Morning Coffee: Duffy Dazzles, Royals Got It Right
I have to admit this is going to be difficult for me to write because I can only think of superlatives to apply to Duffy’s start last night. I want to break it down and tell you why he did so well and what he can do in order to do it again, but I just keep thinking “wow” when I picture what he was doing against the Twins. So I probably won’t break it down, but I’ll just write about how much I enjoyed watching that and what I think it can mean moving forward. Last night’s start was, to me, the best start of his big league career. He’s certainly had other good games, but last night was the game when it all came together and you could watch him and realize that he really¬†can¬†be a legitimate number two starter in the big leagues.
Ever since becoming a big leaguer in 2011, the question surrounding Duffy never had anything to do with stuff. He had a fastball that moved, solid off speed stuff and is left-handed, so that adds points to his resume. The question was whether or not he could both command the ball well enough to get deep in games and whether or not he could put hitters away. I don’t know how many times in 2011 I saw Duffy get to two strikes against a hitter and then you’d see three foul balls. Then he might get the out or he might not, but either way, it was just driving his pitch count up. I remember when people were clamoring for him to get called up that the knock on him was that he was getting AAA hitters out because they couldn’t lay off pitches that big league hitters would lay off. And then when he came up, that came true.
We all know what happened next. He started 2012 with very high hopes that he had fixed some of the problems that plagued him in 2011 and before we knew it, he had forearm stiffness and that was followed by skipping a start due to some elbow discomfort and then by mid-season, he had the dreaded Tommy John surgery. We all followed his updates on Twitter and were anxiously awaiting his return to the rotation. He finally got to go out on a rehab assignment and just about as soon as he was deemed fully healthy, many Royals fans wanted him back in the rotation. It made sense. He’s a Royals draft pick, very popular with the fans and he was finally healthy. So people wanted him back and they wanted him to replace either Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis.
I hope you’re sitting down for what I’m about to say:
The Royals handled Danny Duffy’s return perfectly.
When Duffy’s rehab assignment was up, the Royals could have brought him to the big leagues and found a role for him, but he wasn’t pitching all that well on the assignment. He was still throwing a lot of pitches and walking too many batters. The cries for Duffy continued, but the Royals stuck to their guns and kept him in AAA Omaha. They did summon him for one start (against the Twins) when they were in need of a starter and boy was he rough. He only made it through 3.2 innings and threw nearly 100 pitches. He limited the Twins to two runs, but the issues that had been my concern were rearing their ugly heads. I didn’t get to see that start as I was traveling, but I’m told the stuff was crisper and he just needed to work on a couple things before he would be good to go.
He came back to pitch game two of the double header against the Tigers and was just outstanding. He struggled in the first, but then he settled down and pitched six innings, giving up just one hit. He basically threw the same number of pitches in this game as in his first big league start of the season. He went back down after that start, but after another AAA start, he has now been called up to replace Wade Davis in the rotation. ¬†The Twins don’t have a great offense, but he was absolutely masterful against them and it was so great to see. The Royals did right by not calling him back up immediately upon him becoming eligible to return.
And now he’s back and he’s thrown two outstanding games in a row. Sure there will be clunkers and there will be games when you get so frustrated watching him pitch that you could pull your hair out, but he’s never put together two starts in a row like this before in his career. Duffy’s mentioned a few times that this injury has really emphasized how much work it is to be a successful big league player. My hope is that, in the long run, having the injury is going to be the best thing to happen to Danny Duffy because he’s sure easy to root for. Saying things like “bury me a Royal” can really do that for a guy.
While 2013 is obviously not over, the Royals have to be looking ahead to 2014 as well, and Duffy finishing this season on a strong note can really help to provide the team with an answer to their 2014 rotation. I’ve said this before, but Jeremy Guthrie can’t be the number two in 2014 if the Royals hope to make the playoffs. Personally, I think they’ll need to leave the organization to find the number two to slot behind Shields, but I wouldn’t exactly be upset if one of the young arms stepped up and filled that role. The more I see starts like this, the more hope I have that Duffy can fill that role next season. Like I said, I’d be more comfortable with a proven starter, but last night was one of the most encourage things I’ve seen in quite some time from a starter from the Royals system. I just hope we see more of last night because THAT was fun.
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