After a pair of unimpressive appearances, the Royals have pulled the plug on their experiment using Danny Duffy as a reliever. He was optioned to Class AAA Omaha on Sunday morning.
Duffy was the highest-profile of four roster moves: Lefty reliever Donnie Joseph was also optioned to Omaha; right-handers Cory Wade and P.J. Walters were re-assigned to minor-league camp.
The cuts left lefty Francisley Bueno and righty Jon Rauch as the only two relievers still in the mix for the final spot in the bullpen. Manager Ned Yost cautioned the organization would be trolling the waiver wire in the coming days in search of upgrades. He also dismissed the suggestion the team would carry only 11 pitchers.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen,” Yost said. “Let’s put it that way.”
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Duffy, the 25-year-old left-hander, lost out to Yordano Ventura for the fifth spot in the Royals rotation. He lobbied team officials to let him try to make the club as a starter. The Royals obliged. But Yost cautioned before Duffy took the mound that he still needed to impress to make the team.
On Thursday, Duffy gave up a pair of laser line drives that were caught. He delivered a disastrous performance on Saturday afternoon. He nabbed a pair of quick outs, and worked an 0-2 count on 19-year-old minor leaguer Ronald Guzman. Duffy ended up issuing a walk. He did the same with catcher Robinson Chiniros. Then Michael Choice clobbered a high fastball for a three-run homer.
“It wasn’t the home run,” Yost said. “It was a combination of different things. Two walks before the home run was as big as the home run.
“You don’t look at ‘OK, he gave up two walks and a home run. Let’s send him to Class AAA.’ He’s better off being a starter, where he can get down there, get in his rhythm, get to where he can dominate that league, like he can, with his stuff.”
When the Royals shifted Duffy to the bullpen last week, team officials repeated a refrain: Duffy needed to learn to conquer major-league pitching. They fretted he would not improve if he worked in the minors.
That belief has not changed, Yost said. But they do not feel he will be effective in the majors. Because Duffy struggles with his command, Yost would be less likely to trust him in critical situations.
“There’s a million different thought processes,” Yost said. “Just because we said he needs to get big-league hitters out doesn’t mean that we’re reneging back on (that). Again, we’ve got five or six different scenarios where we talk about him.
“Does he need to learn to get big-league hitters out? Yeah. He does. But does that over-trump us needing a guy that’s going to be ready in case we have a starter (get injured)?
“If he came in and just absolutely blew the doors off as a reliever, OK, we’d look at it for about six weeks. Then we probably would have sent him down anyway to get rebuilt back up.”
Yost also chalked the decision up to the organization’s commitment to winning in 2014. The big leagues are no longer a place for player development.
“Would we be sending Danny Duffy down two years ago? Nah,” Yost said. “Nah. We’d let him figure it out up here.”