As far as Yordano Ventura has come in Spring Training, Danny Duffy has gone equally as far in the opposite direction. Duffy and Ventura have been the only two pitchers vying for a rotation spot. The rest of the rotation is set and waiting for one of the two young pitchers to emerge as a clear victor. To put it politely, Duffy is not emerging.
In the 9 1/3 innings that Yordano Ventura has pitched, he’s only allowed six hits, walked one and struck out nine. Duffy was crushed in his latest outing, allowing five runs in two innings of work. It bloated his already high ERA, which is now 11.00. In nine innings of work, Duffy has allowed 15 hits, five of which were home runs, and walked four.
Some of Duffy’s struggles are surely related to the thin Arizona air, which straightens breaking balls into batting practice pitches. Some of it might have something to do him being instructed to add a new grip to his slider. Those will have an affect on any pitching performance. They probably aren’t the whole story, though.
Pine Tar Press’s David Lesky interviewed Danny Duffy last week and found the contemplative young pitcher resigned to the less than ideal fate of being left off the roster. Duffy said:
I can see the writing on the wall…I know I can help the big league team right now. That’s my opinion. I think my opinion, for that matter, is fact.
Based on the interview, Lesky speculates that Duffy’s struggles can at least partially be attributed to emotional distress about his place on the team. He so clearly, so desperately, wants to be on a big league roster.
It puts the Royals front office and management staff in a difficult predicament, because Duffy does have what it takes to be on a big league club. They could put him in the bullpen, where he apparently wants to be, where his stuff would play up. Out of the bullpen, his fastball could possibly sustain 95 miles per hour every outing. Combined with his curveball and changeup, he has the potential to be a lethal reliever.
However, his potential value as a starting pitcher is too great to ignore. Even if he never gets out of the sixth inning because of high pitch counts, 150 innings of above average pitching is more valuable than 60 innings of great relief, especially for the Royals who have approximately 12 big-league-quality relief pitchers in their system. Starters are hard to come by. Relievers, not so much.
Danny Duffy is a hard Royal to dislike. He’s honest and open. He loves Kansas City and the fans. He wants to be a Royal for life. He says all the things you want to hear from any player in the system and never can we catch a whiff of dishonesty.
Ned Yost sees it too. He has said multiple times that it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have Duffy in the bullpen. One gets the impression that he is saying that for the benefit of Duffy. Yost takes his responsibility to protect his players very seriously. He doesn’t want to say anything that will get back to the players that gives the impression that he isn’t 100% on their side. When Yost says something nonsensical or seems like a lie (such as a reason he made a managerial decision or roster move that a reporter asked him to explain) think about whether the truth would hurt one his players’ feelings. If it will hurt one his guys, Yost will not say it, no matter how much the press pries.
Unfortunately for Yost, he will soon have to tell the world that Yordano Ventura is the Royals number three starter. Then he will probably have to tell Duffy that he’s heading to AAA-Omaha.
If Duffy keeps his head up and crushes AAA competition, we’ll see him at the big league level soon.