Starters' endurance has Royals' bullpen fresh

Starters' endurance has Royals' bullpen fresh

KANSAS CITY -- Pop quiz: What is the bullpen's best friend?

How about it, Greg Holland? It took him just two seconds.

"Complete game," he said.

The Royals got their first two of the season -- by Jeremy Guthrie on Thursday night at Arizona and by James Shields on Saturday night against San Francisco.

Benefits?

"For one, a day off," Holland said. "But looking down the road, that makes you that much more fresh for that September playoff push -- when you've got guys that are well-rested, not dragging, not tired. That's to your benefit."

It's not just the very occasional complete game that helps, of course. It's those starters who go seven or more innings, too.

"I don't know how many complete games we've thrown, but our starters have gone into the seventh and eighth innings almost on a nightly basis so, all in all, we're pretty fresh down there and I think it's going to help us," Holland said.

The closer was giving the rotation some extra credit but, since the All-Star break, the starters have pitched into the seventh inning six times, the eighth once and the ninth twice (the complete games). That's nine of the 22 games since the break.

Also, the starters pitched into the sixth inning eight times, leaving just five outings of five or fewer innings. Two of those were by Jason Vargas, just off surgery, and one was by Danny Duffy, lifted due to the luxury of a 10-run lead.

As Holland also pointed out, the eight-man bullpen has some flexibility so that, if necessary, manager Ned Yost can deviate from his preferred plan of Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning, Wade Davis in the eighth and Holland in the ninth.

"There are a lot of pieces there so, if guys need a day, there are plenty of guys that can step in and take over so you stay fresh as a whole instead of trying to use three guys every night," Holland said.

While Shields was closing in on his 5-0 complete game against the Giants on Saturday night. Holland was up and throwing -- somewhat idly -- in the pen.

"That's what we call in The Show, 'eye wash,'" Holland said, smiling. "I had no intention of going in that game and I don't think Shields had any intention of me going in either."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.