One bright spot? Duffy looks dominating in relief

Danny Duffy, shown here during a March 14 exhibition game, retired all seven hitters he faced Saturday -- including three strikeouts.

Darron Cummings/AP

It’™s normally pretty hard to find bright spots in a 7-1 thumping.

But the Royals can at least take some comfort in the relief outing turned in by left-hander Danny Duffy during their pounding at Minnesota.

Duffy, recalled from Triple-A Omaha on Saturday morning, came on in relief of starter James Shields and retired all seven hitters he faced, three on strikeouts.

It was Duffy’s first relief appearance in the major leagues.

Duffy’s recall was at least on the surface a bit curious. Upon his request, the Royals had allowed him to go to the bullpen in spring training so he could possibly make the 25-man roster as a reliever. But in two spring outings out of the pen, Duffy struggled and he was sent out to Omaha.

At that time, the Royals indicated that Duffy’s role once again would be as a starter.

But less than three weeks into the season, Duffy again is trying to get a foothold in the big leagues as a reliever.

"This is something we’ve been planning for four or five days," manager Ned Yost said before Saturday’s game. "We are thin in the bullpen. And with (Tim) Collins and (Francisley) Bueno down, we were in need of a strong-armed left-hander."

Duffy certainly fit the bill Saturday.

Duffy was hit hard twice — Joe Mauer lined out to left to end the sixth inning, and Kurt Suzuki lined out to third in the eighth.

But overall, Duffy showed excellent fastball command, bringing his heater anywhere from 93 mph to 96 mph.

Duffy froze Trevor Plouffe on a 3-2 fastball leading off the bottom of the seventh. Duffy also blew 3-2 fastballs by Josmil Pinto and Aaron Hicks in the eighth inning.

And just as impressive was Duffy winning a nine-pitch duel with Darin Mastroianni, who finally popped out to shortstop in the seventh inning.

The only downside to Duffy’s appearance was that he could not get his curveball over for a strike. But the strong performance overall could be huge for the Royals down the road as they continue to try to settle their bullpen roles.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.