From the moment that Danny Duffy was sent down to Omaha to start the season, it was expected that he would eventually replace Bruce Chen in the starting rotation. Duffy would be in AAA to work on pitching deeper into games, and would eventually take over when Chen was transitioned back to the bullpen. At least, those were the expectations.
Now, just over a month into the season, Duffy has replaced Chen. Instead of taking over due to Chen struggling in the rotation, Duffy will be getting the start later today due to Chen being placed on the disabled list with stiffness in his lower back and pain in his quad. Those injuries may go a long way in explaining Chen’s struggles after his excellent first start of the 2014 season.
For Danny Duffy, this is the opportunity he has been waiting for. When he was initially brought back to the majors after his first start in Omaha, it was in a relief role. Coming out of the bullpen, he seemed relaxed and confident, challenging hitters and throwing strikes. For his first four outings, Duffy was the pitcher that we had all hoped, striking out eleven batters against only two walks over 8.1 innings of work.
Yet, over his last two outings, the calm, cool and collected Danny Duffy has given way to the pitcher who would occasionally become frazzled on the mound. In those past two outings, Duffy has yet to retire a batter, hitting two batters while walking a third. Of the five hitters he faced, three came around to score. That recent stretch may just be a fluke, which is what the Royals appear to be banking on.
The Royals, and their fans, envision that Duffy will have a role in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Although he is expected to be limited to 65 to 70 pitches today, a solid outing could cement his place in the rotation. With Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno expected back relatively soon, the Royals would not need to keep Duffy in the bullpen as the only left handed option. He could, should he perform well while Chen is on the disabled list, add another dynamic young arm to the rotation, pushing up his timetable to right now.
For Danny Duffy, his future could be now. Today’s start is just the first step.