KANSAS CITY -- There's been a warming trend sighted recently for the Royals' bullpen.
After notching four hitless innings in Saturday's 5-4 win over the Twins, the relievers have put together 14 consecutive scoreless innings.
That stretch began in the three-game sweep of Houston and continued through the first two victories in the current Minnesota series. That hot streak has dropped the bullpen ERA from 5.13 to 3.35.
In Saturday's success, Danny Duffy walked the first batter he faced, but that was the only baserunner in the last four innings. He retired the next six batters, while Wade Davis and Greg Holland each fired a perfect inning.
"This is as good as Wade Davis has thrown," manager Ned Yost said. "He came out of the gate with a 95-95 mph fastball. Holly 96-97. Duff's been great since we got him up here."
During the 14-inning shutout streak, the relievers have compiled 21 strikeouts against six hits and four walks.
"They've settled in pretty nice here," Yost said.
"It's just settling into the season. They're getting all the new year behind them, starting off. That's why we talk about Opening Days and stuff. It's all the hype, all the excitement. The players are amped up and we talk about getting into the grind of the everyday routine, and now they're settling into the routine. You just settle in."
Last year, the bullpen settled in so well that it had the best ERA in the American League at 2.55, which also was the best in franchise history. Only Atlanta's 2.46 was better in the Majors last year.
The bullpen is currently operating with Luke Hochevar out for the season with elbow surgery and with Tim Collins (left flexor strain) and Francisley Bueno (sprained left pinkie) on the 15-day disabled list. Both left-handers threw side sessions on Friday
"Collins felt great; Bueno still felt his finger on occasion on changeups, not fastballs or sliders," Yost said. "They're both making good progress."
Both are eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday.
Coleman sharp in closing out Royals victory
KANSAS CITY -- After a rusty first appearance on April 11 at Minnesota, reliever Louis Coleman didn't pitch again until a week later. And when he faced the Twins to wrap up the Royals' 5-0 win on Friday night, he was much improved.
Coleman, who took eight weeks to recover from a jammed middle finger on his right hand, pitched the ninth inning and got three infield outs -- interrupted only by a harmless single.
With closer Greg Holland held out because of the five-run lead, manager Ned Yost thought about bringing in Kelvin Herrera to finish up after Aaron Crow pitched a perfect eighth inning, but he decided Coleman needed another test. If he proved erratic again, Herrera could be summoned.
"But Louie was pounding the strike zone. Strike one on all the hitters. They're down 5-0, so it's evident when Crow comes in they were taking a strike," Yost said. "So it's very important to get strike one and go the rest of the at-bat, and Louie did just that. So everything he did was very encouraging."
Coleman noted that his finger, previously swollen, is almost back to normal size.
"It's pretty close. The pressure or whatever is gone and it doesn't get sore," he said.
Coleman had to adapt quickly to big league games after staying in Arizona for an extended spring training.
"A game here is entirely different," he said. "You know you have time in Spring Training and you know you don't have time when you get here."
Butler feeling positive vibes after multi-hit day
KANSAS CITY -- This is what Royals fans have been waiting to hear from Billy Butler: "I'm feeling better."
After a worrisome and completely uncharacteristic period early in the season, Butler is showing positive signs of regaining his old flair at the plate.
In the series finale at Houston, he snapped an 0-for-21 skid. Then, a solid line drive to right field for a single came just ahead of Mike Moustakas' home run in the 5-0 victory over the Twins on Friday night. Then, in Saturday's 5-4 win, Butler had his first two-hit game and his first extra-base hit, a double.
"I swung at all the right pitches today, took the right pitches and got my first multi-hit game," Butler said. "I've just got to build on that."
His average went up to .193.
The double helped ignite the Royals' decisive five-run inning on Saturday and it was a solidly-hit drive that the Twins thought right fielder Chris Colabello should have caught.
"I hit it pretty good. I'm not saying that he couldn't have caught it, but I put the barrel on it, drove it that way, and that gives me a little bit of confidence," Butler said. "Because that's my game, going that way."
Butler turned 28 on Friday, but he delayed his celebration until after Saturday's game. He and Royals fans will have even more cause to celebrate if his production continues to spike.
"I can come to the park each day knowing that I'm going to bust out of it eventually," Butler said. "I feel like I'm getting there and had some really good at-bats. Most importantly, the team won, we've won five in a row and we're on a roll."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.