KANSAS CITY — The much-awaited return of left-hander Danny Duffy to the Royals’ rotation on Friday night offered mixed results.
Duffy, on a pitch count of 90, delivered five serviceable innings in the Royals’ 5-1 loss to the Angels at Kauffman Stadium.
Duffy, who threw 86 pitches, struggled early, throwing 48 pitches to get through two innings. But his only critical mistake was serving up a changeup high in the zone to Albert Pujols, who ripped a two-run home run in the first. The homer gave Pujols 1,995 career RBIs, moving him past Lou Gehrig and into fourth place on the all-time list, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It obviously wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” Duffy said of his outing. “I’d like to have better location on just about everything outside of my slider, but that’s part of it. The first two innings, I kept my team on the field way too long. That’ll get better as time goes on. Still trying to really master the slide step exclusively. That is in no way an excuse, but it’s all part of it. I’m just trying to get my bearings about me.”
Duffy took responsibility for the changeup location to Pujols.
“[Catcher Martin Maldonado] called the right pitches,” Duffy said. “I just threw the second changeup in the exact same place that I threw the first one. We tried to go down and away, and it just stayed middle. To a great hitter, you can’t do that. One of the best hitters ever, you can’t do that.”
Duffy began to find some rhythm after allowing a leadoff double in the second. From there he retired 10 of the next 11 hitters.
“I just slowed down and stayed calm,” Duffy said. “Used my stuff a little better. Like I said, [Maldonado] called a great game. I just didn’t pitch to it very well with location. But that will come back. I was really pleased with my effort, but I obviously wasn’t pleased with the result.”
The Angels nicked Duffy for a run in the fifth when Andrelton Simmons lined a double that skipped by a diving Alex Gordon in left, allowing Mike Trout to score.
“I was encouraged,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I thought [Duffy] threw the ball pretty well for his first time out. Elevated a changeup to Pujols in that first inning. Command was just a tick off the first two innings but settled in after that.
“I thought about sending him back out for the sixth but he was right near [90 pitches].”
Duffy gave up five hits and three runs and also walked three. His four-seam fastball sat at 92-93 mph, and occasionally touched 94.
“Physically, I felt great,” Duffy said.