DETROIT -- It's the case of the vanishing bullpen.
Last year Royals relievers racked up the most innings of any American League bullpen, 561 1/3. This year, entering Thursday's game, they had the fewest, 44 2/3. And they didn't get much work on Thursday despite the game going 10 innings, pitching two perfect innings, with Tim Collins picking up the 8-3 win after coming in for the ninth.
Off-days have been a factor -- the Royals' 18 games as of Wednesday were the second fewest in the league. Also, their starting pitchers have been going deep into games. In the first 18 games, the starters worked at least six innings 14 times.
Manager Ned Yost noted that before J.C. Gutierrez worked two scoreless innings in Wednesday's 7-5 loss to the Tigers, he hadn't appeared in 11 days.
"At least we're keeping our 'pen fresh," Yost said. "I'd used to have a little concern that they were getting rusty down there a little bit, but every one of them has come out, even after seven, eight, nine days, when they've got the opportunity [and pitched well]. I mean, Gutierrez threw the ball as good as you could throw the ball last night."
Royals complete rather bizarre road trip
DETROIT -- The Royals are coming off what must be one of the strangest trips in their history.
The trip began on an off-day, April 15, when the Royals left Kansas City in the early afternoon for Atlanta. Over the next eight days, they played two days, sat out two, played two days (including a doubleheader), then sat out another two. Mixed in with two scheduled off-days was a postponement for the Boston manhunt and a rainout at Detroit.
On a frosty Wednesday night, they got a game in at Detroit, and the start of Thursday's trip finale was delayed a half-hour by rain before the Royals won it, 8-3, in 10 innings.
For pro baseball players used to playing virtually every day, this took some major adjustments.
"It's just kind of tough to get in the groove. You haven't seen consistent pitches," designated hitter Billy Butler said. "It's kind of like you're in Spring Training again. You're basically just getting your work in every day, getting ready for a game and you're not getting a chance to play 'em."
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain, hitting .350 entering Thursday's game, was trying not to let the interruptions throw him off.
"If you're locked in and you take a few days off, it might throw you off a little bit. But you try not to look at it like that," Cain said. "You just try to continue what you've been doing and what you want to do the entire year."
The chaotic situation has been disruptive.
"Especially early in the season when you're trying to get into a groove," second baseman Chris Getz said, "you come out of Spring Training in such a great routine where the weather is great in Arizona and everything is consistent."
But that consistency has been lost over the last 10 or 11 days.
"Baseball is a game of routine so I think everyone has been affected by it," Getz said. "But every year is different and you've got to work through it and adjust to it because eventually everything will smooth out."
First-base coach Rusty Kuntz has never seen anything like it in his 30-plus years of traveling in the Major Leagues.
"You have almost as many days off as you're playing and I've never seen that before -- ever," Kuntz said.
"It's been weird, weird, weird, weird."
Viva Los Royals night to be held May 5
DETROIT -- Viva Los Royals, the annual Latino heritage celebration at Kauffman Stadium, will be held on Sunday, May 5, during the coming homestand.
The pregame party, presented by Sprint with the support of radio station La Super X 1160, will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Outfield Experience. There will be music by Willy Vela y sus Aguilillos and dancing by Grupo Atotonilco on the stage.
Fans can participate in the third annual Salsa Showdown featuring local restaurants El Camino Real, La Fonda El Taquito, Palomino's Restaurante and Pardo's Grand Buffet. Fans can taste all the salsas and vote for their favorite. Palomino's is the defending champion.
For more information, visit www.royals.com/viva. For reservations for a group of 20 or more, call 816-504-4166.
• Brytani Anderson of J.C. Harmon High School in Kansas City, Kan., is among 20 students who will receive a $2,000 college scholarship, it was announced by the Major League Baseball Players Trust.
The scholarships are in recognition of dedication to community service and efforts to encourage others to become involved in causes they believe in. Each recipient is a member of the Action Team national youth volunteer program created by the trust and Volunteers of America.
Action Team information is available at www.ActionTeam.org.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.