The Royals placed 40 percent of their starting rotation on the disabled list on Thursday. They called on left-hander Danny Duffy to occupy one of the voids.
The dominos, reinforcements and juggling of roles all came in the hours before a series finale at Yankee Stadium. The final ledger looked like this:
Right-hander Chris Young was placed on the 15-day disabled list after an MRI on Wednesday revealed a low-grade strain in his right forearm. Right-hander Kris Medlen joined him on the 15-day disabled list with what the club called "right rotator cuff inflammation". Medlen, who said the shoulder soreness surfaced during his start on Tuesday, will undergo an MRI on Friday in Kansas City.
The Royals had previously announced that right-hander Dillon Gee would start in place of Young on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Kauffman Stadium. On Thursday, Royals manager Ned Yost announced that Duffy will start Sunday in place of Medlen.
Yost downplayed the severity of both injuries, saying he doubted both pitchers would need “more than 15 days” to recover. In fact, Yost said, Young likely would have been able to return within a week to 10 days.
The club, however, could not afford to move forward with a depleted staff. So the Royals elected to place both pitchers on the disabled list and summon left-hander Scott Alexander and veteran right-hander Peter Moylan from Class AAA Omaha.
“I didn’t want to be tempted to throw him back in in five days,” Yost said of Young. “I want to give him the full time, because he’s really important to us.”
Both Alexander and Moylan joined the Royals in New York on Thursday afternoon. Alexander, 26, a sixth-round pick in 2010, made his major-debut last September and was on the Royals’ 40-man roster. He had a 2.57 ERA in 14 relief innings at Omaha, and club officials are intrigued by his ability to handle left-handed hitters.
Moylan, 37, is a right-handed submarine-style reliever who spent most of his career in the Braves organization. A non-roster invitee to spring training, Moylan was added to the 40-man roster and replaced shortstop Raul A. Mondesi, who is serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Moylan had a 0.71 ERA and five saves in 12 2/3 innings at Omaha. He specializes in attacking right-handed hitters.
As the Royals prepared to finish a seven-game road trip at Yankee Stadium, the most consequential domino concerned the role of Duffy, a former starter who transitioned to the bullpen last September after an ineffective stretch in the rotation. After a slow start in April, Duffy appeared to settle into his bullpen role. Entering Thursday, he had allowed just one run in his last 10 appearances and had a 1.29 ERA in May.
Still, the Royals viewed Duffy as the best option to start on short notice.
“We like the fact that, even though we have to build him back up, there’s power there,” Yost said.
Duffy will be on a pitch count of 50 pitches on Sunday. He has not thrown more than 29 pitches in any appearance this season. His last start came Sept. 16 at Cleveland, when he allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings. On Thursday, Duffy said he planned to treat Sunday “the same way I’ve been treating it” in the bullpen.
“Just come out and just attack, do what I’ve been doing,” he said. “Give them the best 50 pitches that I possibly could.”
The thinning of the Royals’ rotation comes after a 4-11 stretch that saw the team fall under .500 for the first time since July 22, 2014. Inconsistent starting pitching was a theme during the slump.
Young posted a 6.68 ERA in seven starts and was rocked for five homers in a loss here on Monday. His trip to the disabled list was not unexpected after he revealed a forearm issue on Tuesday afternoon.
Medlen, meanwhile, saw his ERA soar to 7.77 after allowing 10 earned runs in four innings over his last two starts. In the final moments of his start on Tuesday, he detected a shoulder issue that intensified on Wednesday morning, he said.
“I woke up the next morning, and I mean, it just felt real tight in there,” Medlen said. “I went to throw and it was just way too uncomfortable, pretty uncharacteristic in terms of soreness.”
Medlen is a survivor of two Tommy John surgeries, but he has never experienced any issues with his rotator cuff, he said. His manager expects him to be available when his disabled-list stint is over, but Medlen said he would take it day by day — and wait for the results of Friday’s MRI.
“The whole 15-day DL thing, I just never know,” he said, cracking a smile. “I’ve really only been on the 60-day (disabled list).”