The Royals have selected the contract of right-hander Nick Wittgren, optioning fellow righty Max Castillo in a corresponding move. The 40-man roster already had an open spot due to Hunter Dozier getting designated for assignment yesterday.
Wittgren, 32 next week, has pitched in the seven previous major league seasons for Miami, Cleveland and St. Louis. By the end of the 2020 season, he had made 198 appearances with a 3.36 ERA, 23.4% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate and 38.2% ground ball rate. Unfortunately, he’s fell on hard times in the next two seasons, with his ERA jumping to 5.05 in 2021 and 5.20 last year. His strikeout rate got as high as 28.6% in 2020 but then dropped to 23.6% the year after and all the way to 12.7% in 2022.
He was outrighted by the Guardians after 2021 and signed with the Cardinals for 2022 but was released in July. He signed a minor league deal with the Royals this winter and has been pitching for Triple-A Omaha this year, posting a 1.25 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 24.1% of opponents faced while walking 7.6% of them, getting grounders at a 42.3% clip.
That solid showing will get Wittgren another shot at the big leagues. If he can carry over any of those strong results, it would be a boost to the struggling Kansas City bullpen. The club’s relievers have a collective 4.71 ERA on the year, placing them 26th out of the 30 teams in the league.