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KC@MIN: Duffy has scoreless outing in Royals' return

One half of Saturday's Tigers-Royals pitching matchup made the Opening Day rotation alongside Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, yet made just two starts in April thanks to rainouts and off-days.

Drew Smyly actually spent more time in the Tigers' bullpen, even though his relief days were supposedly over.

"Just a Major League pitching rover," Smyly said.

The other half of the matchup lost out on the Royals' fifth starter competition, made it back to Kansas City in the bullpen, and now starts in place of injured Bruce Chen. For Danny Duffy, the spot assignment is a reminder of his standing as one of the club's starting prospects not that long ago.

It's not a marquee matchup of lefties at Kauffman Stadium, but it's an interesting one.

For Smyly, the days of bouncing between the rotation and bullpen should be over for a while. After playing just 23 games over the first month of the season, lowest in the Majors, the Tigers began a stretch Friday of 50 games in 52 days. They could still use their next off-day on May 15 to skip Smyly if they want to keep his innings down, but it wouldn't be a long break.

"I'd better be ready," Smyly said. "I'm in trouble if I'm not. Yeah, I'm excited to get back on a routine. It kind of stinks sitting around for 10 days. You feel like you lose your sharpness because you lose the game action, but there's nothing you can do about it. Just gotta be ready."

Duffy lost the fifth rotation spot to Yordano Ventura in Spring Training and, after some debate, was sent off to Triple-A Omaha to continue starting rather than toil in relief. But that changed abruptly and, after one start, Duffy was recalled to KC to shore up the bullpen. That went well for a time -- no runs in four outings -- and then turned sour -- five batters faced in two games without getting an out.

An intense pitcher, Duffy will try to keep calm and in command of his emotions as well as his pitches against the Tigers.

"Those things are hard to change, that's who he is," manager Ned Yost said. "You can tell yourself to calm down and stay within yourself, but it's hard to do. But, he'll get better at it as time goes on. As he gets more confident in his abilities, he'll get better at it."

Yost noted that staff leader James Shields is able to harness his often visible emotion and use it to his advantage, something not many pitchers can do.

"Duffy is just going to have to work his way through it. ... It takes years and years before you can get to the point where you master it," the skipper said.

Yost expects Duffy could throw between 75 and 85 pitches before needing help.

"I think he's going to give us a good five innings and we'll go from there," he said.

Tigers: Miggy killing it at Kauffman
Miguel Cabrera is still looking for the power swing that helped him win back-to-back American League Most Valuable Player Awards, but his sweet swing for average seems to be coming around just in time for his return to Kansas City.

Cabrera is batting 14-for-35 (.400) over an eight-game hitting streak with three doubles, nine RBIs and six runs scored. His RBI double off Shields in Friday's series opener was the 14th of his career at Kauffman Stadium, his highest total of any ballpark he hasn't called home.

Cabrera enters Saturday batting just .227 (5-for-22) against left-handers this year with a double, a home run and four RBIs. Meanwhile, he needs two hits to tie Pete Fox for 21st on the Tigers' all-time list with 1,182.

Royals: Butler starting to connect
After a dreadful start, designated hitter Billy Butler's bat is producing.

"He's getting back, he's getting close," Yost said. "He's starting to drive the ball in the air. He's getting it off the ground, he's starting to do what he does best -- drive the ball [toward right], drive the ball in the left-center-field gap. And when they get a pitch up, drive it into left field. He's getting much better."

Butler, at .143 after the first 12 games, has his average up to .236 as he went 1-for-4 in Friday's 8-2 loss -- belting his first home run of the season off Rick Porcello.

"I'm feeling good at the plate, just putting quality at-bats together," Butler said. "I'm seeing the ball good now. I knew it was going to come. I didn't know when, but I'm feeling good about my pitch selections and getting some good results, and obviously that's given me some confidence."

Butler noted that he's always hit well at Kauffman Stadium. For his career, his average is .317 at home versus .276 on the road. The difference is really striking this year -- away, he's just .153 (9-for-59) compared to .340 (16-for-47) at Kauffman.

"We play 81 games here and I'm definitely comfortable in our box, and that's a good thing to be," he said.

Worth noting
• The Royals' three 2013 Gold Glove Award winners -- left fielder Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer -- will receive their trophies before Saturday night's game. The first 10,000 fans will receive commemorative T-shirts.

• Look for Rajai Davis and Nick Castellanos to return to the Tigers' lineup on Saturday against the left-hander Duffy. Both had Friday's series opener off following Thursday's scheduled off-day. Bryan Holaday could also get a start.

• Joe Nathan's next save will be No. 347, which would match Randy Myers for ninth on the all-time Major League leaderboard.

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