Duffy and Davis Solidify Royal’s Bullpen

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If you have been reading Royals Blue over the past month or so, you will know how nervous I have been about the reigning MLB best bullpen.

This spring the Kansas City Royals relievers seemed to have lost their way.  Everyone from the incredibly reliable Greg Holland to Louis Coleman seemed  hittable.  With such success the year before, (and a battle for the starting rotation that was about 7 players deep) the bullpen was often overlooked in Arizona.  However, as many people started noting as the spring progressed, we were becoming ever aware this bullpen may not be as strong as it was a season before.

 Things got even worse when  the Royals lost  Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery.  The new found setup man would miss the entire 2014 season, and now not only was the bullpen suspect, it had a huge hole that needed to be filled.

As the Royals broke camp and headed to regular season play Wade Davis was assigned to the bullpen again, and Danny Duffy would start the season in AAA.  Kansas City would open in Detroit, and see the bullpen fall flat.  They couldn’t convert on two fantastic starts from James Shields and Jason Vargas (and the offense didn’t exactly help either) as the Royals started out 0-2.

The pen got thinned out when the lefty leprechaun Tim Collins, and Francisly Buena both went on the DL.  Things would not totally right themselves until the Royals went into Houston, and begin to figure things out.  Ned Yost shuffled his batting line-up, The freshly called up Danny Duffy would get some confindence, and the Royals would sweep the abysmal Astros.  Sometime you just need a slump buster to get you back on your game!

What is different?  First was finding someone to replace Hochevar in the setup role.  Yost has settled in on Wade Davis for this task (a role he also held in Tampa Bay before coming to the Royals).  Davis has looked right at home. If I were to ask you who was second, behind James Shields, in strikeouts right now for the Royals, you would probably think Vargas, Ace Ventura, or Holland.

Wrongo, it is actually Wade Davis.  Davis recorded his 14th K of the season today in his hold of the Minnesota Twins.  This was Davis’ 3rd hold of the season, a stat this seems inconsequential but if you saw the first two weeks, you will understand why this is so important.  When you have such a lights out closer as the Royals do with Greg Holland, having an 8th inning guy that can ensure the lead gets into the 9th could be the difference in October baseball vs. Chiefs Kingdom ruling the land.

A second change is the addition of the power pitching lefty Danny Duffy to the Major League club.  A starter by nature, Duffy is giving the beginning of this season a whirl in the pen (though it may be short lived).

Two great examples of how this is a good thing for his future were given today by two very different sources.  Former Royals starter Brian Bannister tweeted out a comparision to when Zach Greinke was struggling for the Royals, and they moved him to the pen.  In the pen Greinke started lighting up the radar gun at 97, and could get back his confidence one inning at a time.

 A similar story was told by Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire about another Cy Young winner Johan Santana.  Santana was moved to the pen for a stint early in his career, and Gardenhire credited a lot of his maturity as a pitcher to that time relieving.

All said, Duffy has come out in two consecutive ball games with the game on the line and posted a zero era, got the win in extra innings on Wednesday, and sat down six in a row with a one run lead in Saturdays game.

With the combination of Kelvin Herrera and Danny Duffy, you now have two flame throwers from each side of the rubber that came come in and put out fires.  After that, the ball can be turned over to Davis in the 8th and let Holland close it out in the 9th.  However, this is only if the gem of this team (the starting pitching) actually need it.  The Royals are currently second in the A.L with a 2.82 team ERA. Yordano Ventura is currently 3rd in the A.L.  at a  diminutive .69 and Both Vargas and Shields host sub 2.01 ERAs.  It stands to reason, that if this team can score it’s magical number of 4 runs (they are currently 9-0 when they do so) it could be a very good season for the boys in Blue!

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photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

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