In the wake of Danny Duffy’s latest brief outing, which lasted only seven outs on Wednesday, Royals manager Ned Yost decided to assign Duffy to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, giving him an opportunity to audition for the playoff roster as a reliever.
With Duffy out of the running, Kris Medlen becomes the favorite to be the team’s fourth starter in October. Jeremy Guthrie will replace Duffy in the rotation. Yost wanted to afford Duffy the chance to acclimate to life as a reliever, a role he excelled in last April.
“There’s only 17 games left,” Yost said before Thursday’s series finale against the Indians. “We’re going to need four starters for the playoffs. The other four were out-performing Danny. So we need to see if he can be productive for us out of the ’pen.”
Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland informed Duffy, who is 7-8 with a 4.35 ERA, on Thursday afternoon. Duffy said he greeted the news with affirmation. “Great,” he told them, despite his fall from the team’s No. 2 starter, behind Yordano Ventura after Opening Day, to its No. 2 left-handed reliever, behind Franklin Morales.
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“It’s the place that I can help the most right now,” Duffy said. “I can definitely help out of the ’pen, as it stands, more than I can starting right now. It doesn’t do you any good to throw 68 pitches in 2 1/3 innings. It doesn’t do you any good to throw 100 in five.”
Duffy expects to be available by Sunday. Yost indicated he’ll use him in the sixth or seventh inning in the optimal scenario.
When the season began, the Royals hoped Duffy could start for them in the playoffs. He experienced a hiccup in May, when he lost his ability to throw strikes and suffered a month-long absence caused by shoulder stiffness. Upon his return in June, Duffy ran off a string of six starts with a 2.15 ERA.
As the summer continued, Duffy dealt with issues that have plagued him for years. He struggled to repeat his delivery, which leads to lengthy at-bats and abbreviated outings. He has completed the seventh inning in only four of his 24 outings this season.
Duffy noted that he had thrown more than 110 pitches on only two occasions this season.
“There’s been a couple times that I felt like I had another inning to give before I came out,” Duffy said. “That was an executive decision. And I agree with everyone of those. There’s zero bad blood with the decision today. I’m actually extremely excited.
He added, “There’s zero amount of disappointment. The only amount of disappointment is not being able to execute in the opportunity that I did have.”
The Royals tendered Duffy a contract last winter and settled on a $2.43 million salary in arbitration. He is eligible for another raise this winter in arbitration. He expects to be a starter in the future. For now, his focus is elsewhere.
“Some people could look down the road,” Duffy said. “But I’m thinking about right now. Because it’s a small window. A small window. We don’t get to play together forever. Because it’s something that would be a real shame if we didn’t win forever. If that’s how I’ve got to help win, then that’s how I’ve got to help.”