Spring training is finally here. While most of the Royals organization has been down in Arizona for a while, Monday marked the official report date for pitchers and catchers. That also means wider media coverage and more information popping up.
One player in particular has been interviewed a few times and judging by his Twitter feed, he might be the most excited of all the Royals players.
Because it’s spring, some of the cliches are flying around as well. It’s unavoidable. There aren’t games to reflect on or trends to focus on, so players and coaches have to speak in generalities. Early on in the process, everyone’s working on various things and that’s all there is to report.
Duffy hasn’t been immune to the cliches, but he’s at least delivered them sincerity and confidence. On the Royalman Report on Sunday, he acknowledged his rough 2011 and command issues:
My worst enemy last year was throwing a lot of balls and getting deep into counts. I want to get a lot of one pitch outs, two pitch outs. That’s my goal this year.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of aiming for “one pitch outs, two pitch outs”. That’s not because I want Duffy to have to throw 19 pitches an inning, but because I’d rather he go at the batters with good pitches. I used the phrase “pitch to contact” (and I can tell that Kevin Scobee’s fists are clenching with rage as I type that) to see if that was a specific mandate from the organization or not.
It doesn’t seem like it’s meant as an organizational stance, and Duffy acknowledged he was able to miss bats in the minors but the big leagues are “a whole different animal.”
You’re out there with the best in the world and you have to learn or you’re not gonna stay, and my plan is to stay.
– Duffy talking to Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports on Tuesday.
One goal he’s working on is trusting his stuff. Last year he “tried to make my pitches too nasty.”
He’s said similar things before, adding that if he can locate his pitches better “it will be scary.”
The critics are out there, and he responded to them with us as well as Fescoe. The starters seem to have a chip on their shoulder with the recognition that they didn’t perform last year and have to this year.
Anytime someone talks negatively – I’m not saying we’re getting bashed – but you’re either going to do one of two things, you’re either going to work harder or you’re going to continue to listen to it. And I’m gonna work harder. That’s the whole kind of pitching staff we have.
The phrase he used (and Luke Hochevar as well apparently) was that the entire pitching staff was “pulling on the same end of the rope.”
Some of this is player-speak, but a lot of what shines through is that yes, Duffy and the others understand the role they have on this team and they understand that they didn’t fill it last year very well. It sounds to me like they’re excited to be back at work and driven to challenge the critics.
Of course saying and doing are two different things. Duffy’s worked on his delivery – changing the position of his hands and arms a bit for more control – and he thinks will make him more consistent when delivering pitches to the mound. It’s apparent that he does need to throw more strikes and that his goal should be to get deeper into games.
Now he has to go out and do it.
As Kevin discussed yesterday, Duffy has the highest ceiling of any pitcher on this team. He has the ability to make batters swing and miss and a strong fastball and curve ball that make him a solid bet to be a leader within the rotation.
If the adjustments work and he can reach that ceiling, that’ll shut some people up.