For the first time since landing on the disabled list two weeks ago, Royals pitcher Bruce Chen threw off a mound on Wednesday morning. He made 16 pitches, and threw 100 percent on one of them, he said.
Chen is battling the lingering affects of a bulging disk in his lower back that was irritating a nerve. The injury sent sparks of pain down his left leg. He still feels tightness during his delivery.
He will need to embark on a rehabilitation assignment before he can rejoin the big-league club. That may still be a week or more away.
“That wasn’t really a side (session), Chen said. “Once I throw a couple sides, and everything goes well, then maybe we can start thinking about what’s the next step.”
Danny Duffy inherited Chen’s place in the rotation. He has given up two runs in two outings thus far. He will start again on Saturday against Baltimore. Duffy was available for Wednesday’s game only in “emergency” duty, manager Ned Yost said. But Duffy was not needed, so he threw a bullpen session to prepare him for his next start.
The Royals continue to press on with only 11 pitchers. Yost does not want to do that for the entire season. But he does not intend to add another reliever until the bullpen requires one.Herrera takes the eighth
Wade Davis, the presumptive set-up man, threw a spotless inning on Tuesday. He had received day off on Monday, so when the bullpen door opened in the eighth inning on Wednesday, it was reasonable to expect to see him.
Inside, Yost called upon Kelvin Herrera. He wants to pair a reliever with Davis. Herrera could be his man. He notched a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning, with his fastball touching 99 mph. His ERA dropped to 1.47.
“He’s still a little inconsistent with his breaking ball,” Yost said. “He bounced two or three. But his bread-and-butter pitch has always been a 99-mph fastball, with a good changeup. And he’s commanding both pretty well right now.”Fielding gaffe costs Vargas
In the seventh inning, Yost inserted Pedro Ciriaco as a defensive replacement for Johnny Giavotella. He appreciated Ciriaco’s expanded range. In the inning’s second at-bat, Yost said, “that range kind of hurt us a little bit.”
With one out, Nolan Arenado popped a fastball into shallow right field. Ciriaco ranged back. Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain both charged ahead. The trio converged just after Ciriaco’s awkward stab came up empty.
“I don’t know if Nori thought he was going to take it,” Yost said. “But that’s a ball an outfielder should catch.”
Arenado received a double for his credit. Two batters later, Drew Stubbs boomed a two-run homer off Jason Vargas.