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"I needed this, man. I needed to get back:" Danny Duffy to make third opening day start for Royals on Friday

"I needed this, man. I needed to get back:" Danny Duffy to make third opening day start for Royals on Friday

Danny Duffy is ready to get back to some normalcy, with emphasis on the word "some."

Duffy, the Lompoc native and Cabrillo High School graduate, will get back to baseball Friday night as he and his Kansas City Royals finally begin their 2020 season. The left-hander is scheduled to be the Royals' opening day starter as Kansas City plays at Cleveland to start a season that has been delayed by over three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing in a regular season game is a major step forward for all of baseball, but, amid this pandemic, the game returns with some major caveats. 

Duffy will be pitching in an empty stadium as large gatherings are banned across the country. Players will have major restrictions on how they conduct themselves at the park, like rules forbidding handshakes and spitting. 

But at least some meaningful ball will be played. 

"I missed baseball," Duffy said during a virtual press conference in Kansas City last week. "I needed this, man, I needed to get back."

Duffy is scheduled to make his third career opening day start for the Royals. He's started 181 games in his career, all of them in a Kansas City uniform but none of them in an empty stadium.

"It's definitely going to be a change," he said. "It's really weird having conversations with with your teammates and having everybody be able to hear you. That dynamic is certainly different. It's not uncomfortable, it's just that this game isn't the same without fans in the stands. That kind of sucks, but, at the end of the day, we still have a job to do."

Duffy was drafted by the Royals out of Cabrillo High in 2007. He made his major league debut with the club in 2011, when he made 20 starts. Duffy has had three impactful seasons in Kansas City. He went 9-12 in 2014 with a 2.53 ERA. He pitched 149.1 innings that year and struck out 113 batters.

His 2016 campaign may be his best in the majors. That year, Duffy went 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 179.2 innings. He struck out 188 batters and walked just 42.

In 2017, Duffy went 9-10 with a 3.81 ERA over 146.1 innings. 

Duffy has made 51 starts over the last two years, going 15-18 in that time with a 4.63 ERA and a WHIP of 1.407. He's thrown 285 innings in that span, striking out 256 batters and walking 116. 

For his career, Duffy is 60-61 with a 3.98 ERA, throwing 1,055 innings with 926 strikeouts and 388 walks.

Duffy turned 31 last December and says he changed the way he maintains his body as he's grown older.

"I've really been taking care of myself more so in my 30s than I think I ever had," Duffy said. "I stopped eating garbage food. I'm putting the right things in my body and I feel like I can reap the benefits of the hard work that all of us are putting in."

Duffy was in the mix to make the opening day start with the Royals and got the nod after Brad Keller, last year's opening day starter, tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be ready as the season begins.

"I feel so bad for Brad. I really wanted this to be a competition, I thought it would be a huge one," Duffy said. "But I'm ready for (the start)."

Duffy said his pitch count has increased, throwing 77 pitches in a simulated game last week.

He added that in a time of uncertainty, he's been helped by a lesson his mother, Deanna, has taught him of the years. 

"My mom used to always say, 'You never know when this is going to be taken away from you,'" Danny Duffy said. "She was right and it's unbelievable that what's going on in 2020 and where we're at in the world right now with coronavirus. She's absolutely right. It's out of our hands so I'm just taking it one day at a time. These 60 games are going to be extremely important, each and every day is going to be super important."

First pitch is slated for 4:10 p.m. PDT Friday night in Cleveland. 

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