At the beginning of the season, it was expected that both Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura would have an innings limit this season. After the pervading thought that Dusty Baker‘s overuse of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior played a major role in the injuries that ruined both pitcher’s careers, younger pitcher have increasingly been placed on innings limits, gradually building up to the point where those young pitchers can get to 200 or more innings with what is thought to be less of a risk for injury. Since Ventura pitched just over 150 innings in 2013, while Duffy had 93.1 innings as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, an innings limit would have made sense.
However, that is not the path that the Royals are seemingly taking. At the start of the year, Ned Yost indicated at the start of the season that there would not be any such restrictions on Ventura, as he expected the Royals own Rookie of the Year candidate to pitch between 180 and 200 innings this season. Recently, Dayton Moore indicated that the innings limit for Duffy may be called off as well, depending on how he looks going forward.
With the Royals hoping to find themselves in the middle of a playoff push this season, they will likely need both Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy in the rotation. For as well as Jeremy Guthrie has pitched this season, especially lately, he is still not the type of pitcher that inspires confidence as the third starter for a team with playoff aspirations. Bruce Chen just has not inspired any confidence since his first start of the year. Being able to count on having Duffy and Ventura may be a huge boost to those chances.
This decision is quite the departure from what has been accepted as the norm in baseball over the past decade or so. The Royals are essentially saying that the allure of the playoffs, something that has eluded Kansas City for almost three decades, is of far more importance than an innings limit. As the Washington Nationals found out when they shut down Stephen Strasburg during their playoff run, a chance to go deep into October is not guaranteed. Having all hands on deck when heading into the postseason is of utmost importance.
Likewise, an innings limit and the desire to ease younger pitchers into expanded workloads is not a guarantee to keep them healthy either. Even though the professional innings are managed, no one can definitely say how many innings were pitched in high school, traveling teams or on the sandlot. Teams can only try to do what is best for their pitchers, which is what the Royals have done with Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy.
The training wheels are off. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy are going to pitch all year, and should the Royals make the playoffs, both pitchers will likely be a factor in the postseason.