KANSAS CITY -- Give the Royals' relievers their due. They've not only been the busiest in the American League, they've been pretty effective as well.
"It's one of those things where we took what we built on last year into this season. I struggled a little bit, but for the most part we've been doing really well as a group," right-hander Greg Holland said. "We've got a lot of guys with great stuff down there. So if we get ahead and keep our walks down. ... I mean you've seen the way Timmy [Collins] has [been] throwing strike one and then going from there. [Aaron] Crow, too. So if we can stay ahead of hitters, we're going to be successful."
Going into Saturday's game against the A's, the Royals' bullpen had amassed the most innings in the AL (193) and also led the league with 168 strikeouts. The collective ERA of 3.08 was fifth best.
"They're not perfect, they're not machines, but they're very consistent and that's what we want," manager Ned Yost said.
In the 22 games prior to Saturday, the Royals had a 13-9 record, and the bullpen's ERA was 2.28 with 70 strikeouts.
"If we can throw strikes, we're all going to be successful. For the most part, we've done a good job of that," Holland said. "I walked the leadoff batter Friday night -- you never want to see that in a two-run game -- but I was able to get out of it. But, for the most part, we just try to keep it rolling from last year."
Big Jonathan Broxton, who took over the closer's role from surgically-sidelined Joakim Soria, notched his 12th save in Friday night's 2-0 win over the A's.
"They're kind of the same guy," Holland said. "Broxton is quiet, too. But he knows how to relax and have a good time out there, too. There's also that switch that Soria had where it gets sixth and seventh inning and you know it's time to start getting cranked up. You can just see [Broxton's] mentality change, and he goes into his little routine of stretching and stuff.
"We hate that Soria is not down there, because he's such a good teammate and asset for us. But we learned so much from him last year, as far as how to go about our business. We still know what we need to do from past experiences -- and Broxton's led by example, the same way Soria did in the past."
The high number of innings pitched, of course, stems from an early-season tendency of all-too-brief outings by the starting pitchers. That's been improving of late, which helps the relievers rest and be sharper when they do appear.
"That's translated into a lot of wins because Ned's able to play matchups," Holland said. "We've got six, eight guys down there that can throw in any situation late in the game, so it makes easy when your starter goes six.
"If you can throw four guys for two innings, you really haven't used anybody, because you're always available that next day because you're only facing one or two hitters -- three at the most. That goes a long way through the course of the season because you're not having to throw those two innings, then an inning and then having to have a day off."
Paulino joins select company in Royals history
KANSAS CITY -- Starting pitcher Felipe Paulino has held the opponent scoreless in four of his six starts, and that's unusual for a Royals pitcher.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other pitchers in the franchise's 44-year history have had such a stretch. Zack Greinke did it five times (including some overlapping sequences) in his Kansas City tenure. Mark Gubicza did it in 1989 and Roger Nelson in 1972.
Paulino has another streak going. He's held opponents hitless in their last 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Yost has fun with Fischer
KANSAS CITY -- Think there's no tomfoolery in Royals manager Ned Yost's approach to the game?
When Bill Fischer, who is in his 65th year of pro ball, arrived this weekend to fill in as the bullpen coach, Yost had his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek. Fischer hadn't been a Major League coach for more than 10 years, so here's what Yost told him about bullpen life in 2012:
"Look, things are different now," Yost said with a straight face. "These phones are bugged. You never answer the phone ever until the middle of the third ring. It's got to be the middle of the third ring. Do not let it go to the fourth ring, but don't answer it before the third ring."
"Now, because they're bugged, we use code. If I say [Tim] Collins, I mean [Louis] Coleman. If I say Coleman, I want [Kelvin] Herrera. If I say [Greg] Holland, I want [Aaron] Crow. These are all things you've got to remember."
No word on Fischer's response, but it was, no doubt, colorful.
Pitch, Hit & Run regional winners determined
KANSAS CITY -- Regional winners in four age groups were determined in the Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run program on Saturday morning at Kauffman Stadium. They advanced to the national finals which will be part of All-Star Game week in Kansas City.
Winners from the regional that includes Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Nebraska in the boys and girls competition were, respectively:
7-8 Year-Old Division: Tanner Petersen, Springfield, Mo., and Mijah Carlson, Council Grove, Kan.
9-10 Year-Old Division: Luke Mathews, Kansas City, Mo., and Kenady Poyner, Fort Scott, Kan.
11-12 Year-Old Division: Chase Wiggins, Booneville, Ark., and Jordan Carlson, Council Grove, Kan.
13-14 Year-Old Division: Ricky Hockett, Plainville, Kan., and Jade Mendoza, Lincoln, Neb.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.