NEW YORK -- Bruce Chen is moving back into the rotation. Royals manager Ned Yost said Monday that Chen will start Friday in place of Luis Mendoza, and the latter arm will slot into the bullpen as a long reliever. Mendoza went 2-5 with a 4.87 ERA in his first 16 outings.
Chen, meanwhile, has gone 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his first 19 relief appearances. The veteran southpaw has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons with the Royals, and he's managed to post a 37-33 record and a 4.37 career ERA in games after the All-Star break.
Both Chen and Mendoza competed for the fifth-starter's slot in Spring Training, and Yost said that the team always kept Chen's return to the rotation in mind.
"That was kind of the plan all along," said Yost of flipping the two arms. "[Mendoza] had pitched winter ball and was in a spot where he could be highly competitive in Spring Training. Bruce is always a slow starter in Spring Training, so we made a decision early knowing that, at the halfway point, if Mendy was struggling a little bit, we'd have a fresh Bruce, a Bruce that's won more games than any pitcher we've had over the last three years. Hopefully, Bruce will step in and finish it out strong."
Chen has been lightly used, but he threw a season-high 85 pitches in relief of Mendoza in Sunday's 10-4 loss to Oakland.
Mendoza, meanwhile, is still figuring out where he fits best on a Major League staff. The 29-year-old set a career best with 166 innings last season, but he's struggled to find consistency this year. Now, with the move to the bullpen, the Royals can pick and choose their spots for Mendoza.
"It could kind of be the best of both worlds for us," said Yost. "Mendy fits really good in the 'pen as a long guy and a middle guy, so we think it's beneficial."
Royals call up Coleman, send Smith to Triple-A
NEW YORK -- The Royals saw their bullpen work hard on Sunday, so they made the natural decision to call up a new arm for Monday's series opener against the Yankees. Kansas City recalled Louis Coleman from Triple-A Omaha and optioned Will Smith back down to their top affiliate.
Coleman, recently named an All-Star in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, found himself with an even better reward. The 27-year-old right-hander had a 3-2 record and a 1.61 ERA for Omaha, and he's posted a 2-4 record and a 3.13 ERA in 94 appearances in the Major Leagues for the Royals.
"It's just a surprise. Everybody's been pitching well," he said of rejoining the Royals. "The All-Star Game is cool and you never want to miss it, but getting a promotion is a good excuse."
Kansas City's bullpen has thrown the fewest amount of innings (231 1/3) in the Major Leagues this season, and Coleman's presence should help keep everyone fresh. Last year, the Royals saw their bullpen get overworked, throwing more innings than any other staff in the American League.
Coleman, a former fifth-round draftee out of Louisiana State University, made four scoreless appearances for the Royals earlier this season. Bruce Chen and Smith both pitched at least three innings in Sunday's game, and the Royals wanted Coleman for extra flexibility.
"He was throwing the ball good. We just needed an arm," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We had a day yesterday where we used three guys, and pitch counts got up so that all three of them were going to be unavailable for the next three days. We didn't want to come in here short."
Smith, 23 years old, allowed three earned runs in Sunday's loss. He notched a 1-1 record and a 3.86 ERA in six appearances this year and now has a career 5.09 ERA in the Majors. Smith was 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 17 games for Omaha prior to his promotion.
"It was the same as it was when I was up here last year," said Smith of his big league experience. "You have a good time out here. You compete against the best in the world every day."
Kansas City launches Royals Rewards program
NEW YORK -- The Royals announced the introduction of a brand new program Monday designed to get more fans involved in watching their games. The program will be called the Royal Rewards program, and fans will have the opportunity to win prizes by engaging in social media.
The program, which is free, will encourage fans to interact at royals.com and on the team's official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Fans can enroll in Royal Rewards by creating a profile on royals.com/rewards or by logging in with their MLB.com account information.
Participating fans can earn points by connecting to each of the team's social media outlets. Fans can also win points by purchasing tickets or merchandise at royals.com, and they will be recognized for checking in through MLB.com's At The Ballpark app. Points can be redeemed for virtual tokens used to enter contests, including an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a game this season.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.