duffy

Apr 19, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (30) pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Royals left-hander Danny Duffy pitched another five innings of scoreless ball Sunday to lower his ERA to 0.39, the best in the American League. Now in his ninth season, Duffy has matured from a young and goofy guy into an older goofy guy who is much more comfortable, in his words, in his own skin. Between his nearly spotless starts, Duffy got on the horn with Bally Sports to talk frankly about himself, his journey to better mental health, memorable Royals teammates, and what life might have been like for him as a relief pitcher.

Bally Sports:

You said that you would break out the celebratory bear suit you wore in 2014 and 2015 if the Royals had another special occasion of some kind, like a clincher. We're about 12 percent of the way through the season, you guys have a 13-7 record and it's obviously time to start thinking about the bear suit. Where exactly is the bear suit right now, and what condition is it in?

Danny Duffy:

It's chillin' in California. I think we're off to a good start, but we've got to keep going one at a time. But, yes, the thing's in hibernation right now. It's in my closet. And it's in great condition, ha ha ha.

Bally Sports:

Does it still stink of champagne?

Duffy:

I never did ever get it dry cleaned, so it's still got 2014 and '15 champagne on it.

Bally Sports:

Have you ever made a better decision in your life than wearing a bear suit to a Royals clincher?

Duffy:

Ha ha ha, that was a pretty good one. It's right up there at the top, when it comes to decision making. The boys loved it and it just caught on. Pretty funny, and it's really random. Joel (Goldberg) just called me on over and there wasn't a camera there. He asked me a question and then, all of a sudden, the camera showed up. I just did an impromptu interview with the bear suit on.

Bally Sports:

Joel asked the famous question in the style of the Oscars or the red carpet reporter, but instead of saying, "Who are you wearing?" it came out, "What are you wearing?" You responded, of course, with: "A bear suit. It's a bear suit, Joel." And it went from there. What would you have done if the question came out how it was intended, and he said: "Who are you wearing?"

Duffy:

I would have had to say: "I'm wearing Amazon," because that's where I got it from. Yeah, that would have been the only answer: "Amazon, this new company out there!"

Bally Sports:

Did you ever use your world championship fame to meet any of the guys from "Workaholics," the TV show that inspired the bear suit?

Duffy:

Actually, it was funny. Blake (Henderson) was at a game when we played in Oakland. I think he lives up there. I went and nerded out, and I was super pumped to be in the same building. But I never got to meet any of those guys.

Bally Sports:

Have you worn any other funny stuff in your life?

Duffy:

Not up to the bear suit. There's some pretty cool Power Rangers costumes back in the day when I was 9 or 10. But other than that, no.

Bally Sports:

Did Ned Yost appreciate your sense of humor?

Duffy:

I think so. We had a pretty good relationship. Everybody in there had some quirks to them, and we all just enjoyed everything about everybody. It was one of those groups where it just seemed like everybody was accepted for who they are. We just rode out with 100 different personalities. So Raúl Ibañez was another really awesome guy that actually wore a Spider-man costume one day. Just completely took us off guard, but it was hilarious. That group was great, man.

Bally Sports:

Who's the funniest teammate you've ever had?

Duffy:

The funniest teammate that I ever had was Kris Medlen. Always had you on your toes, man. We've had a few characters come through since I've been here and he's probably my favorite for that. He had a dry sense of humor and he had some dad jokes mixed in there, but he's one of my best friends.

Bally Sports:

Remember when Everett Teaford and Tim Collins stepped into Jonathan Broxton's pants for a prank?

Duffy:

I do. I actually took the picture. I can say that now, safely knowing that hopefully, I can hide from Mr. Broxton. I was there; I took that pic. But I didn't have to face any consequences. Brox is a good guy, very thoughtful.

Bally Sports:

You have a very low ERA through four starts. Earlier in the season, you talked about transforming yourself physically. Putting on weight and adding strength. The fastball is faster. You're getting more spin. You're also taking a different mental approach to your life in general. Now that you've had a few starts, can you summarize how the changes you made are affecting your performance?

Duffy:

I did a lot of work on physical stuff, but I also tried to get to know myself a lot more. To be OK with who I am, more than I was. Growth happens in different times in different people's lives. Getting to know what I'm about; the good, the bad, all of the above, and just try to work on myself. And in every way. I didn't do it just for the results. I wasn't doing it for X's and O's. It definitely helps. But now I feel very comfortable in my own skin.

Bally Sports:

Being a major leaguer is probably the makings of a good life anywhere, but people say that playing for the Royals is kind of a particular privilege, because it's the tone that (general manager) Dayton Moore sets. Is that true? What does he do?

Duffy:

If Dayton Moore puts his name on somebody, there's a very good chance that person is a high-character person. I feel really honored and privileged to have been in this jersey for as long as I have with him in the captain seat. He's a great guy. And the environment here is fantastic. You hear the cliché about it being "More about the person than the player," but yeah, he actually means it, and he walks that out. So it's a great place to be.

Bally Sports:

You said at one point: "Bury me a Royal." Anything changed there? Your contract is up at the end of this season.

Duffy:

I'm very vocal about wanting to stay here, wanting to be here, but I'm (also) at a point in my career where I'm taking it one day at a time. I want to be where I'm happy. It's family here, which makes me happy. I definitely stand by those words to this day, just as much as I did, if not more. So what I said at 22 years old hasn't changed at all, not one day.

Bally Sports:

How does wearing No. 30 for Yordano Ventura, his old number, fit into how things are going for you this season?

Duffy:

At first, I was going to be fine just giving up my number (No. 41) for Carlos Santana. I just wanted him to feel welcome. Somebody who wants to remain nameless put the suggestion out there about Yordano's number. At first I was kind of apprehensive. I wasn't necessarily comfortable with that. And then they brought it up again, so I said: "Look, I'll take it gladly, but I've got to ask his mother."

Apparently, she was more than OK with it. And I was incredibly honored for that. Because, you know, I'd want somebody to do the same thing with my mom if anything like that ever happened to me. It's a big deal, man, it's a big deal. And I'm really appreciative that she put the seal of approval on it. It's been a little extra incentive to perform better with 30 on my back.

Bally Sports:

Salvador Perez is one of the top hitters in the league among catchers, but some analysts find fault with his defense, his pitch framing, specifically. What does he do back there that helps make you a better pitcher that we don't necessarily see in box scores?

Duffy:

Hmm. He takes 2 1/2 hours out of every day, and he makes it feel like it was just you and him on the field. I couldn't imagine someone finding a flaw that's even worth talking about in what he has to offer. I think he's the best defensive catcher in the league, and I think everybody in this clubhouse, and a lot of people not in this clubhouse, probably say the same thing. He's been around for as long as he has for a reason, and he's gonna be around a lot longer than he's been. He's here to stay, he's focused, he's locked in, he's prepared, and he gets it done.

Bally Sports:

Should we just live with the mistakes that human umpires make? Or should we try and hire robots to call balls and strikes?

Duffy:

I can't even go there; I don't want to get myself in trouble. Sometimes (automated calls) will work, sometimes it wouldn't. Let's say a guy's got a perfect game into the ninth inning, and it's a 12 to nothing (score). A 3-2 count comes up and a guy just misses. Right? Just misses, and it's a ball. It would be tough to stomach. We would wish that, when we missed a spot, and it was still a strike, that would be called (by a human). Sometimes they are, but most times they're not. It's a tough gig those guys got, so I'm kind of on the fence about it.

Bally Sports:

Your 16-strikeout game in 2016: If you hadn't allowed any hits to the Rays after eight innings, what would you have had in the tank to go for the no-hitter?

Duffy:

I felt like I had another six innings. It was just one of those nights. I cut loose with my first fastball in the bullpen and I was, like: "Oh, this is gonna be a good night." I felt very strong. I think I threw 110 pitches that day and I was trying to go back out, but I think Ned made the right decision. Kelvin Herrera always jokes with me: "Hey, Papi, between us we had 17 strikeouts." I had plenty left in the tank, to answer your question.

Bally Sports:

There's always been talk of making you a relief pitcher. And sometimes you have pitched out of the bullpen for a while. But you've started about 87 percent of your career appearances. So this big move never really happened. Have you thought about what the alternate timeline of your life would have looked like as a reliever?

Duffy:

Yes. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. You know, actually, to be honest with you, there's been a couple times where I've lobbied for it over the last few seasons. I don't look at it as a demotion, but I'm gonna do whatever my team needs me to do, and right now that's start. But I welcome any role with open arms. I thoroughly enjoyed the bullpen. And I think that's where I learned the most about pitching.

Bally Sports:

How come?

Duffy:

The dudes down there were amazing and insightful. And now Wade (Davis) is back, Greg (Holland) is back. Ryan Madson was another one. Awesome. Jason Frasor, another one. I could rattle off a lot of names here. Just from the stories and listening to them talk and not saying anything (back), you can pick up a whole heck of a lot.

And then going into the game and those situations, that's when you know, it's down to the nitty gritty and it's time to get going. You gotta be prepared. You gotta pitch backwards, you gotta let it eat when you gotta let it eat. You gotta throw sliders in 2-and-1 counts, in 2-and-0 counts. You do that starting, too, but it's just a different animal. I thoroughly enjoyed just being able to come out and cut it loose and the next day — good, bad or indifferent — most of the time, you're going to be available (to pitch). So you're locked into every game, and I absolutely loved the bullpen.

Bally Sports:

You kind of describe it like some people describe the last minutes of an NBA game, when all heck is breaking loose.

Duffy:

Don't get me wrong, every single pitch (of a ballgame) is important, but I think the importance level and the responsibility to your boys (of relieving), coming in and you're trying to clean up a mess that a starter got into. And when you get out of it, it's a great feeling — not only for you, but for every situation you get out of, it garners more trust. Not only from the player that you helped, but from the front office, the manager, the pitching coach. When you prove that you can get something like that done, it's huge, and it's a confidence booster for yourself.

Bally Sports:

You just mentioned them. Is it weird in a good way to look in the bullpen and see Greg Holland and Wade Davis again?

Duffy:

It's so great, man. Like they never left. I really, really enjoyed my time with those guys and I love all my teammates, all the boys. But there's just a special bond and when you've accumulated so much time with certain people. It's just fun, and they're nasty. And it's great to have him back.

Bally Sports:

Has George Brett ever told any stories to the guys that are better than the one of him talking about having dinner in Las Vegas that one night?

Duffy:

Ha ha ha. I never heard that story firsthand. Yeah. I've heard.... Our conversations are different than he'd probably have with a position player. But anytime he's speaking, you listen, for sure.

Bally Sports:

So my son is going to play tee ball, and the league sent out an email yesterday saying they needed a coach. So I volunteered. Can you help me? I've never coached before. What do I do?

Duffy:

Oh, man, keep it fun, keep it fun. I was really fortunate, growing up, to have my dad coaching me. We always found a way to have fun no matter what. Just go out there and ... I don't care if they're doing cartwheels in center field while the kid is hitting, or are picking dandelions, or whatever. I've had teammates like that back in the day, ha ha ha. I might have been one of them, too. Just keep it fun, man. That's so great. I got to coach a fifth- and sixth- grade basketball team for my senior high school project. I will tell you that there's not too many memories that rival seeing the young men have fun, enjoy a sport, get to know each other and develop relationships. It is so cool.

Bally Sports:

You can play the piano! You play Beethoven. What else can you play?

Duffy:

My piano teacher when I was in elementary school was pretty locked in on classical stuff. She was big into Beethoven, so I got like "Moonlight Sonata" and "Für Elise" in the tank. But I don't remember how to read music, so I have to reteach myself. I played for 10 years and it was fun, it was cool.

Bally Sports:

Can you play anything from the past couple of centuries?

Duffy:

I got "Still Dre" in the tank from Dr. Dre, but nothing else outside of that.

Bally Sports:

If you happen to have a bad start, I might mess with your name and call you "Duffy Daniels." To myself. But do you ever blame a poor performance on an alter ego?

Duffy:

I don't think so, man. I'm the same guy, no matter how it's going. I try to be goofy and loose. When you go through bad stretches, it's important to remain the same. I think even if you have a tough day at the field or something happened away from baseball, when you get to the clubhouse, you have to take a deep breath, get in there and go home with a smile. I think that's really important. It's the same me, no matter what, bro.

Bally Sports:

One of the reasons you talk publicly about feeling anxiety and your mental health in general was because you wanted to let anyone out there know that they were not alone and could get help. Have you gotten feedback from people who heard your message?

Duffy:

A lot of people. Some were just trying to convey a message to me through a loved one. Some were friends of friends that I didn’t know. It’s important, when you're young, no matter what walk of life you're in, to realize that sometimes you are dealing with too full of a plate. The brain is a really useful tool, and it can also work against you. When you’ve gotta lay down, because you literally can't feel your legs anymore, like, they’re not working under you, that’s an issue, man. But it’s also nothing to be embarrassed about. A lot of people out there got stuff like that to deal with.

I try to keep a thankful heart. Mike Matheny actually said in spring training that it's impossible to be thankful and anxious at the same time. And it makes a lot of sense. When you really think about the blessings that you have, and really soak that in, it's going to be really difficult to feel anxious. Now, it's easier said than done, but I try to just stay on that mindset. Fortunately, talking to people who are paid to listen — there’s no shame in that. There's no embarrassment about that. You should never be embarrassed for anything that you feel about yourself. It’s something you’ve got to work through, and get through, by leaning on the correct people.

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