There was a time when it seemed as though one of the biggest obstacles to Danny Duffy being able to develop into a top of the rotation starters was….Danny Duffy. When the game was going well, and Duffy was on, few pitchers appeared as though they were in his class. Yet, when the game turned against him, or when Duffy ran into trouble, it would lose focus. There were concerns about how Duffy would fare mentally, as he even walked away from baseball for a period of time in 2010, when he claimed to lose passion for the game.
Then, something changed with Duffy. Since being recalled at the start of the season, Duffy has been brimming with confidence, typically attacking the strike zone and challenging the opposition. That approach has worked for the most part, as Duffy has posted a 2.53 ERA and a 1.078 WHiP despite his 8-11 record. Virtually every time that Duffy has gone to the mound this season, he has given the Royals a legitimate chance to win.
Unfortunately, that transformation for Danny Duffy from an emotional roller coaster to a cold blooded assassin on the mound is not yet complete. There are still bumps in the road, as evidenced by the sixth inning last night. After Christian Colon threw away what would have been the final out of the inning, Duffy allowed a lined single up the middle, a four pitch walk and a grand slam on a fastball right down the heart of the plate, all within a span of six pitches.
Yet, even after the disastrous sixth inning, there were still positives. Allowed to return for the seventh, Duffy set the Colorado Rockies down in order, recording two strikeouts. Instead of allowing one bad stretch to fester and spill over into the next inning, Duffy was able to put those moments behind him and pitch a solid inning.
As with any maturation process, there are going to be struggles. Not everything will go smoothly, especially for a player who has walked the fine line of being under control as Danny Duffy has in the past. There may still be times, such as last night, where Duffy becomes unraveled, at least temporarily. As important as it is for Duffy to get those outs when needed, it is also important to see how he rebounds after any potential meltdowns. Last night, Duffy rebounded quite well.
Overall, six pitches may not seem like a long stretch of time. Unfortunately for the Royals and Duffy last night, those six pitches turned the tide of the game, taking a possible sweep of the two game set and transforming it into a split. While the 5-2 loss hurts, it could have been much worse. Duffy at least gave the Royals a chance to come back last night.
Danny Duffy has taken major strides this season, but he is still a work in progress. However, he does appear to be getting closer to being a finished product.