Danny Duffy, the former KC Royals lefthander who was so much the toast of Kansas City that the club gave him a $65 million, five-year contract after he went 12-3 in 2016, pitched Sunday in Amarillo, a city far away from Kauffman Stadium, his longtime baseball home where two years ago he last appeared in a major league game.
That he threw an inning in Amarillo for Frisco, the Texas Rangers' Double-A affiliate, tells you Duffy is still working hard to make his way back to the majors after a troubling left flexor issue forced him onto the Royals' Injured List for the second time in the 2021 season.
He tried first with the Dodgers, to whom the Royals sent him in an improbable trade deadline deal while he was still on the IL. But the flexor problem lingered, he didn't pitch for Los Angeles that season or in 2022. He spent the latter campaign on minor league rehab assignments before becoming a free agent last November.
Texas picked him up on a one-year deal in January and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock. He didn't appear in a single game for the Express before the Ranger organization sent him down to Double-A Frisco in June; only for three subsequent weeks at Round Rock, where he gave up five runs and walked eight in 4.1 innings before being returned to Frisco, has he pitched anywhere else this season.
Duffy's Double-A results have been good. Only in June did his Frisco ERA exceed 2.00 — it was 3.97 that month, but only 1.80 in July, 1.29 in August, and 1.13 this month. And he closed his season Sunday with a scoreless, three-strikeout inning against Amarillo in Frisco's final game of the campaign.
What lies ahead for Duffy now, though, is uncertain.
Could the former KC Royals starter get a late-season call-up to Texas?
While adding a pitcher who hasn't thrown a big league pitch for over two years would be unusual, the Rangers might (and it's a big might) bring Duffy up for their final 12 games of the season, the first of which they'll play tonight against Boston. Texas needs help — after leading the American League West all season, they slipped into second place in late August, have spent time in third this month and, after losing four in a row, are tied with Seattle for second and, more importantly, the AL's final Wild Card spot.
And untimely down-the-stretch pitching injuries have hit the Rangers: they lost starter Max Scherzer to a teres major strain for at least the rest of the regular season just a few days ago, and a strained rotator cuff will cause reliever (and former Royal) Ian Kennedy to miss the rest of the campaign.
Whether Texas general manager Chris Young (another ex-Royal) looks to Duffy remains to be seen. Duffy finished his Round Rock season with a commendable 28-game 2-2, 2.30 record, but that work came against Double-A, not big league or even Triple-A, hitters.
And Young didn't call Duffy up, as he could have, after Kennedy went down, opting instead to promote Jake Latz from Triple-A. The move suggests Duffy may not be on Young's major league radar screen, but could move up to Round Rock for the Express' final six regular season games and potential playoff run (Round Rock is in the hunt for a postseason berth).
But if Duffy's 2023 season is over, look for him to seek employment for the 2024 campaign. He'll be back on the free agent market after the World Series ends.