When Royals starter Danny Duffy strained an oblique muscle in late May, the team’s training staff delivered the likely prognosis: The rehab process would take four to six weeks. He would be back sometime after the All-Star break.
Duffy, however, had another goal. He wanted to be back in four weeks, he said. He believed his body was capable.
On Tuesday night at Safeco Field, Duffy will make his return to the starting rotation when the Royals continue a series against the Seattle Mariners. It will be 37 days since he sustained the muscle strain while attempting to cover first base in a 10-1 loss in Cleveland.
Royals manager Ned Yost confirmed the decision Monday, but it was expected after Duffy appeared healthy in his last rehab start for Class AAA Omaha on Thursday. Duffy did not meet his goal of four weeks, but he beat the team’s best-case scenario by nearly a week. In the days after his last rehab start, he hounded the team’s trainers, hoping to skip his third start at Omaha and return five days early.
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“I’ve been pressing them,” Duffy said. “They probably hate me right now. But I’ve been pressing them big-time, trying to get back as quickly as possible. They were really receptive.”
The Royals will have to make a corresponding roster move Tuesday to clear space on the 25-man roster.
Duffy will start Tuesday opposite Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and could possibly return on Sunday to face Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. For Duffy, who grew up a Dodgers fan in California, the assignment would have special significance.
Yost said on Monday that he was still deciding whether to keep the rotation on regular rest after a day off on Thursday.
The club could opt for Travis Wood to make his second start on Saturday in Los Angeles, which would push Duffy’s second outing to after the All-Star break. The decision could hinge on how Duffy feels after starting on Tuesday.
Duffy, a 28-year-old left-hander, posted a 2.92 ERA in his first 10 starts before a six-run blowup in Cleveland in his last start. He will rejoin a rotation that has helped the Royals climb back into postseason contention after a woeful April. When Duffy was placed on the 10-day disabled list on May 30, the Royals were 21-29 and in last place in the AL Central. As they began a three-game series in Seattle on Monday, they were 41-40, just a half-game out of a playoff spot.
“They’ve been holding down the fort since I’ve been gone, more than anyone could ever imagine,” Duffy said. “They’ve been doing outstanding. Now it’s my my job to come in and not mess it up.”
As he arrived at the ballpark Monday, Duffy went for a jog in the concourse at Safeco Field. The exercise is part of his routine. But according to the Royals’ training staff, his love of long-distance running may help explain his body’s ability to heal quickly.
Duffy couldn’t quite explain it. But he’ll take it, he said. After more than five weeks on the disabled list, he’s ready to be back.