Is it reunion time for two former KC Royals pitchers?

Johnny Cueto and Danny Duffy may pitch together again.
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At a pivotal point in his club's game against Salt Lake Tuesday night, Round Rock Express manager Doug Davis summoned former KC Royals pitcher Danny Duffy to squelch a brewing Bees rally. It would be Duffy's seventh appearance of the season for Texas' Triple-A affiliate, one that might move him closer to a return to the majors, where he hasn't thrown a single pitch since the 2021 campaign.

Unfortunately, Duffy, who with no one out in the sixth inning inherited two runners, including former Kansas City teammate Hunter Dozier, quickly worked himself into more trouble and gave up the one-run lead Davis needed him to protect — he walked Cole Tucker to load the bases, then issued another free pass to Bryce Teodosio. Duffy recovered nicely, getting Chad Wallach to ground into an inning-ending double play, but gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh. (The Express ended up winning 8-5).

Results matter, so it's unlikely Tuesday's performance improves Duffy's chances of getting back to the big leagues, at least with Texas. But it probably won't force the Rangers to give up on him — after all, this is the second year he's been with the organization, so Texas obviously sees something they like.

And now, Duffy will be joined in the organization with another former Royal trying to forge a path back to The Show.

Texas has signed Johnny Cueto

The Rangers disclosed Tuesday the signing of Cueto to a minor league contract; although an eventual reunion with Duffy at Round Rock is probable, he'll likely land first in the Arizona Complex League.

Like Duffy, whose every big league pitch has been thrown as a Royal — he went 68-68 with a 3.95 ERA in 11 Kansas City seasons before the club dealt him to the Dodgers at the 2021 trade deadline — Royals fans know Cueto well. Although his stint with the club lasted less than a season after it acquired him from the Reds at the 2015 deal deadline, he helped the Royals down the stretch and shut down the Astros with a superb eight-inning performance in the clinching game of that year's American League Division Series.

But also like Duffy, Cueto is striving to return to the majors. Duffy's 2021 left flexor injuries didn't dissuade the Dodgers from trading for him three seasons ago, but they derailed his career. Cueto pitched four seasons with San Francisco when Bruce Bochy, who now managers the Rangers, skippered the Giants (Cueto worked six campaigns in all for the club) but found himself hampered by biceps and viral infection issues and missed much of last season with Miami, where he went 1-4 with a 6.02 ERA.

Only time will tell whether either former Royal ends up in the big leagues this year; Duffy is 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in his seven relief appearances for Round Rock, and Cueto's prospects won't really be known until he pitches at a much higher level than the ACL. But expect them to soon be together again with the Express.

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