the ALDS and ALCS by allowing three total runs in a combined 11 1/3 innings. He scuffled a bit in the World Series, yielding three runs in a short, four-inning outing that resulted in a loss.
The Royals have some rotation depth in the event of such an injury, as Pino and Chris Young were both signed to small Major League deals this offseason. Top prospect Brandon Finnegan looms as an option in the Minors as well. Young is expected to step into Vargas’ rotation slot for now, according to McCullough.
Losing Vargas for a significant amount of time would increase the need for strong performances from Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy and Edinson Volquez atop the rotation, however, as right-hander Jeremy Guthrie has struggled badly in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Vargas, too, has struggled in 2015, although this news may shed some light on the reason for his difficulties. Through 25 2/3 innings this year, he’s worked to a 5.26 ERA with a 14-to-10 K/BB ratio.