Royals Pitcher Danny Duffy Gets Double A Rehab Start Sunday


May 03, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (23) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals haven’t struggled for starting pitching in 2013 as in years past, but they’re still getting closer to getting reinforcements.

Danny Duffy announced on Twitter that he would be moving from extended spring training where he’s been increasing his workload after Tommy John surgery on June 13 last year. His first assignment has him pitching for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in San Antonio.

Pitcher rehab assignments last for 30 days, so once he makes his rehab start (which Bob Dutton reports will be limited to a 60 pitch count), the clock starts ticking. After that time, the Royals can activate him from the disabled list and add him to the active roster or, because he has options left, could send him to Omaha for some more work. The Royals have 39 players on the 40 man roster including Duffy.

Reports are that Duffy’s velocity is up, and that he’s had command along with it. Last year, before he’d been shut down, his fastball was averaging 96 mph. He told Dutton that he’s back in that range after just under a year. If he has command along with it (and it translates to his starts against better competition), he could be a welcome addition behind James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, and Ervin Santana. The Royals would have to make a decision on Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza, but too many starters is a good problem to have.

[RELATED: Duffy in February talking about his rehab experience on the Kansas City Baseball Vault.]

Davis has struggled back in a starting role. Last year with the Rays, he was effective as a reliever and the Royals added him to the Wil Myers trade because they felt it would carry over to his starting. That hasn’t been the case, as he’s put up a 5.91 ERA and a Blantonian 13.2 hits per nine innings. Mendoza has been better, but he hasn’t been consistently good, either (5.05 ERA in 41 innings). Due to all of the rainouts and off days in April, he was skipped in the rotation and made a long relief appearance so I’d give him some leeway there. In his last four starts, he’s started to settle down (23 IP and a 3.52 ERA).

If Duffy is reinserted into the rotation, one of those would have to go to the bullpen. Going back to spring training, Davis was locked into the fourth spot in the rotation, and I’d expect that to remain the case despite his performance so far (there haven’t been any indications from the organization to this point, but that’s my hunch).

Of course, this assumes that Duffy has had no setbacks, there haven’t been other injuries to starters, and that Duffy’s able to step in and perform well enough. His having options gives the Royals flexibility so that if he hits the big leagues and struggles (and we have to remember that Duffy has walked 11.6% of batters he’s faced in the big leagues) they can send him to Triple A to keep working.

It’s important to remain realistic. Most pitchers aren’t Stephen Strasburg and come right back to the levels they were at before Tommy John surgery (just look at John Lamb’s struggles two years after his surgery), much less improve right away. Duffy walked 18 batters in 27.2 innings last year, so his 3.90 ERA can be deceiving. He gave up less hits than in 2011 and struck out more (both good signs) but he’ll have to show that his command is truly there. If the Royals aren’t in position to move anybody off of the 25 man roster, Duffy’s 2013 Kansas City debut may be delayed.