Danny Duffy’s bio in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook speaks glowingly of the 21-year-old pitcher’s excellence on the mound: his ability to throw off a hitter’s timing, his fearlessness on the inside part of the plate, his willingness to work at improving various aspects of his game. It ended by noting that despite his youth, “Duffy isn’t that far away from the majors.”
Amidst all the praise, however, were a few cautionary words. “He sometimes struggles to put bad starts behind him…one of the last remaining tests for the potential No. 3 starter is finding out how he handles adversity – because he hasn’t encountered any.”
Duffy, the eighth-rated prospect in the Royals organization, suffered a minor elbow injury this spring and wasn’t expected to pitch until mid-May. On Tuesday, he told Royals officials he was done, finished, quits with the game of baseball.
The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton didn’t seem to think the injury was connected with Duffy’s decision to step away from the game, but it should probably at least be considered. If a kid is known to have a hard time dealing with bad outings and people question how he will deal with adversity, it makes sense to draw a connection to elbow problems, especially if that was his first career injury. If I’m a 21-year-old kid and my elbow starts to hurt, I don’t care if the doctors say it’s just a strain – I’m probably freaking out.
There is good news, though: stuff like this isn’t all that uncommon. A couple years ago, Jose Tabata (a 19-year-old in Double-A) left the Trenton Thunder during a game and was suspended for three games. In the 1950s, Hall of Famer Billy Williams left his team and went home, requiring the intervention of Buck O’Neil. And in 2006, Zack Greinke took a couple months off to deal with some personal issues.
My guess is that Duffy goes home, gets some support and encouragement, and gives his elbow time to heal…then, in a couple months, gets the itch, realizes he misses the game, and picks up where he left off.