Duffy ready to be 'an athlete again' after winter-ball success

February 16th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- “The best shape of your life” is a cliché thrown around every Spring Training since the beginning of time, but for , it’s at least the best shape he’s been in since May 2021.

The veteran left-hander signed a Minor League deal with the Rangers this offseason and is spending big league camp working to prove he can still pitch at this level. After almost three years of non-stop rehabbing between the Royals, Dodgers and Rangers organizations, Duffy is a full go and ready to compete for a spot on Texas’ pitching staff.

“It felt nice to feel like an athlete again and not like a rehabber,” Duffy said. “I'm kind of tired of this gig of rehabbing, but even still, our training room is filled with phenomenal dudes. So that made it as easy as it could possibly be.”

Duffy, 35, was with the Rangers last year, splitting his time between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. He pitched in 28 games between the two levels, ultimately deciding to pitch for the Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason to prove that he still has something left in the tank.

And there was something left. In 15 2/3 innings, Duffy didn’t allow a single earned (though he did allow six unearned) run while striking out 19 batters with a .161 opponents' batting average.

"I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to continue playing or wants to see that side of baseball to go do it because the fans are electric," Duffy said. "The talent in Puerto Rico is really high and is pretty underrated, especially towards the end of the season. You kind of have more big leaguers trickle in, and there's a good challenge. That's a really good challenge. We had a good time down there."

Duffy built up as a starter in Puerto Rico, and general manager Chris Young said the idea is to continue building him up in camp and evaluate the club's biggest needs. He's done both, and there's competition for both spots in the bullpen and rotation going into the regular season. He believes he can help the club in whatever way possible.

“I went down there to kind of try to prove to myself that my arm could take the volume of the starter,” Duffy said. “I know that I can pitch out of the ‘pen. So really, whatever the team will have me do, I'm here for it.”

Rangers teammate Nathan Eovaldi feels strongly about what Duffy could provide for the club this year.

“You know how much I love to watch bullpens,” Eovaldi said. “I really wanted to be able to watch his, but obviously I couldn't [we were at the same time]. But one thing I always take away from him is his ability to sidestep and be able to locate the ball. You know what I mean? It's really hard to do. He lives down in the zone. … I think he's gonna be really good for us, and he's going to be one of those sleeper factors, where if he's right, he's gonna be a huge addition for us.”

The Rangers need starting pitching depth due to the injuries of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle. Duffy is a veteran who knows what it takes to pitch at this level and can contribute quality innings.

It’s been an upward battle for the 35-year-old, but Duffy will have every opportunity to prove himself and get back to the big leagues, whether in the rotation or the bullpen.

“I think [Puerto Rico] was really good for him,” Young said. “He went there and showed dedication and commitment. He wanted to come back here and be part of what we have here. Danny's a former teammate, and he’s just a wonderful person with a huge heart and his care factor is so high. I’m really hopeful for Danny that it comes together this spring because he's very, very talented.”