HOUSTON -- Danny Duffy is off to a good start in his new role.
In just his second relief appearance on the major league level, the Kansas City left-hander earned the victory Wednesday night with two scoreless, hitless innings in the Royals' 6-4, 11-inning victory over the Houston Astros.
Duffy allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four Astros four days after recording his first bullpen outing with Kansas City. Duffy made five starts with the Royals last season following his return from Tommy John surgery in May 2012. He opened the 2014 season with Triple-A Omaha, and he is starting to emerge as a viable force as a reliever.
"That's why we brought him up," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We sent him to Triple-A to lengthen him out, and (pitching coach) Dave (Eiland) and I just kept talking about right now the best thing we can do is have our best arms in the organization up here and let it work itself out. Let Danny get up here and experience the major league game from the bullpen side and let him continue to grow and develop."
Duffy has the stuff to dominate as a high-leverage reliever, armed with a 97 mph fastball and an evolving breaking ball. The average velocity on his four-seam fastball (95.4 mph) is the best of his career. The pitch is so powerful that he can be utilized in a role beyond that of lefty specialist.
"Right now he's a reliever, and that's all we're focused on," Yost said Thursday before the Royals completed a sweep of the Astros with a 5-1 win. "He's going to do a fine job there.
"This fits more of his style, coming out of the 'pen just letting it go and getting after it and here we go."
STREAK: Won three
NEXT: Twins (RHP Ricky Nolasco, 1-1, 5.50 ERA) at Royals (LHP Jason Vargas, 1-0, 1.64 ERA)
--CF Lorenzo Cain (left groin strain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, with LHP Justin Marks taking his spot on the 25-man roster. Cain suffered the injury in the ninth inning Wednesday night attempting to beat out a grounder to Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez. Cain ranked second among American League center fielders in zone rating (.924) last season and was a finalist for a Gold Glove.
--LHP Justin Marks was recalled from Triple-A Omaha, and he joins Danny Duffy as the lone southpaws in the Kansas City bullpen. Marks was 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA over three appearances (one start) with Omaha.
--RHP James Shields recorded his 22nd career double-digit strikeout game, with his 12 strikeouts the most since he joined the Royals prior to last season. He also matched the most strikeouts for a Kansas City pitcher since RHP Zack Greinke had 12 on June 13, 2010, against the Cincinnati Reds. Shields limited the Astros to one run on four hits and two walks in eight innings.
--DH Billy Butler hit sixth in the order Thursday, the first time this season he batted someplace other than cleanup. Butler responded to the move by going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run. Before his 10th-inning single Wednesday night, Butler was mired in an 0-for-19 slump dating to April 9.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was just pounding the strike zone today and being really aggressive with my fastball and really locating and being on the same page with Salvy (catcher Salvador Perez). With that kind of combination and our defense playing the way it did today, it's a nice win for us." -- RHP James Shields, after he fanned 12 in the Royals' 5-1 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday.
--LHP Bruce Chen (back stiffness) was scratched from his start April 17. The Royals penciled him in to start April 19.
--CF Lorenzo Cain (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list April 17..
--LHP Francisley Bueno (sprained and bruised left little finger) went on the 15-day disabled list April 7.
--LHP Tim Collins (sprained left elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list April 7. He might be able to return as soon as he is eligible.
--RHP Luke Hochevar (Tommy John surgery in March 2014) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. He is out for the season.
RHP James Shields
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Yordano Ventura
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Bruce Chen
RHP Greg Holland (closer)
RHP Aaron Crow
RHP Kelvin Herrera
RHP Wade Davis
RHP Michael Mariot
RHP Louis Coleman
LHP Danny Duffy
LHP Justin Marks
1B Eric Hosmer
2B Omar Infante
SS Alcides Escobar
3B Mike Moustakas
DH Billy Butler
INF Danny Valencia
LF Alex Gordon
CF Jarrod Dyson
RF Norichika Aoki
OF Justin Maxwell
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