Intensity of ‘pen work suits Duffy well, but he could make timely switch to rotation, too
Left-hander Danny Duffy has been better than perhaps anyone imagined in his new and brief career as a reliever.
In three appearances, Duffy has worked at least two innings each time out, given up just three hits and no runs, and has struck out nine hitters.
And the biggest fear — his tendency to be wild — has been a nonfactor. Duffy has walked just two batters.
The intensity level of being a reliever appears to have helped Duffy focus.
"I have felt very focused," he said. "I have felt confident. I think you get more focused than you would as a starter because it’s such a short time as a reliever. You don’t have time to think too much; you just throw strikes."
Duffy has been so effective that manager Ned Yost now is considering Duffy for a more high-leverage role, perhaps as an eighth-inning tandem with Wade Davis.
Yost didn’t hesitate last week in Houston when he brought Duffy in during a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, and then again in the 10th.
"I want to be that late-inning guy," Duffy said. "I thought they might want to bring me along slowly, but I’m glad they didn’t. That was a tense situation in Houston — on the road, bottom of the ninth, bottom of the 10th, you make one mistake and that’s it, you lose.
"That meant a lot to me that they showed me that confidence. I’m glad Ned had so much confidence in me. I haven’t been doing the bullpen thing that long, and for him to give me the ball in that situation — it’s do or die — I was very happy. I’m ready for more."
So far, the Royals haven’t tried to overuse Duffy. He has gotten time off between outings, but he says he could go back-to-back if needed.
"I could, but I think they’re going to try to protect me," he said. "As an organization they make sure to protect guys coming off (Tommy John surgery). But I feel good enough to do it back-to-back."
The bigger question is what the Royals will do with Duffy in the future. Left-handers Tim Collins and Francisley Bueno are on the disabled list, and Collins appears close to being healthy again. Yost already has indicated there is no way Duffy will be shipped back to Triple-A Omaha when either one is activated.
And, of course, there is the issue of the Royals’ rotation. Club officials still believe Duffy’s future is as a starter. And if a current starter were to go down or become ineffective — and Bruce Chen might be nearing that ineffective point — it’s still likely Duffy would be the club’s top choice as a rotation replacement.
But how long would it take Duffy to transition back to being a starter?
"I don’t think it would take that long — maybe two weeks at the most," Duffy said. "After I went to the bullpen in spring training, I went to extended spring and started with three innings and maybe 60 pitches, then five innings and maybe 75 pitches, then I was ready to go six in my first start in Omaha, and that’s what I did.
"So really, that’s just about a week and a half. No problem."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.