DETROIT — Third baseman Mike Moustakas even surprised the Royals with his rapid recovery from a strained left calf. He returned to the lineup for Saturday’s game against Detroit at Comerica Park.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
“I did some running,” Moustakas said. “Took some ground balls. Did everything. I tested it, and it feels good. So I’m ready to get back in the lineup and play some baseball.
“It’s good enough to be on the field, so I’m excited.”
Moustakas went two for three with a run scored before leaving the game for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning. He also handled four defensive chances but showed diminished speed in running the bases.
“He was fine,” manager Ned Yost said, “but his leg was starting to tire a little bit. He didn’t hurt it any more. When you’re at about 80 percent, your strength level is lower. It was starting to get a little sore.”
Moustakas was injured Monday while running the bases in a 6-2 victory over Miami. Club officials feared as late as Thursday that he might require time on the disabled list.
The Royals determined, at that point, that Moustakas should be ready, at least for spot duty, within the near future. They then cleared space for newcomer Emilio Bonifacio by designating Elliot Johnson for assignment.
“That’s why we waited, to see if he could recover quickly,” Yost said. “But I watched him take swings in the cage. He looks normal. He looked great on ground balls. He did all of the agility stuff.”
Yost conceded Moustakas is not 100 percent.
“He’s better,” Yost said. “He’s probably 75, maybe 85, percent. We’ll just have to monitor it.”
Royals closer Greg Holland is the first reliever to register saves in both ends of two doubleheaders in the same season since Dave Veres did it for Colorado in 1999.
Holland closed out Friday’s 2-1 and 3-0 victories over Detroit by pitching one scoreless inning in each game. He pulled off a similar double on April 21 in securing 4-2 and 5-4 (in 10 innings) victories at Boston.
Had there been a save opportunity Saturday, Yost had already determined it would go to someone other than Holland.
“I wasn’t going to use him tonight,” Yost confirmed after the game. “You know what? I sat there in the dugout thinking, ‘OK, either he’s not going to be available (Sunday) or he’s not going to be available tonight.’
“After throwing him two innings (Friday), I decided I’m not going to use him tonight.”
The Royals are flashing increasing speed over the last week with 16 steals in 17 attempts. They now lead the American League in steals and rank second in stolen-base percentage.
Their 104 steals give them a nine-base edge over Boston, which ranks second at 95. Texas was third at 92. Milwaukee is the only National League team with more than the Royals at 110.
The Red Sox have a slightly better success rate at .833 (95 for 114) compared the Royals’ .832 (104 for 125). Those are the two best marks in the majors.
Back to Omaha
The Royals, as required, optioned left-hander Danny Duffy to Class AAA Omaha prior to Saturday’s game.
The move came one day after the Royals recalled Duffy under the 26th-player provision for doubleheaders. He then worked six scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over the Tigers in the first game.
Duffy’s victory came in his second big-league start since returning from Tommy John surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament on June 13, 2012.
“It definitely means a lot to get one under the belt after that long,” he acknowledged. “I made some good pitches today, and when I didn’t, the guys had my back.”
It’s a paper move for the moment. Duffy remained with the big-league club and is scheduled to throw his regular between-starts bullpen workout prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers.
Plans call for Duffy to return Sunday night with the Royals to Kansas City before joining the Storm Chasers in anticipation of a start Wednesday against New Orleans in Omaha.
Duffy is eligible for a recall later this week, but Yost said it’s more likely Duffy will make a few starts at Omaha before rejoining the Royals in September after the rules permit rosters to expand.
“He commanded his pitching,” Yost said. “He commanded his composure. He did a nice job of making pitches.”
It was 30 years ago Sunday — Aug. 18, 1983 — that the Royals closed out their 5-4 victory over the Yankees in the Pine-Tar Game in New York.
The prelude is well-known: George Brett hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning on July 24 against Goose Gossage — and was then declared out for having too much pine tar on the bat.
American League president Lee MacPhail upheld the Royals’ protest, and the game’s final four outs took place on Aug. 18. Dan Quisenberry set down the Yankees in order in the ninth inning.
To reach Bob Dutton, send email to email@example.com . Follow his updates at twitter.com/Royals_Report .