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Royals’ rotation decisions add spice to postseason run

Kansas City left-hander has been chosen to start Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles.
Kansas City left-hander has been chosen to start Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles.

All of Kansas City came to a standstill Tuesday, waiting for Royals manager Ned Yost to name his Game 4 starter in the American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Well, it’s left-hander Jason Vargas, who will be pitching for the first time since 2009 when he faces the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

Actually, it’s the first time since Oct. 2, when he allowed three hits and two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels. It just seems like five years.

Yost could have come back with right-hander James Shields on his normal rest, four days between starts. But Yost decided he wanted to get Vargas back on the mound and give Shields an extra day should a Game 5 be necessary Thursday afternoon.

“We thought it beneficial to give Shields an extra day and (Yordano) Ventura an extra day,” Yost said. “I think being up two games helps us do that. If it was tied 1-1, it might have been a different decision. But we just felt it was best to line it up that way, give everybody as much rest as we can and go get it.”

Don’t underestimate the Royals’ concern for Ventura, a young right-hander who had to come out of his Game 2 ALCS start against the Orioles on Saturday after 5 2/3 innings because of shoulder irritation.

Ventura is a huge key in the series and until he shows he can go, and throw that blistering fastball he’s become famous for, there has to be a little doubt about his effectiveness.

And who knows what and how much left-hander Danny Duffy can give the Royals the rest of the way. It’s looking more and more like he’s a one-inning reliever.

I’m sure the Royals held their breath as they sent Ventura and Duffy to the mound start after start duirng the regular season. Both went well over their previous high in innings pitched at any professional level.

Ventura pitched 183 innings during the regular season after never pitching more than 134.2. Duffy, meanwhile, pitched 149.1 innings, his most since going 126.2 innings for Class-A Wilmington in 2009.

So despite Kansas City having a 2-0 edge going into Tuesday night’s Game 3, there are potential concerns when it comes to starting pitching.

With Vargas set for Game 4, Shields for Game 5 and most likely Ventura for Game 6, who goes if there’s a Game 7?

The Royals haven’t looked that far ahead, but it’s an interesting question. Does Guthrie come back on three days rest? Is rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan an option? Would Duffy get the call?

It’s presumptuous to think there will be a Game 7 at this point. But what makes postseason baseball great are the unexpected twists and turns. Will Baltimore, which was 96-66 during the regular season, go quietly into the night? Or will the Orioles raise a ruckus?

If there’s any drama to speak of in a 2-0 series, Kansas City’s pitching rotation is the mystery. The Royals could make it a non-factor by winning two games at the K. The way they’re playing, that’s a most-likely scenario. But it’s not etched in stone.

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