KC Royals: These are uncertain times for Danny Duffy

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The bad too often seems to outweigh the good in the baseball world of Danny Duffy. His pitching fortunes soured after the KC Royals rewarded him with a five-year, $65 million contract after he went 12-3 in 2016. A 7-6 2019 and this year’s 4-3 are the only winning seasons he’s had since then, and while a variety of injuries account for at least some of Duffy’s adversity, he’s been frustratingly inconsistent.

But after all the disappointment, 2021, the final year of his contract, was different from the start. Duffy wasn’t a carbon copy of his 2016 self, but at 3-1 with a microscopic 0.39 ERA at the end of April, he was becoming a reasonable facsimile, forcing baseball people to wonder if he’d be more valuable to the Royals as a July trade piece or season-long rotation leader.

Short-lived, however, was Duffy’s rediscovered success. After losing his second straight start May 12 and dropping to 4-3, a left flexor strain forced him to the Injured List and he didn’t pitch again until June 23, when he made the first of six straight no-decision starts. The flexor strain was back and forced Duffy to the IL again.

That didn’t stop the Dodgers from trading a still unnamed player for Duffy a day before the summer trade deadline passed, and while he was still sidelined. Los Angeles needed more stretch run pitching; KC wanted to get something for Duffy before his contract expired, and perhaps to give a loyal Royal another (maybe one last) shot at the postseason.

LA hoped Duffy could return before the postseason, but he hasn’t thrown a Dodger pitch and probably never will. The club preserved his eligibility for the postseason by transferring him to the 60-day IL Aug.9, but it couldn’t reactivate him until this weekend—just in time, it turned out, for the Dodgers’ National League Division Series against San Francisco, which began Friday night.

The Dodgers, though, left him off their NLDS roster. There really wasn’t any reason to believe Duffy might miraculously make it back for the playoffs, especially after a mid-September relapse brought his recovery efforts to a sudden halt.

The baseball future of former KC Royals pitcher Danny Duffy is uncertain.

Making Duffy’s grounded status official is a sobering reminder that his career stands at what may be its final crossroad. Even if he doesn’t require Tommy John surgery, a procedure known to follow flexor issues, the Dodgers aren’t likely to re-sign Duffy before or after he becomes a free agent the day after the World Series ends.

The KC Royals, who might otherwise welcome him back with open arms, will likely close the book on him if he needs TJS. And even if he doesn’t, two flexor strains in a single season may render Duffy too much of a risk even for a club famous for its willingness to take on pitching reclamation projects.

If Duffy is done, the bad aspects of his career will have once again beaten the good.

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The future is uncertain for former Kansas City pitcher Danny Duffy, who hasn’t pitched for the Dodgers after joining them in July.