Danny Duffy shows progress as Royals defeat Twins

07/31/2014 10:05 AM

07/31/2014 11:03 AM

The most valuable member of the Royals pitching staff, at least according to Baseball-Reference’s version of wins above replacement, began the season in Class AAA Omaha. He stunk in spring training. When he did join the team in the majors, he arrived as an unassigned arm for the bullpen.

“When I got sent down, it was probably the biggest event to happen in my entire career,” Danny Duffy said on Wednesday night. “Even Tommy John. It let me know that nothing’s still going to be given to you, even though you came back from 16 months down, doing rice-bucket drills. You still have to work.”

The Royals now benefit from the fruits of Duffy’s labors. He has thrown only 104 innings, the fewest of the five members of the rotation. He leads the group with a 2.42 ERA.

It is unclear if this number is predictive. His peripheral numbers haven’t been outstanding — a 3.99 FIP, a 6.9 K/9, a 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Still, Duffy’s ability to actually prevent runs from scoring has been outstanding.

On Wednesday, he matched a career-high with six walks. He held the Twins to only one run in 5 2/3 innings, anyway. In years past, he explained, he probably only would have lasted four innings.

“I don’t think he had his same stuff — he had a lot of walks,” outfielder Alex Gordon said. “But he still had great stuff, and was able to get out of the innings.”

To manager Ned Yost, this sort of outing, where Duffy achieves success despite lackluster command, has become “old hat,” he said.

“We’re kind of beating a dead horse,” he said. “Danny Duffy is a really good major-league pitcher.”

And his all-around game has become more rounded. He executed a pickoff move to nab speedy outfielder Sam Fuld in the fourth. He also benefited from Salvador Perez catching shortstop Eduardo Nunez drifting too far from the bag in the first.

“You know, Danny has worked really hard on his pickoff move,” Yost said. “And that step-off has gotten really, really effective for him. And Danny used to be really poor at controlling the running game, but that’s really helped.

“If you’re going to be a successful major-league pitcher, you have to be pretty good at all facets of your game. Fielding your position. Controlling the running game, as well as managing your pitch count, throwing strikes with good stuff. Danny’s definitely gotten better in all those categories.”

FROM THE STAR

Ned Yost declared himself a fan, and his favorite team managed to collect a victory. One rally won’t fix this offense, but it did help them down the Twins.

With today’s trade deadline upon us, the Royals continued to explore their options, including looking at starting pitchers.

THE ROYALS’ PLAYOFF PERCENTAGE (ACCORDING TO BASEBALL PROSPECTUS)

16.2 percent.

HERE IS SOME ROCK MUSIC

“Heated Swimming Pool” by Joyce Manor.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

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