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Tyler Duffey Shines In Spotlight Start

“All the world’s a stage' - As You Like It, Act 2

The Twins 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays teased Twins fans with a play within a play. While the Twins battled the Blue Jays, Twins pitcher Tyler Duffey would start but turn the spotlight over to Adalberto Mejia, as both are competing for the last spot in the Twins rotation with Jose Berrios. Both performed well, but Duffey spoiled any drama by refusing to yield the mound through five scoreless innings.
Image courtesy of © Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Duffey’s final numbers were not eye-popping, but the right-hander’s stuff has rarely been described as eye-popping, unless that particular eye appreciates a knee-buckling curveball. But this afternoon, Duffey’s fastball placement kept the Blue Jays hitters honest - and guessing. Whether it was a generous outside corner or unexpected movement inside, the mostly right-handed hitting Blue Jays watched a lot of strikes. Duffey took advantage of the fortunate counts, limiting a lineup topped with Troy Tulowitski, Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Kendrys Morales to four hits over five innings.

Five days ago, it had been Mejia’s turn to impress while Duffey pitched in a minor league game. Mejia’s eight strikeouts in 3.2 innings certainly raised some eyebrows. Five days before that, each had thrown three innings versus Miami with Duffey getting the start. The same rotation spot comes up two more times in spring training, but a third (and possibly the favorite) candidate, Berrios, should return from pitching in the WBC for at least one and possibly two of those starts.

As such, it is becoming more urgent for Mejia, with the least MLB experience, to show what he can do. He was impressive enough; he touched 95 on the radar gun and got through four innings with three strikeouts, but he had to wait for his grand entrance until the lineup was filled with Blue Jays backups. He also gave up back-to-back home runs to Justin Smoak (no shame in that, 106 career home runs) and Ryan McBroom (um, less impressive). That didn’t bother his manager. “He was kinda cuttin' loose a little bit,” summarized Paul Molitor. “I don’t know if he was playing to the scoreboard, but he kept challenging people with the fastball. … He gave up a couple of home runs. [Justin] Smoak had a good at-bat, but [Mejia] came right back and attacked the next guy. But he got him too. I’ve got no complaints about his day either.”

Still, today Duffey played the leading role, and was efficient enough to demand more time on the stage. He completed his five scoreless innings in (by my count) 59 pitches and so he had to throw 15 more in the bullpen. He confided that most of those bullpen pitches were practicing his developing changeup, but he admitted he only threw a few of the much-talked-about-addition during the game. (And they weren’t particularly effective.)

Instead it was his fastball command about which both he and his manager talked. Duffey credited his work on his “sinker.” “I tried to make a point of getting inside more often. Not to say I’m only going there, but to get me both sides of the plate, which is huge for me. Not being a 97-98 [miles per hour] guy, I gotta work a little bit. It’s been good so far.”

His manager agreed. “I think what he settled into was good fastball command,” said Molitor. “Anybody who can throw 60 pitches in five innings is getting ahead and doing those kind of things.” That command also seemed to get better as the game went on; Duffey finished his final inning on just 10 pitches.

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like this play is over. It’s questionable if anyone has even been eliminated. Molitor referred, albeit theoretically, to another start by Mejia to see how his velocity is maintained when he gets over 70 pitches. But Duffey reminded everyone what he can do and how he has developed, and he did so when it may have mattered most this spring. That would seem to bode well, but uneasy is the head that wears the crown. There are still a few more tryouts before the final role is determined.

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23 Comments

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jorgenswest
Mar 20 2017 09:04 PM
I am glad that he is being given a chance. It would be a shame to dismiss the pitcher with the best xFIP among Twin starters last year.
    • HitInAPinch and d-mac like this

Egad!  Forsooth, the game is afoot. Lest ye forgetteth, backend competitions such as this, in days of yore, were oft championed by the likes of Livan (On a Dream) Hernandez and Kevin (Not Carlos) Correia.  Thrice times youthful candidates?  Soldier on, young hurlers, and shine.

    • ChiTownTwinsFan, glunn, birdwatcher and 10 others like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Mar 21 2017 06:30 AM
This is a good report and clearly we have an abundance of talent competing for the starting rotation. Honestly though, why couldn't these guys and Berrios creep into the competition for the 4th rotation spot?
    • Dantes929, d-mac, ToddlerHarmon and 1 other like this

 

This is a good report and clearly we have an abundance of talent competing for the starting rotation. Honestly though, why couldn't these guys and Berrios creep into the competition for the 4th rotation spot?

There will be at least one injury by mid-May, so it's nothing to worry about. Even a strong rotation needs 8-9 legit candidates these days.

    • birdwatcher and jimbo92107 like this

I have contended all along without any evidence but my eyeballs that the league didn't figure out Duffey or that he was suffering because he only had two pitches, especially since his curveball had so many different speeds and planes it was like having 4 different pitches all by itself. The difference between 2015 Duffey and 2016 Duffey was that his command of the fastball was not the same. I didn't think his curve ball was quite as sharp in 2016 either but concede that not having command of the fastball can affect the use of the curve ball.  I am fine with Duffey being a bull pen guy but he will do no better there if his command of his fastball isn't there.  I don't care much about ST results but it is a good thing if he is putting his pitches where he wants them to go.

    • Mike Sixel, USNMCPO, bluechipper and 7 others like this

Great writing, John.

    • Mike Sixel, d-mac and bighat like this

Said it once.  Will say it a thousand times.  He'll make a good bullpen guy with those 2 pitches.  Not a consistent starter.  Haley doesn't look ready to even be hid as a long guy.  Duffey in the fifth/sixth seems like most likely scenario.

    • bighat likes this

Duffey now has at least four pitches: 4-seamer, 2-seamer, curve, and change. If he actually is able to add a legit sinker, I'm not sure how a hitter is supposed to guess which pitch comes next. Except in pressure situations I still guess his curve. 

 

If Duffey can throw a sinker or a change in place of his high-pressure curve, he could befuddle many a flailing batsman. They, as I, will continue to guess curve long after the charts say it will be something else.

    • DocBauer and Tom Froemming like this

Hopefully Duffey's pen-bound.  I'd prefer someone with a bit more upside starting, especially on a developing team.  I think both Mejia and Berrios have a higher ceiling than the Duff Man.  Regardless, glad to see a solid performance. 

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jorgenswest
Mar 21 2017 07:43 PM
The data from pitchf/x as shown in fangraphs or brooks baseball suggests he has more than two pitches. I think they are basing it on varying angles, spin rates rates... and then classifying the pitch. Looking at his pitch mix and comparing it to Santana's, I see more variation in his pitches. I also see a four seam fastball in 2016 that wasn't an effective pitch - likely due to command. I think his fastball command is the greater greater hurdle towards success whether it be in the pen or rotation than pitch mix.
    • Dantes929, DocBauer and d-mac like this
Imho Duffey should focus on the pen.
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FormerMinnasotan
Mar 21 2017 09:00 PM
I'd rather see Mejia in the rotation and Duffey in the pen. Mejia seems to have more than an adequate fastball, a good slider, good change, and at least a decent curve from what I have heard. He is a lefty and from what I have heard he is very aggressive with in the strike zone. I'd just like to roll with him to start with since it looks like a forgone conclusion Berrios is going to start in AAA since he only got one start (and pitched one game) of the WBC.
    • Twins33 and ToddlerHarmon like this

backend competitions such as this, in days of yore, were oft championed by the likes of Livan (On a Dream) Hernandez.


Hey, that was Opening Day Starter Livan (On a Dream) Hernandez! If he was ever in a "backend competition" that spring, it probably related to the size of his posterior.
    • Han Joelo and d-mac like this
FWIW, Duffey stated in an interview last season that his problem was lack of FB command and not lack of his change. Molitor or Allen, I believe but can't remember for sure, echoed the sentiment. Duffey has stated before that he has four pitches; a 4 seamer and a 2 seamer that have different movement and are thrown with slightly different speed, and 2 different curveballs, one softer thrown with the big break, and one thrown harder that has more of a slider/slurred action.
    • d-mac, Tom Froemming and ToddlerHarmon like this

I have no idea how many pitches he can throw well enough to get out MLB hitters. I just want him used in the most effective way, whatever that is.

 

I have no idea how many pitches he can throw well enough to get out MLB hitters. I just want him used in the most effective way, whatever that is.

 

Doesn't the first point lead to the second?

 

FWIW, Duffey stated in an interview last season that his problem was lack of FB command and not lack of his change. Molitor or Allen, I believe but can't remember for sure, echoed the sentiment. Duffey has stated before that he has four pitches; a 4 seamer and a 2 seamer that have different movement and are thrown with slightly different speed, and 2 different curveballs, one softer thrown with the big break, and one thrown harder that has more of a slider/slurred action.

 

This makes sense. Two fastballs is less important than two curveballs imo, especially if it might lead to command issues. Command with one fastball and two different types of curveballs is enough to mid-rotation starter.

 

Doesn't the first point lead to the second?

 

I have no idea if he has 2, 3, 4, or 5. But sure, if he only has 1 or 2, that makes starting a lot harder. I just want this FO to put players in position to succeed, indeed, to excel. That has not always seemed to be the case in the past.

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LA VIkes Fan
Mar 22 2017 12:49 PM

Soooo, Phil Hughes got lit up again today - 2 innings, 9 hits, 6 earned runs and 2 home runs. Do you think there is any chance that (1) Hughes will be put on the 10 day disabled list before the season starts and (2) that both Duffy and Mejia (or someone else) will be in the rotation? I know that ST stats "don't mean anything" but Hughes now sports a 27.00 ERA this sporing. It looks like he needs more time at AAA or somewhere else  before he rounds back into form, if he ever does. 

    • Dozier's Glorious Hair likes this

 

Soooo, Phil Hughes got lit up again today - 2 innings, 9 hits, 6 earned runs and 2 home runs. Do you think there is any chance that (1) Hughes will be put on the 10 day disabled list before the season starts and (2) that both Duffy and Mejia (or someone else) will be in the rotation? I know that ST stats "don't mean anything" but Hughes now sports a 27.00 ERA this sporing. It looks like he needs more time at AAA or somewhere else  before he rounds back into form, if he ever does. 

 

He should at least start the season in the bullpen. But I doubt that will even happen. It clearly looks like his velo isn't back yet. 

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jorgenswest
Mar 22 2017 07:12 PM
They need both Mejia and Duffey starting somewhere to begin the season. if Mejia wins the spot they need to keep Duffey stretched out in AAA.
If Duffy has 4-5 pitches, how many did Pedro or Maddux have!?!
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 23 2017 06:21 PM

 

If Duffy has 4-5 pitches, how many did Pedro or Maddux have!?!

Under these rules, Pedro had 17 changeups alone.

 

I'm not taking a dig at Duffey here (well, not really) and I realize his fastballs and curves are different offerings... But the guy could use a changeup or slider in a big way. The curves are great and all but having something with bite that complements the fastball would go a long way.

 

Having two fastballs and two curves is not the same as having a fastball, slider, change, and curve.

    • snepp likes this

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