Ned Yost had his rotation set. As the Royals prepared for the American League Division Series, with James Shields occupied by the Wild Card Game two days prior, Yost knew who would start the first game against the Los Angeles Angels.
During the journey to the team’s first playoff berth in 29 years, Duffy had often been the team’s best starter. He posted a 2.55 ERA in 24 starts. Even coming off a shoulder ailment in September, Yost trusted Duffy for the opening assignment at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
Until trainer Nick Kenney informed him otherwise. Duffy was suffering from a stress reaction in his ribcage, a crack on the outside of the bone, and the discomfort would only allow him to throw two or three innings at a time. The team insisted that Duffy’s surgically-repaired left elbow and once-inflammed left shoulder were fine. The injury that kept him from the mound was in his midsection.
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“Obviously, he definitely would have been one of our starters if he hadn’t suffered this before the postseason started,” Yost told The Star on Wednesday night after the Royals fell, 3-2, in the seventh game of the World Series to San Francisco. “But this limited his innings.”
A pillar for so much of the season, Duffy became a bystander in October. He pitched in just three games. He totaled only 4 2/3 innings. He played a role in the team’s bullpen breakdown in the fourth game of this World Series, when the Giants erased a three-run deficit and tied the series at two games apiece.
The soreness cropped up during Duffy’s final start of the regular season against the White Sox. Duffy lasted only two innings. The Royals suspected he had injured an intercostal muscle. An X-ray revealed the stress reaction. Duffy said he does not know how the injury occured.
The Royals kept Duffy’s ailment quiet for all of October. Yost wanted Duffy to loom as a weapon in the bullpen, one capable of extended duty, even though he knew Duffy had to work on a shortened leash. During the rare times when he did pitch, he often could be spotted wincing on the mound.
“You feel it, but you don’t feel it,” Duffy said. “It’s manageable. Everyone has something going on at this time of year. It’s a matter of the threshold for pain.”
Duffy figures to play a prominent role with the Royals in 2015, even after he spent much of the final month of 2014 on the sidelines.
“We all gave everything we had,” Duffy said. “And I think, at the end of the day, we should all be really proud of ourselves.”