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The Kansas City Royals suffered yet another big loss when they learned starting pitcher Danny Duffy would need to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. The injury-plagued Royals just can't seem to catch any sort of a break in 2012.
Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star reports that even though the team was aware of a minor problem with Duffy's elbow since 2010, they acted accordingly.
The vast majority of professional pitchers have some damage in their arms, an occupational hazard of throwing 95-mph fastballs for a living, and the Royals have known about a small tear in Duffy's elbow since 2010.
The Royals contend an MRI would have shown only the old tear, because Duffy wasn't feeling anything different, and an unaffiliated expert with these types of injuries says the team followed accepted protocol.
The Royals are hoping that Duffy will be able to rejoin the rotation in June of 2013.
Read more about the the Kansas City Royals at Royals Review.
The starting rotation of the Kansas City Royals was labeled as the team's biggest weakness heading into last offseason. The same was said about the Royals roster heading into spring training. Now that the 2012 regular season is underway, the predictions were true -- the starting pitching is the team's achilles heel. And this was all before losing the team's most promising starter for the next year.
Buster Olney uses dramatic words to describe the loss of Danny Duffy and for good reason. While veterans like Bruce Chen can hope to hold the fort down for a decent five innings, Duffy's potential was as high as anything the Royals hold in their hand. Coming into the second year, Duffy was expected to make a significant jump forward with another 30 starts of MLB experience as the team and player grew together. Alas, it is not to be.
Olney writes, "The Royals' luck has been all bad this year ... You cannot overstate how important Duffy's development is to this organization, so you cannot overstate how devastating this injury is."
Duffy will need Tommy John surgery soon and that puts him out until 2013. However the injury usually takes a couple of seasons to completely come back (a la Jake Peavy). Joakim Soria experienced the same, so the Royals will hope both pitchers can come around. Even with medical advances, however, that gets the Royals nowhere in terms of starting pitching.
Other pitchers are taking steps forward, but Duffy was called up last season to lead the charge -- to turn into a capable veteran as the young guys established themselves year by year. It should have been Luke Hochevar, but that clearly hasn't worked as expected, so the responsibility fell to Duffy. Now, once again, the Royals are waiting for some homegrown product to take the ball every fifth day and anchor the staff.
Eventually it might come in the form of Mike Montgomery or Jake Odorizzi, but we're years from seeing that consistency. Unless the Royals import a known product, the starting pitching will continue to keep the Royals from seizing what is a surprisingly weak AL Central.
The Kansas City Royals are seven weeks or so into the 2012 MLB season and injuries have already taken a significant toll on a young, promising team. The Royals lost Lorenzo Cain for several weeks, Joakim Soria for the season, Salvy Perez for at least half of 2012 and now Danny Duffy is going to be shelved until 2013 with Tommy John surgery scheduled in the near future.
The Royals have rolled with the losses to their position players, but the team can ill afford losses to the starting rotation. Even the bullpen is deep, but the loss of Soria kept Aaron Crow from transitioning to the rotation. Now the loss of Duffy will leave a team already with a poor rotation searching for more answers. Surprisingly enough, the Royals manager is taking it all in stride.
"The bad news is -- yeah, it stinks -- he'll probably be out a year," Ned Yost said. "The good news is when he comes back, the way they've been doing these surgeries, he's going to be every bit as strong or stronger, and ready to resume his career."
Those are promising words from a manager who is learning to keep the morale high for a young, impressionable team. But saying "it stinks" and then moving on doesn't lend the right amount of gravity to a loss like this.
It's not that Yost should turn into Chicken Little or wear a black uniform for a weak with ashes on his head to properly mourn the loss. But the reality is that this was a major year for Duffy's development and the Royals needed him out there every fifth game. The loss of Duffy is the loss of one starter who is not predictably mediocre. That's a major loss for a thin team like KC.
The blow of losing Danny Duffy for the next year was softened a bit by the Royals 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday evening. However as the days progress it will really sink in that an already depleted Kansas City pitching staff is going to lose one of the few consistent players they had in the rotation.
For a team that has long since needed a break to go their way, the Royals continue to be dealt with troubling news as Duffy becomes the second young pitching talent to go under the knife in as many years (and I'm not even including Joakim Soria who had Tommy John surgery earlier this spring).
In addition to John Lamb and Duffy, the Royals also had the recent career ending injury situation with Gil Meche. As we recall, Meche did the unthinkable when he returned a years worth of salary to the Royals after he retired.
Can you do anything to stop a player from getting to the point of Tommy John surgery? It's impossible to prevent it, but teams need to start thinking more seriously about what steps can be taken to prevent the situation from coming up.
At an alarming rate, it's not all that uncommon for pitchers to tear ligaments, it's nearly a right of passage anymore with young pitchers.
So what can teams do to help lessen the issue? The answer may lie in science. With some advancements, specifically in medicine and biometrics, why not use all tools possible before it becomes too late?
Duffy first complained of arm issues three starts ago, so as with any young star pitcher the Royals should have put him through the MRI tests to check for damage at that time, as they may have been able to do something before it came to this.
Sure MRI's are expensive, but in the money that major league organizations are dealing with, it's pocket change. The more we know medically about a player, the better.
Secondly, there are have great advancements in the study of biometrics. Maybe you've seen the Sports Science clips on ESPN in recent times. Basically they attach little foam balls to an athlete and are able to study the player with computers. They can look at nearly everything, delivery motion, arm angles, and can calculate the stress it causes on the body.
There are evern biometric shirts that have been designed at Northeastern University that can monitor fatigue and strain to an athlete.
The science is there, now the teams just have to adapt to using it. We might be able to prevent more news like that we received today from happening in the future.
Duffy, who was working with a 3.90 ERA, 28 strikeouts and 18 walks in 27 2/3 innings, is a 23-year-old standout for the Royals and losing his arm in the rotation is a major blow to both the organization and such a promising young pitcher. Of course, if this type of injury is to happen to someone, it's better that it happen early on.
Duffy also missed a start a few weeks ago due to complaints of elbow tightness. He will get a second opinion before there is any surgery.
#Royals head physician Dr. Key diagnoses LHP Danny Duffy with a torn left ulnar collateral ligament. Duffy to get 2nd opinion w/ Dr. Yocum.— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) May 14, 2012
Read more about the the Kansas City Royals at Royals Review.
The Royals young starting pitcher might have thrown his last pitch this season after leaving Sunday's game with an elbow injury.