For the first time since returning to action from Tommy John surgery, 24-year-old Royals pitcher Danny Duffy says he was free of restrictions when he took the mound last week for the Omaha Storm Chasers. He went 2-0 in one start and one relief appearance, tossing 10 2/3 scoreless innings, and was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week.
"Not that I had any rules, so to speak, but I had to make sure that I was ready to do some of the things I’m doing now, like off speed on a slide step or a snap throw to first base," Duffy said Monday on the Storm Chasers pregame radio show. "I feel better physically than I have since being drafted. I think that’s why I was so confident going into that start."
Gaining full command of his change-up seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle, saying it was the last pitch to come to him.
"It felt really good," he said. "Coming out of my hand I was able to get through it. I tried to get it in my mind that I need to get behind it instead of trying to manipulate it."
Now he wants to focus on consistency with all his pitches.
Stamina doesn’t seem to be an issue. In his last outing, he threw 85 pitches. He says he could have gone out the next day and pitched another five or six innings.
"I’m dead serious," he said. "It’s night and day from how I used to feel after a start."
During the Tommy John surgery, he also had a couple of bone spurs removed and that seems to be helping him as well. He had to change his delivery when he still had them.
"Everything is new," Duffy said. "It’s like I have a 12-year-old arm again, only a little bit stronger."
Duffy was 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in six starts for Kansas City in 2012 and appeared to be on the verge of a break out season before his elbow injury occurred. I spoke to him during spring training and he said he "got after it" in the training room during the off-season. He was expected to return to action in late May or early June, so he's right on schedule.
He made three starts for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, posting a 4.22 ERA before joining the Storm Chasers on a rehab assignment. He saw his first action with Omaha on June 10. In his first three outings, he gave up 13 earned runs before turning in his two dominant performances last week. But since his rehab assignment ended on June 25 (prior to his last outing), the Royals optioned him to Omaha to give him a little more time.
"Definitely, it was necessary," he said. "I wasn’t ready. And now I feel like I can go out there and be myself and pitch the way I’ve always pitched. I think I’m starting to show what I have the capability of doing. Whenever I’m ready, they will know. But right now, I’m a Storm Chaser and I’m loving it."
Duffy's next scheduled start is July 5 in Round Rock.