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Dany Duffy's Royals debut comes in a wild game
One of my favorite moments in baseball is watching a player's debut at the Major League. It's a once in a lifetime moment that the player has likely dreamed of for nearly his entire life. Many debuts are brief and most are uneventful. The vast majority of players get their first taste of the big leagues as a relief pitcher or a position player, so the debut consists of a brief inning or a handful of at bats. Last night was the somewhat rare occurrence of a player getting his first shot as a starting pitcher as Danny Duffy made his highly anticipated appearance in a Kansas City Royals uniform.
It's something that has been more rare, it seems for the Royals than for other clubs. The last Royals player to make his debut as a starter was J.P. Howell on June 11th 2005 in Arizona. The last Royal to make his debut as a starting pitcher an do so in Kauffman Stadium was Jimmy Serrano on August, 4th 2004. It's unlikely that there will be that long of a time between the next pitcher to debut as a starter, however it was a rather unique moment and the game that was played matched the uniqueness.
Duffy's first pitch was a 95 mph called strike to Rangers hitter Endy Chavez and the crowd cheered the big moment for the young pitcher. His second pitch was a 96 mph fastball which was swung on and missed. Duffy is known to have a very nice fastball, but 96 seemed to be a bit fast.
It looked as if he was over-throwing a bit and was falling off the mound pretty hard as he followed through. I'd imagine that Duffy had a little extra adrenaline flowing in that first inning, which combined with every players desire to prove that they belong was enough to put him just a tad out of his comfort zone. After the game he was asked if he was a little amped up more than usual.
"Absolutely, I think anytime in a situation like that you're going to be pumped, but I need to learn to control that."
I asked him if he felt he was over-throwing in the first inning.
"I felt like I was really under control, it was jumping out of my hand....I was amped."
The ball was jumping out of his hands as he hit 96 a few times in the first and didn't hit it again the rest of the game. He also didn't have great command of his off-speed pitches. That resulted in a couple of singles and a walk, but a double play and a weak popfly let him escape without damage other than an elevated pitch count.
As the game moved on, Duffy seemed to settle down a bit and his control and off-speed stuff returned to him. All three outs in the second were strikeouts, although he did walk Mike Napoli. It's significant because one of Duffy's biggest issues surfaced immediately when Napoli stole second base, which was his first of the season. The Rangers ended up stealing four bases on Duffy. When asked about it, manager Ned Yost said after the game:
"One of the things we're going to have tow work on is duffy containing the running game, he's a little long at times and allowed runners to go from first to second and second to third.....that's something were going to continue to work on with him, but its something we can clean up."
He ended up throwing four innings and gave up six walks while striking out four. His stuff looked very good and as he settled down he got even better. The rest of the game was a crazy series of opportunities followed by mis-steps on both sides, with neither team really doing anything to earn the win but rather seeing which team was going to lose.
It seemed to be in the Royals hands as Eric Hosmer crushed a game tying home run on the first pitch of the 9th inning against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Then back to back Royals batters walked and were picked off and the game went to extra innings. The Royals seemed to feel that Feliz was balking as he was throwing to first, which caught the runners off the bag. However, it's only a balk if the umpire says it is and he was silent. If Feliz does have as Ned Yost termed it "a balk move", then I can see the first player getting caught, but there's little excuse for the second.
In the end, it was a hard-fought but sloppy game. The Royals stayed in it with the defending American League champions. However staying in games isn't enough as Danny Duffy said after the game:
"I didn't come up here to keep my team in the game, I came up here to win. It's a bummer."
A bummer indeed, but staying in games is the first step. Winning, with this group of players seems almost inevitable. It didn't happen last night, but it will.