Duffy fine with Royals mulling OD starter

February 20th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It may be awhile before manager Ned Yost names his Opening Day starter this spring, and that suits left-hander Danny Duffy just fine.

Duffy, the Opening Day starter the previous two seasons, isn’t aching to be that guy now.

“I mean it’s an honor and a responsibility,” Duffy said. “But we’ve got five dudes, if not more, who are capable of doing it. After you do your first one, yeah, it was exciting. Anyone can take that with pride.

“But to be honest with you, whatever it takes for me to help. I don’t care if it’s the sixth game I start. I’m just going to take the ball and do my best.

“It is an honor, the meaning of it. It’s great. It’s cool. When Ned brought me in that first time [in 2017] to tell me, it was really cool. But whatever they decide is great.”

Who the Royals’ No. 1 starter is right now is a bit more muddled, which may be a good thing.

Duffy, 30, is coming off his worst statistical season (4.88 ERA) since his rookie year in 2011.

Right-handers Brad Keller and Jakob Junis continue to improve, inching toward the honor of an Opening Day start.

“To be honest, I really don’t know who it will be,” Yost said. “That’s no BS. We haven’t really decided yet. We’ve got candidates. We got Duffy. We got [Ian Kennedy]. Keller. Junis.

“I don’t perceive it as quite an honor anymore. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just getting old. Danny has done it before. But Keller was our Pitcher of the Year. We’ll see. Seriously, I don’t know.”

Some pitchers, like former Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez, begged not to be Opening Day starter because the ceremonies disrupted their normal routine.

“There’s guys who don’t want to be considered,” Yost said. “Eddie was one.”

Duffy’s main focus this season simply is becoming healthier and stronger. As Duffy told MLB.com early last month, he committed to a strength and conditioning program in the offseason under the guidance of physical therapist Mike Swan from Santa Barbara, Calif.

Swan was instrumental in helping Duffy’s rehab from Tommy John surgery years ago.

“He even helped my grandmother from knee surgery,” Duffy said. “Small world.”

Swan’s main focus was getting Duffy’s shoulder and latissimus muscles in peak condition, along with volumes of core training.

“It’s probably a little too early [in camp] to know how it will be,” Duffy said. “But I feel good.”

Duffy is hoping the offseason work will help improve his curveball, which used to be his out pitch. That curveball is feeling good right now and Duffy plans to use it more this season.

“It’s right where it should be now,” Duffy said.