The difficult part for Tyler Duffey on Wednesday wasn’t retiring Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez in the sixth inning. Heck, he only needed six pitches to accomplish that.
No, the hard part is what came next. “It was weird. I got to the dugout and looked around like, ‘What do I do now?’ ” Duffey said. “But [manager Paul Molitor] came over, shook my hand and said, ‘All right, you’re done.’ OK, I guess I’ll go get ready for [Thursday].”
That’s a new development for a pitcher who has done nothing but start games for most of his professional career. Consigned to the bullpen after Molitor chose Adalberto Mejia over him for the fifth spot in the rotation, Duffey is trying to get used to entering a game already in progress. He hadn’t done it since August 2013, and that Class A experience hardly carries over; these aren’t the Bradenton Marauders, after all.
“I think I was more amped up” than when he’s starting, Duffey said. “I came in ready to attack, get the first-pitch strike over. The adjustment is being ready to be sharp, first batter, first pitch, instead of getting a batter to kind of work around.”
He’s still got to learn how to get ready, though. Molitor gave him a half-inning’s notice of when he might pitch, so he could go through his normal stretch and warmup. “I started moving around earlier. At this point, I’m not used to getting up like that,” Duffey said. “As mental as it is, it’s also physical. It doesn’t happen the same until you get used to it.”
Ready when needed
Eduardo Escobar can’t be happy about his fate. He must wonder why his career is full of demotions and disappointments. But you’ll never get him to say it.
“I do the same thing every day — play as hard as I can, hit the ball hard,” the former starting shortstop said after driving in four runs in the Twins’ 9-1 win. “I’m ready for whatever they need. I’ve always been 100 percent ready.”
Hard to argue. Escobar has stepped in and flourished when Pedro Florimon and Danny Santana couldn’t handle the starting job, but keeps finding himself shuffled to a utility role. This year, 23-year-old Jorge Polanco is the starter, and he’s watching again.
“He’s been a good warrior,” Molitor said. “It’s been tough for him. He’s been a regular and now he’s more in a utility role again.”
But when given a chance to start Wednesday, Escobar capitalized. He singled home a run in the second inning to give the Twins the lead, scored twice and lined a home run just to the left of the Royals’ bullpen in the seventh. He even capped his day by spearing a grounder in the hole and making a leaping throw to retire Eric Hosmer in the ninth.
“I always come in and try to give the team the best of myself,” Escobar said. “If I’m not playing, I’m getting ready to play at some point.”
• Justin Haley made his major league debut in the ninth inning, getting three ground-ball outs to end the game.
• Miguel Sano moved to first base in the ninth inning, with backup catcher Chris Gimenez playing third base. With Kennys Vargas and ByungHo Park at Class AAA Rochester, Sano could get some time at first when Joe Mauer isn’t in the lineup.
• The Twins’ bullpen has allowed one hit in six scoreless innings this season, with one walk. Relievers didn’t allow a hit in four innings Wednesday.