MINNEAPOLIS -- Danny Duffy adapted to relief work as if it was old stuff for him.
The 25-year-old left-hander had rarely done it -- just four times in 122 professional games. The rest were all starts, including 31 in the Major Leagues.
So this was something different on Saturday when he relieved James Shields in the sixth inning during a 7-1 loss to the Twins. But Duffy reeled through all seven batters he faced, struck out three and used 45 pitches to do it.
"It was nice to get back out there and be a part of the team again. Shields did a great job of damage control. He pitched a heck of a game and we were fortunate enough to save the 'pen for tomorrow," Duffy said.
"That's what he does. For a good starter, I think how good you are is dictated by how good you are on your bad days. He had great stuff today. They were spittin' on a lot of great pitches and he just persevered and got through 5 2/3, and did a great job of preserving the 'pen."
Shields did retire 11 of the 13 batters he faced after the second inning. So the rest of the bullpen rested and manager Ned Yost was pleased with that development.
"It was real important, especially after the fact that he threw 50 pitches in the second inning," Yost said. "That's a huge workload for one inning. When you've got your ace on the mound, it starts to give you a little bit of concern, making sure he doesn't overdo it.
"But the thing about James Shields, what makes him so great, is that he never stops competing -- ever. It doesn't matter what the situation is, he continues to compete. He was bound and determined to throw every pitch that he had in his tank today to get us as far as he could to save that bullpen."
Yost saw Duffy's showing as an example of what he might do in a much tighter game.
"That was an encouraging sign today. Again, we're not firing on all cylinders offensively, which I knew we can and I know we will," Yost said.
"But there are still going to be times when you're going to need to protect the one-run lead from the sixth inning on and the more power arms you have down there in the bullpen, the easier it's going to make it to do that. So, we think Danny is going to fill that spot nicely -- to have another power arm that we can add to our arsenal down there."
Duffy goes right to work out of Royals' bullpen
MINNEAPOLIS -- If Danny Duffy wants a change, well, about all he has to do is wait a week or two and it's likely to happen.
Duffy's latest turnabout came on Saturday when he rushed to Target Field and joined the Royals' pitching staff in time to pitch 2 1/3 perfect innings in a 7-1 loss to the Twins.
He was recalled from Triple-A Omaha and second baseman Johnny Giavotella was optioned to the same club. That brings the Royals' pitching staff back to 12, including seven relievers.
Duffy, a prize left-handed prospect of long standing, will operate out of the Kansas City bullpen.
"We're trying to put the best arms we've got in the organization [here] right now and he's one of the best arms we've got," manager Ned Yost said.
Duffy was the center of a Spring Training debate among Royals officials -- should he begin the season in the KC bullpen or go to Omaha and get lengthened out as a starter? Ultimately the Omaha option won out -- Duffy would start for the Storm Chasers and be ready in case the KC rotation needed help.
That lasted exactly one game. Duffy pitched six innings, gave up two runs and earned a victory. He was held out of Friday's start pending his recall.
"We've been going with 11 pitchers, back to 12, back to 11. You've got issues with rosters -- when you send guys down, they must be there for 10 days," Yost said. "You can't recall 'em unless somebody goes on the DL. And he threw the ball really well."
During Spring Training, 2013 relief standout Luke Hochevar was lost to Tommy John surgery.
"You always feel a loss like that, especially somebody as good as he was," Yost said.
Just five days ago, the Royals had two left-handed relievers go on the 15-day disabled list. Three days ago the only remaining lefty reliever, Donnie Joseph, was sent back to Omaha so that Giavotella could be called up as a fill-in for injured second baseman Omar Infante.
Meantime, right-hander Louis Coleman returned to the bullpen from the disabled list and rookie righty Michael Mariot was called up from Omaha.
In Friday night's game, Infante returned from his bout with a baseball to the jaw and held up well. So Giavotella's presence was less vital and he left after playing just one game.
Duffy becomes the lone lefty in the bullpen.
"And we needed some length, too," Yost said and referred to Friday night's 10-1 loss to the Twins. "[It)] was one of those kind of nightmares when your starting pitcher goes 3 2/3 [innings] and you've got an 11-man staff, and you're already down 4-1 and you're trying to hold the game so you can crawl back in and get to your back end relievers. And then, we had to bring [Kelvin] Herrera in when we really didn't want to, but we couldn't throw strikes and pitch counts got up and ..."
Yost found himself a bit short-handed in pitching.
If necessary, Duffy could provide multiple innings of relief as he did on Saturday.
Collins and Bueno might be ready to return within about 10 days so could Duffy's stay be temporary?
"Not necessarily, we'll play all that by ear. It depends on how he does," Yost said. "We're trying to win baseball games."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.