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Duffy focused on reviving velocity, career

After setbacks marred brilliant flashes, Royals' ace using offseason to set up 'pivotal year'
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy knows he is at somewhat of a crossroads.

A third-round pick by the Royals in 2007, Duffy has both tantalized and frustrated fans and club officials. He quit baseball while in the Minor Leagues, came back, fought through injuries, dazzled opponents and nearly no-hit Tampa Bay in 2016 while striking out a franchise-record 16 batters.

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander Danny Duffy knows he is at somewhat of a crossroads.

A third-round pick by the Royals in 2007, Duffy has both tantalized and frustrated fans and club officials. He quit baseball while in the Minor Leagues, came back, fought through injuries, dazzled opponents and nearly no-hit Tampa Bay in 2016 while striking out a franchise-record 16 batters.

As Duffy appeared to be developing into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball, he signed a five-year, $65 million contract in early 2017. Less than a year later, he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Duffy is 30 years old now, and the clock is ticking. He is in the middle of that lucrative deal that runs through 2021. And he's coming off a disappointing 2018 season, as he struggled to keep his ERA under 5.00, but finished at a 4.88 mark.

While the talent has always been there, Duffy's velocity, which touched 97 mph a couple of years ago, has dropped into the 90-93 mph range. He was as alarmed by the fall-off as anyone. So this offseason, Duffy has vowed to do what is necessary to retrieve that electric fastball and correct his career path.

"It's still in there," Duffy told MLB.com by phone. "I've still got it in me."

Duffy has spent the last few months working to ensure he can regain his former velocity as well as avoid those frequent trips to the disabled list. He said he feels refreshed.

"This offseason has been so different," Duffy said. "This offseason, I didn't feel like I let the whole planet down [like after my DUI]. You have a ton of kids looking up to you. I was standing on a lot of shoulders. This is probably the last time I talk about this, but I needed -- I really needed -- to look in the mirror. And I did.

"Look, I've been called a head case since I was 18. But as you get older, maturity comes along. I feel I'm there. I'm committed to doing what I have to do to help this team win. I want to be a big part of it."

Video: KC@CWS: Duffy hurls 5 2/3 scoreless with 7 strikeouts

Compared to the 2017 offseason, this offseason has been an awakening for Duffy.

"I haven't spoken much about this, but I'm set up with a physical therapist to do what we can do to get my shoulder healthy," Duffy said. "I know I can [hit mid-90s] again. I'm comfortable I can handle the workload. I've left no stone unturned this offseason. I'm 30 and still have potential. That's crazy, but it's true."

Duffy has been working with trainer Mike Swan of the Elite Performance and Rehabilitation Center in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I'm in there twice a week, three hours at a time," Duffy said. "We're doing a lot of resistance stuff, core stuff. It's not fun, but I can honestly say I've never been this focused on strength training. It's not about being in the best shape of your life and all that stuff that people make fun of. It's just being consistent. It's a pivotal year, and I'll be ready.

"I've worked hard like this before, but never as smart as I have this year. I know I haven't maxed out or anything. I know talk is cheap. I'm just being honest. I think I'm ready to really have a big year. I can't predict the future, but I'm learning as a I go. I had a pretty rough last couple of years, but I have a good grasp of what I can offer."

Duffy also is pumped about what the Royals have done this offseason, adding Billy Hamilton, Terrance Gore and Chris Owings.

Which Royal will be the speediest?

"Our speed is going to be high up there," Duffy said. "Everything I've heard about Hamilton is through the roof. Anytime you get somehow of his caliber on defense, like a Lorenzo Cain, it's going to have a huge impact on the staff."

Video: Flanagan discusses Hamilton's impact on Royals

Duffy now sees the Royals regaining their past identity of gaining an edge on the bases and in the field.

"Back in 2014 and '15, we definitely did everything we could to squeeze every run out of our offense and prevent every run on defense," Duffy said. "That's who we were. We weren't a power team. We were scrappy and won a lot of close games.

"People will laugh at this, but I'm not dreaming at all to say we could compete [for the division]. This division is wide open. I feel like we're good enough. It's there for the taking."

Meanwhile, Duffy, as fans will observe from his Twitter account, is one of the biggest supporters of the team across the parking lot, the Kansas City Chiefs, and their star quarterback, Pat Mahomes.

"I watch every game," Duffy said. "I will get so much crap for this, but I was raised a Broncos fan by my uncle. But I want to see the Chiefs win the Super Bowl. I want to see this, and it's good for the city. I pull for them. What's good for the city is good for us. They were there for us when we won it all."

Duffy said he doesn't have a relationship with Mahomes yet, but he has the utmost respect for Mahomes' arm strength.

"His fastball is better than mine," Duffy said. "The last person to take over this town like he has was Eric Hosmer. The person that [Mahomes] is, he has captured this town, and I'm glad to share a parking lot with him. There are guys who can capture this town. Eric Berry was one, and I think the last was Eric Hosmer."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Danny Duffy