MESA, Ariz. -- With less than three weeks left in Spring Training, Royals manager Ned Yost said he is getting closer to naming his Opening Day starter.
The bigger question, though, is how Yost will set his rotation in the early going, especially with the recent setback to left-hander Danny Duffy (shoulder tightness), who has started the last two Opening Days.
Duffy just got clearance from the medical staff to resume a throwing program over the weekend, and he played catch on Monday and Wednesday with no issues. But while Yost said it is too soon to contemplate Duffy possibly starting the season on the injured list, Duffy is certainly behind the other starters in terms of throwing progression.
“We’ll just have to see with Danny,” Yost said. “We’re not going to rush him. We need him healthy.”
Duffy, though, said that once he gets back to throwing off the mound, which he hopes will be in the next five or six days, he could build his arm strength back up quickly.
“In my mind, I want to be ready and available by the time the regular season starts,” Duffy said. “I’m certainly not thinking about starting the season on the injured list.”
There really is no reason to rush Duffy back. Because there are three off-days during the first eight days of the regular season, Yost won’t need a fifth starter until the second week of April. If there are no further setbacks for Duffy, he would be poised to jump in the rotation then.
“I just won’t need a fifth starter right away,” Yost confirmed.
Yost also is satisfied with his rotation depth.
Keller, Junis and Kennedy appear locks (and Duffy when he’s ready), and the Royals stretched Lopez to three innings on Tuesday, a pretty clear signal they would like him to grab a rotation spot.
Still in the mix are Bailey and Fillmyer, who was scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday. Bailey did the same on Tuesday night, throwing one scoreless inning.
The Royals and pitching coach Cal Eldred won’t begin setting up potential starters on regular Cactus League game schedules until next week when Minor League games swing into gear. That’s also when Yost likely will begin seriously trimming his camp numbers, which will allow his rotation candidates to gobble up more innings in stadium settings.
That’s not to say Eldred’s rotation candidates haven’t been getting their work in. Junis and Kennedy have been throwing consistent bullpens and simulated games facing hitters.
“It’s just about building arm strength,” Junis said. “It’s Spring Training. You just get your work in. I’ve got time to get up to three, four, five and six innings.”