8/29/2013 5:16 P.M. ET
Hochevar transitioning wonderfully to bullpen
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Luke Hochevar is heading into the final month of his transitional year from starting pitcher to reliever and the results have been resoundingly good.
"Everything I hoped he would do, he's done," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Hochevar returned from paternity leave -- he and his wife, Ashley, had a second daughter, Lucy Jane, on Sunday -- and reeled off a perfect four-out performance in relief of winning pitcher Danny Duffy in Wednesday night's 8-1 victory over the Twins.
A starter his entire career, Hochevar has learned to like working out of the bullpen.
"It's enjoyable, it really is. It's a lot of fun," he said. "You get that shot of adrenaline, you're coming in late in the game, whether the game's on the line or whatever the situation is."
He came out of Wednesday night's game with a 1.88 ERA in 45 games. His record: 3-2 with two saves.
Comparing starting with relieving, Hochevar noted that a starter basically has to prepare for seven innings, trying to methodically work his way through the opposition. The bullpen approach is entirely different.
"If you have the lead in the sixth [inning] or whatever, the game should be over. That type of mentality is what I found with the bullpen we have here, and we've had a good bullpen for a while now. So you've got to come in and get outs any way that you can -- you just need to get outs," Hochevar said.
"With starting, you're facing guys three or four times, and maybe you don't show all your weapons to them the first time. You don't want to show them everything you've got or show them the way you're going to get them out," he continued. "Especially when you get late in the game, it's a crucial situation and you've already gotten them out a different way -- it's more of a chess match, a cat-and-mouse game. Coming out of the bullpen is more like that football mentality -- you're just going right at 'em and throwing the pitch that'll get 'em out right now. But both parts are fun."
Going into the series finale in Minnesota on Thursday, Hochevar has held opponents to a .172 batting average, lowest on the staff, with 59 strikeouts against 16 walks in 57 1/3 innings.
Yost noted that when the Royals -- their rotation changed by an offseason infusion of new starters -- decided to put Hochevar in the bullpen, he accepted the change without a fuss.
"He and Bruce [Chen] and Mendy [Luis Mendoza], too, when they went on relief -- a team-first attitude," Yost said. "They've got to buy in or it's not going to work, and they all did."
But would Hochevar like to be a starter again?
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "I enjoy starting, I really do. Then again, at the end of the day, you don't get a vote. You do what's going to help the team and I think that means more than having your own pick. Wherever you want me -- if you feel I'm going to help the team more in the bullpen, [or] if you feel I'm going to help the team more as a starter. Whatever it is, that's what it's about: Going out and taking your role, whatever you're given, and going out and doing the best job possible.
"Coming in next year, if they want me to start, I'll be happy to start and work my butt off to be the best starter I possibly can be. If they want me back in the bullpen, so be it. I don't get a vote. It really doesn't matter what I want. What matters is that whatever my job is, I go out and I do all that I can to help the club win because, at the end of the day, that's all that really matters."
Duffy getting familiar with the Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have seen Royals left-hander Danny Duffy in two of his three starts so far since being called up.
Duffy worked 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs in his Aug. 7 return and then worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Wednesday night's 8-1 win. He struck out seven in both outings.
"He was throwing the living fire out of the ball, as advertised," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He commanded the strike zone a lot better this time than he did last time."
Indeed, Duffy walked no one and threw 73 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
"I didn't see any difference in his stuff last night after [Tommy John] surgery [in June 2012] than we did before the surgery," Royals manager Ned Yost said Thursday. "It might even be better."
Red-hot Perez not in starting lineup vs. Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Catcher Salvador Perez got a break from the Royals' starting lineup because it was a sizzling Thursday afternoon at Target Field -- as hot as Perez has been at the plate.
"I'd love to play Salvy, but it's hot and we've still got two weeks left in this [44 games in 44 days] stretch," Yost said.
So George Kottaras was behind the plate instead of Perez, who was 11-for-22 in his last five games with a double, four home runs and 13 RBIs.
Perez pinch-hit for Kottaras in the ninth inning on Thursday and banged another hit, a single to right field. Perez also caught Greg Holland in the ninth inning of the 3-1 victory.
Historical note: Perez's big Wednesday night (4-for-5, two homers) made him the first Royals catcher to have a multi-homer game with at least four hits since Darrell Porter in 1977.
Porter did it in back-to-back games, going 4-for-5 with two solo homers on Sept. 7-8, 1977, which were 10-7 and 7-2 victories over the Mariners at Seattle's Kingdome.
The Porter performances came during the Royals' remarkable 24-1 stretch en route to a 102-60 record and first place in the American League West.
• Daniel Stumpf of Class A Lexington was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star team as the top left-handed pitcher in the league. Stumpf, from Humble, Texas, has a 10-9 record with a 3.03 ERA in 24 starts.
• Right-hander Felipe Paulino made his seventh rehab start on Wednesday and went 4 2/3 innings in Omaha's 5-2 loss at Iowa. He gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts, throwing 88 pitches.
• Samir Duenez of the Surprise Royals was named the designated hitter on the Arizona League All-Stars. Duenez, from Catia La Mar, Venezuela, hit .294 with 14 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs in 47 games.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.