Danny Duffy was nine years old in 1998 with Mike Piazza was traded to the Marlins, and the Dodgers fan could not believe it.
“I cried my eyes out when he got traded,” Duffy said on Sunday. “That was a tough couple days in my childhood.”
Even more than 23 years later, the trade is still fresh in Duffy’s mind, so much so that he rattled off nearly the entire trade — Piazza and Todd Zeile to Florida for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenrich and Manny Barrios — without being prompted. Duffy left off Johnson, but the recall was so quick that its clear he knows his stuff.
“That can kind of paint a picture of how I felt about the Dodgers growing up. Now, having it be full circle and being able to play for them, I’m walking a little big higher right now,” Duffy said. “It’s just crazy, man. I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”
That opportunity comes with Thursday’s trade, which sent Duffy and cash from the Royals to the Dodgers in exchange for a player to be named later.
Duffy was born in Goleta, California and played high school baseball just outside of Lompoc, so he was always about three hours away from Dodger Stadium growing up. He said he saw three or four games per season.
“My mom and dad would always put a few options together for me to choose between games, and I’d always try to go when Mike Piazza came back,” he said.
Duffy, an 11-year major league veteran, has pitched once at Dodger Stadium. He struck out nine in seven innings in a 2017 start at Chavez Ravine. He gave up five runs and lost to Clayton Kershaw, but that was during the Dodgers’ 52-9 stretch that year so Duffy certainly wasn’t alone.
When Duffy will pitch next at Dodger Stadium remains to be seen. He’s currently on the injured list with a left flexor strain, and last pitched on July 16. Duffy also missed six weeks earlier in the season with the same injury.
“My ligament is fully intact, from what I’ve been told by multiple people,” Duffy said. “Everything is fine. My flexor’s just a bit cranky.”
It will be at least a few weeks more of rehabbing for Duffy, who joined the team over the weekend in Arizona.
“I feel like this last week I’ve turned the corner a little bit physically,” Duffy said. “I’ve been told anywhere from late August to early September, depending on the role, which I’m unaware of so far.”
This year with the Royals, Duffy has a 2.51 ERA and 3.38 FIP in 13 games, including 12 starts, with 65 strikeouts and 22 walks in 61 innings.
“Ideally, he keeps feeling good, and the trajectory is such that we can build him up to be a starter,” Andrew Friedman said. “If not, depending on what we learn over the next few weeks, we think he could make an impact out of the pen as well.”
Duffy has started all but two games in the last five seasons, but he did pitch 28 times in relief from 2014-16 with the Royals, putting up a 2.08 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 34⅔ relief innings.
“I enjoyed being put in those important situations, and being able to bounce back the next day or two days later and get another go at it,” Duffy said. “But anything this team has for me, whatever my future holds, I’m just going to do what they need done.”
In his down time while rehabbing, Duffy can keep track of NBA free agency. An avid Lakers fan, he said he’s been lobbying Russell Westbrook to come back to Los Angeles for years, and is elated that he’s back.
“Hopefully we can keep [Alex] Caruso though, man,” Duffy said. “Goodness, we need him.”