KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He couldn’t locate his curveball. He couldn’t control his fastball. Heck, he said he couldn’t even feel his legs at times.
But Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, one of the team’s most promising pitching prospects, finally returned from Tommy John surgery to pitch in the big leagues again Tuesday in the Royals’ 5-2 win over the Twins.
The results were mixed: Duffy showed that the surgery certainly didn’t diminish his fastball, which topped out at 98 mph in the first inning.
“He had electric stuff,” manager Ned Yost said. “You could see that.”
But Duffy, by his own admission, struggled mightily at times with his command. He threw 93 pitches — right about the pitch limit the Royals had him on — in just 3 2/3 innings. He walked two, gave up six hits and two runs, and uncorked a wild pitch that let in the Twins’ first run.
Yet when Duffy, 24, was on, he overmatched the Twins, striking out seven hitters.
“It feels great to be back,” Duffy said. “But I’m not satisfied. I threw way too many pitches when I was out there. I’ve got to be better.”
Still, Duffy couldn’t contain his excitement after a long, hard rehab from Tommy John surgery in June 2012. He had not pitched for the Royals since May of that year.
“I was very pumped that first inning,” he said. “I said I couldn’t feel my leg, maybe that was a little figurative from just being excited, but I think I settled down a bit after that.”
Duffy’s biggest issue, he said, was that he couldn’t get his curveball over the plate.
“It had been working great in the minors,” he said. “But tonight, I just couldn’t control it.”
Fortunately, he could corral his changeup, and it became his out pitch.
“That’s what he leaned on,” catcher Brett Hayes said.
After giving up a leadoff triple to Brian Dozier, Duffy uncorked a wild pitch while the next hitter, Jamey Carroll, was up. Duffy escaped further damage in the first.
Carroll and Justin Morneau led off with singles in the third, but Duffy struck out two of the next three hitters and scrambled out of that inning.
But with Duffy’s pitch count mounting and after Dozier delivered an RBI single in the fourth, Yost finally decided to get his young lefty.
“Yes, he struggled with his command,” Yost said, “but it was a good first step.”
Duffy was filling in for Wade Davis, who was skipped in the rotation while on bereavement leave. Duffy now likely will head back to Triple-A Omaha with a strong possibility of returning to start one of the doubleheader games at Detroit on Aug. 16 when the Royals are allowed to expand the roster to 26.
“I don’t know what will happen,” Duffy said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help. This is such a great clubhouse.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com