It seemed inevitable with both Kyle Davies and Bruce Chen making returns from the disabled list, that Danny Duffy would end up back in Omaha. He’d struggled with command and had trouble managing his pitch counts and a few more starts in Triple A might be the response by the organization to right that ship.
Instead, the Royals will make it work, going with a six man rotation.
At least for now.
There are a few ways this could play out.
First, Kyle Davies could continue to stink it up and get released. He’s thrown well in rehab starts, including a seven inning, no walk, nine strikeout performance on Saturday, but as Lee Warren has pointed out, Davies has dominated Triple A, but can’t translate it to major league results.
With an ERA above 7.00 as it is, he should be on a short leash.
Maybe he turns it around and looks good enough for a team in the pennant race to take a chance on him, and the Royals trade him and his remaining salary for whatever they can get.
That could be a solution to the starting pitching logjam for other starters. Jeff Francis or Bruce Chen could be attractive options on the market as well, especially as veteran left-handers. They’d be better candidates for a trade too, since they should have more value than Davies.
The Royals may find some advantages to a six man rotation. First, they limit Kyle Davies starts. In a regular rotation, over thirty games (about a month), Davies would get six starts. That’s six opportunities for him to get blasted out of the game early. In a six man rotation, he’ll have one less chance.
That’s also less opportunities for a Luke Hochevar blow up inning. Hochevar has looked better as of late, but he’ll never escape that one bad inning that seems to haunt him every game.
Most important in this discussion is Danny Duffy’s presence at the big league level. The only way to learn how to get big league hitters out is to face big league hitters. Another trip to Omaha only tells the Royals what Duffy can do against Triple A hitters. Not to be overlooked is the impact a demotion may have on Duffy the person. Remember that he took half of 2010 to sort out personal matters and while his hiatus never seemed permanent, there was no indication that he was definitely coming back until he stated so.
Considering that over his last three starts, Duffy has had more success than he did in his previous five. He opened his major league career with a 5.55 ERA and an 18/17 K/BB ratio in 24.1 innings. Since, he’s thrown 16.2 innings of 3.24 baseball with a 13/6 K/BB ratio. His last start saw him get to seven innings on 91 pitches, a rare efficient start.
That kind of improvement from one start to the next should be rewarded with more work at this level. I know there’s some rule that an injured veteran shouldn’t lose his spot, but if it’s a guy with a 7.46 ERA on the season, he should have lost his spot long ago. The sense that a veteran has to keep his spot, despite performance, is conterproductive on a team of young players. Melky Cabrera has performed thus far, but before the season started, I don’t know anybody outside of Dayton Moore who thought he’d amount to anything at the plate or in the field. He was promised a spot in lieu of other deserving players like Lorenzo Cain or David Lough.
The message needs to be that performance will be rewarded. Melky has earned his playing time now and is shaping up to be a fine trade chip. Sending Duffy down in favor of Davies would be a mistake and the six man rotation is a way around that. Duffy can still face big league hitters, the organization can save face with Davies back, and everyone should be happy.
Another benefit is that Duffy will have less starts and innings. I know that sounds contradictory, but in Duffy’s case, as a 22-year-old starter, his workload will be monitored, and rather than shut him down in early September, a six man rotation allows him to extend his time through the end of the season (barring injury).
That all assumes that the Royals don’t trade a starter away and return to a five man rotation. Or Felipe Paulino could return to earth and get shuttled to a long-relief role out of the bullpen. While the six man rotation is probably going to last through most of July, there’s no guarantee that the Royals will stick to it, even if the personnel remains the same.
Finding a way to keep Duffy in the rotation, though, is the right call.