KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As left-hander Danny Duffy prepares to start the season at Triple-A Omaha, the Royals’ message to him is simple: Stay calm.
"We know he’s disappointed that he’s not with the big-league club," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said by phone. "But he’s a smart guy and he knows he is very much a part of our future.
"We want him to go to Omaha and just relax and work on his game. Don’t let any disappointment interfere with your progress. Really, if there’s one thing we’d like to see him do, it is to relax a little more. He gets so hyped up, and there’s a lot of that that we really like about him. But we don’t want him to get so hyped it becomes a detriment."
Duffy had been in a battle with right-hander Yordano Ventura for the final spot in the Royals’ rotation this spring. But as the weeks progressed it became obvious to everyone, including Duffy, that the job was going to be Ventura’s.
That’s when Duffy approached the Royals about getting a shot at the big-league bullpen. After getting roughed up in his second outing out of the bullpen, the Royals officially optioned him to Triple A.
"We understand it is hard for guys like Danny who have had a taste of the big leagues to suddenly go back (to Omaha)," Picollo said. "We get that. He wanted to do anything he could to stay in the big leagues.
"But he knows and we know his future is as a starter. That’s where he is most valuable."
The Royals are hoping Duffy will improve his command at Omaha.
"He’s had success at Omaha, so he should be in a more relaxed position to work on things," Picollo said. "We’d like him to get there and work on his curve and slider, and then really pick which one he thinks works best for him and just focus on that.
"And, of course, as is always the case with Danny, we’d like to see him improve his fastball location."
The biggest obstacle for Duffy sometimes is himself.
"A big part of his game is his mental approach," Picollo said. "Sometimes he gets to thinking about the sixth inning when he’s only in the first. It’s kind of a battle. The talent is obviously there and his stuff is great.
"We still believe he has a tremendous future with us as a big-league starter."
Another young arm the Royals are monitoring closely is former first-round pick Kyle Zimmer, a right-hander who was shut down a few weeks before last season ended because of biceps tendinitis.
Zimmer has been throwing off flat ground since late February and is expected to throw a side session off the mound early next week. It’ll be the first time since last August that Zimmer will have thrown off the mound.
"He’s right now in our normal throwing program for spring training," Picollo said. "He would be roughly in early February of what we have our normal pitchers do. So once he throws some side sessions we’ll start building him up to about 45 pitches. And then eventually some extended spring games."
The Royals plan to have Zimmer build up to about five innings, or roughly 75 pitches, by May 20 or so, at which time he will be sent to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He will be on a 150-inning limit this season.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.