Blister abbreviates Volquez’s start, further strains Royals’ bullpen
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Edinson Volquez showed off his newest souvenir after Kansas City’s 7-4 win over Cleveland on a rain-dampened Thursday. It was a deep brown smudge on the inside of his right thumb, bordered by a hint of yellow that manifested itself as an unsightly blister.
"It’s better than what it looks," Volquez said.
The blister had shadowed Volquez throughout his last few starts, but finally exploded during the third inning, discarding his command and usurping any grip the right-hander had on the ball. Volquez lasted just three innings and walked six Indians in his briefest outing since June of last year.
"In the last inning, I couldn’t hold the ball anymore," Volquez said. "It was tough for me to throw the ball. … By the time I had to let the ball go, it burned a little bit."
Neither Volquez nor Royals manager Ned Yost expects him to miss his next start, even if that meant pitching through a hardened blister. Volquez said he has routinely had a blister issue, about twice a season, and it’s always in the same place, on the knuckle’s inside, right below the fingernail.
Only twice in his career had Volquez walked more than six and he hadn’t equaled that mark in nearly two years. Through the first five starts of this season, Volquez has been the Royals’ most consistent pitcher, never yielding more than three runs in an outing and never finishing with fewer than 5 2/3 innings.
But Thursday changed that.
Volquez breezed through an easy first inning after a two-hour and 17-minute rain delay, sitting down the Indians in order, but unraveled in the second and third innings. He allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to shoot a one-out triple into right-center and David Murphy to drive him home with an RBI groundout.
Cleveland had scored a run but was about to see Volquez’s ultimate undoing. The right-hander walked the next two Indians but shimmied out of the inning with a flyout. He wasn’t as fortunate in the third inning.
Volquez labored through a 40-pitch third frame that featured four free passes and just one Cleveland hit. He walked in two runs as part of a trio of consecutive walks. But he wiggled free of the inning with a strikeout of Roberto Perez to strand three runners.
In three innings Thursday, Volquez walked as many batters as he had in his previous 26 1/3 innings.
His short start also burdened the bullpen, one night after Royals relievers threw eight innings to cover up Danny Duffy’s abbreviated outing. Five Kansas City relievers — Franklin Morales, Luke Hochevar, Ryan Madson, Wade Davis and Greg Holland — chipped in to complete the final six innings and surrender just two hits.
Chris Young was unavailable after throwing 31 pitches the night before, while Kelvin Herrera began his suspension Thursday. That left six pitchers in the bullpen — two of whom had pitched the night before and one who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013.
But the taxed bullpen could put the Royals in a bind soon, with a three-game series at Detroit starting Friday evening.
"They’re still alive," Yost said, "which is good."
The Royals haven’t needed 14 combined bullpen innings across two straight games since September 2012, when they participated in a 14-inning game one night.
Eric Hosmer sent a ball streaking to center field in the first inning, clearing the wall for a three-run shot that gave the Royals a four-run lead. It was Hosmer’s fifth home run of the season, fourth in the last eight games and third off Cleveland pitchng.
"My initial reaction was just get in the gap and the ball just kept carrying," Hosmer said. "I just thought it would be in the gap, maybe to the warning track or something like that, but definitely didn’t think it was going to get out."
Cleveland trimmed the Kansas City lead to 5-4 after Carlos Santana’s solo homer off Madson in the seventh inning. The Royals responded, though, with two insurance runs courtesy of Omar Infante’s double, which handed a three-run lead to Davis and Holland.