Danny Duffy listened to the question. He spent a moment pondering its inanity, its tangential relationship to the actual issues that caused his last two outings.
“It’s just facial hair,” Duffy said. “It’s just facial hair. It’s just facial hair.”
He took a deep breath. Once more he considered the connection between his bushy beard and his 19.29 ERA in May.
“It’s just facial hair.”
Baseball is a game loaded with superstitions, but Duffy found foolish the notion that his grooming choices affected his performance on the diamond.
A day after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings to Texas, Duffy appeared in cheerful spirits Tuesday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington. He blasted a video on his iPhone of Justin Bieber singing Christmas carols. He dueled with Kendrys Morales in foosball.
There was little actual work to accomplish. In the coming days, Duffy, 2-2 with a 5.67 ERA, will prepare for his start on Saturday against the Yankees. Manager Ned Yost indicated the team intended to stick with Duffy and trust he could correct the mistakes that led to his last two starts.
Yost acknowledged Duffy’s difficulties this month. It was impossible not to — Duffy has allowed 10 runs in 4 2/3 innings. But Yost revealed no inclination of abandoning a pitcher the club slotted as their No. 2 starter at the season’s outset.
“So what do we do, like throw him in an incinerator?” Yost said. “If you didn’t learn the virtues of patience of last year, you’ll never learn. But that’s what it is. He’ll go out and throw a good game.”
Royals officials do believe this is possible. He issued a career-high six walks on Monday, which leads Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland to believe Duffy is responsible for the meltdown. He has been overthrowing, which causes his command to evaporate.
As Eiland reviewed Monday’s catastrophe, he pinpointed the exact moment Duffy rediscovered his form — during Prince Fielder’s at-bat in the second inning.
“He gained control of himself, got back within his delivery, started throwing the ball downhill, executing pitches and getting ahead in the count,” Eiland said. “But you can’t wait until four runs are across the plate until you do that. He knows this. He’s aware of all this. Being aware of it, and going out and doing it, are two different things.”
That will be Duffy’s challenge until his next outing. His fastball velocity indicates his health is not an issue, and a pair of scouts who witnessed Monday’s start agreed with Kansas City’s position that Duffy is not dealing with any major physical issues.
In the coming days, Eiland will huddle with Duffy. He will reinforce the necessity for calm on the mound. He will remind Duffy he does not need to overpower his opponents. It is up to Duffy to follow this advice on the mound, as he did so often in 2014.
That will be his focus. Shaving is further down on the list of priorities.
“Maybe I will,” Duffy said. “Maybe I won’t. Maybe it’ll be hot out and I’ll need to shave.
“It’s just facial hair.”