Duffy 'pumped' to be Opening Day starter

July 15th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- As expected, Royals left-hander was named the Opening Day starter for July 24 vs. the Indians at Progressive Field, manager Mike Matheny confirmed on Tuesday.

Duffy was next in line after right-hander Brad Keller, who started on Opening Day in 2019, tested positive for COVID-19. Keller remains in isolation.

This will be Duffy’s third Opening Day start -- he previously got the honor in 2017 and '18. And Duffy said being named Opening Day starter is still a thrill.

“I think even more so now,” Duffy said. “I am really pumped about it. Means a lot to me. I put so much work into it.”

If there is any regret, it’s that Duffy didn’t have to battle Keller for the honor. Matheny often mentioned early in camp that he wanted Keller and Duffy to battle to take claim of team ace.

“I feel so bad for Brad,” Duffy said. “I really wanted this to be a competition. I thought it would be a heated one.”

Duffy and Keller are close friends, and Duffy talks to him regularly.

“All the time,” Duffy said. “He’s coming along just fine. Hopefully he’ll be out here really soon.”

Duffy’s pitch count has progressed to 75-80 pitches, and he will likely get at least one more outing before facing Cleveland.

“We’re right on track,” Duffy said. “I think my last outing [before Opening Day] will be Sunday, or maybe Saturday. Half the time I don’t know what month it is anymore.”

Duffy threw three scoreless innings in an intrasquad game on Monday night.

“He’s a veteran guy who has shown up ready to go,” Matheny said. “He’s progressing very well. Monday was just another great outing for Duff.

“He’s throwing the ball well, and he feels strong. I put a lot of weight on that guy throwing the first game. It’s just one game, but he has all the attributes to be successful. We’re pushing him to embrace that role.”

The first thing Duffy knows he’ll have to embrace is the unique atmosphere in games with no fans.

“It is definitely going to be different,” he said. “It’s so weird having conversations with your teammates and having everyone hear you.

“The game is not the same without fans. But we all have a job to do. The job is still clear. I mean, you can normalize anything if you put your mind to it. This format may play right into our hands. Who knows?”