Danny Duffy Takes the Mound, but Royals Should Be Cautious with His Return
Amid the controlled enthusiasm surrounding the Kansas City Royals this spring training comes the news that starting pitcher Danny Duffy threw 18 pitches from the mound on Tuesday (via Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star).
Almost nine months to the date after leaving in the first inning of his May 13 start against the Chicago White Sox with elbow discomfort (successful Tommy John surgery was performed on June 13), Duffy had this to say about his session (via Dutton):
“It’s been a long time. It was a lot of fun (to get on the mound again). You take a lot of things for granted in this game, and when you get back out there—even 18 pitches, all fastballs—it’s pretty sick. I had a great time.”
Tentatively scheduled for a mid-July return to full work, Duffy also said that he expects to be ready in June. While this is certainly great news for the Royals and their fanbase, this team is actually in a position to not rush their young starter back to action.
Kansas City enacted a rigid plan to bolster its starting rotation this offseason; they traded for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana, and re-signed Jeremy Guthrie—all of whom will settle in as the top four options on the Royals’ staff.
While there will be an assumed drop-off in the fifth spot—options include Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza and Will Smith—the Royals will benefit from a long-term approach to Duffy’s recovery.
Kansas City’s minor league system has been loaded with talent under general manager Dayton Moore, with pitching being a focal point of his efforts. Stalled development at the higher levels—along with injuries—have prevented the Royals from cashing in at the Major League level, however.
Besides production out of its young bullpen, Duffy is the only starting pitcher to really provide anything from a group that included Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery (both part of the trade that brought in Shields), John Lamb and Chris Dwyer—all once highly touted prospects across all of baseball.
Injuries could definitely modify any such plans for this team, but there is no more imperative health-related concern for the Royals right now than Duffy’s surgically-repaired elbow. Tempering expectations on his recovery is the best thing for this organization.
With no immediate need for his contribution this season, the Royals could find themselves in an even better position with its starting rotation in 2014 should Duffy realize his full potential.
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