Royals rookie pitcher Brandon Finnegan comes through again

Royals left-hander Brandon Finnegan closed out the ninth inning of a 7-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals left-hander Brandon Finnegan closed out the ninth inning of a 7-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

The second time, Royals rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan admitted, was less nerve-wracking than the first. On Saturday night, for the second time in three days, Finnegan squared off against Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

“I’m a big fan of Ortiz, so the first time it was a little nerve-wracking,” Finnegan said. “When I get to the mound, all that just has to go away.”

So far, no problem for Finnegan. He struck out Ortiz with a 93-mph fastball Saturday. In the next at-bat, he punched out Yoenis Cespedes with another fastball. Though Finnegan did give up his first big-league hit, a single by outfielder Daniel Nava, he completed his third scoreless inning in as many tries in the Royals’ 7-1 win.

Drafted at No. 17 in June, Finnegan projects as a future mainstay of the Royals’ rotation. For now, he is working out of the bullpen with ease.

Manager Ned Yost believes Finnegan has passed his early tests, shown his aptitude at this level, and could be utilized in higher-leverage situations during the final few weeks of the season.

“It’s been impressive, but we’re putting him in situations to let him up his worth for our club,” Yost said. “This was a situation where we wanted him to come in and get more experience against the meat of their order. He’s answering every call that we call down there. He’s doing a great job.”

Duffy hopes to pitch Tuesday

Left-hander Danny Duffy continues to make progress in his recovery from rotator cuff inflammation, and still hopes to start during his turn in the rotation on Tuesday against the White Sox. Duffy played catch Saturday for the second day in a row at a distance from 125 feet.

“Didn’t feel anything,” Duffy said a few hours before the Royals played the Red Sox. “No hiccups. No nothing. Threw a couple of change-ups. Testing it out.”

Duffy, 8-11 with a 2.42 ERA, hasn’t pitched since Sept. 6, when he exited his start in Yankee Stadium after one pitch. An MRI revealed no structural damage to his shoulder, just a bout of inflammation.

The team is cautious about pushing Duffy back into action too quickly. But they also require his presence for success. His replacement, Liam Hendriks, didn’t complete the third inning during his start against Boston on Thursday. Duffy has been one of the Royals’ best pitchers this season.

Even so, Yost was reticent about penciling Duffy into Tuesday’s game against Chicago.

“That’s a possibility,” Yost said. “That’s all I can tell you right now. Let’s see how he goes. See how he feels. He felt really good playing catch yesterday.”

Willingham sits again

Josh Willingham strained his groin Thursday and was still considered unavailable for Saturday’s game, Yost said.

“He feels a little better,” Yost said. “Tried to take some swings in the cage (Friday) and felt it still a little bit, swinging. But I imagine he’ll be available to pinch hit here in the next couple days.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.