Pitchers pitch, and sometimes after they pitch for a short while or a long while, they develop a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in the throwing elbow. When the tear is partial, a pitcher can decide between trying to rehab, or going under the knife for ligament replacement, otherwise known as Tommy John surgery. They usually opt for Tommy John surgery. When the tear is complete, a pitcher needs Tommy John surgery.
Royals starter Danny Duffy was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He sought a second opinion, like they always do, but his fate was inevitable:
Dr. Lewis Yocum confirms UCL tear in Danny Duffy's left elbow.Tommy John surgery will take place within next two weeks in LA.#Royals
Used to be that Duffy was one of baseball's better stories, having gained two miles per hour on his average fastball. That was a week ago. Now we have to wonder about that added velocity. It's possible that Duffy's elbow couldn't take the added stress. It's possible this would've happened anyway, with or without the boost.
Duffy's done for 2012, obviously. If everything goes well, he could be back in the majors next April or May. The upside for the Royals is that Tommy John surgery usually doesn't end careers anymore, but a year without Danny Duffy is a year without Danny Duffy. That's a worse year.
That's code for "Tommy John surgery." The 23-year-old Duffy was off to a pretty nice start this year, boosting his strikeout rate while keeping the ball in the park. He was walking too many hitters, but only because Jonathan Sanchez used his bar of soap in the shower once, which usually leads to short-term effects.
Duffy has a career 2.65 ERA in 350 minor-league innings, with a 407/110 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was ranked as the #68 prospect in baseball before the start of last season, when he lost his rookie eligibility.
As a rookie in 2011, Royals starter Danny Duffy averaged just over 93 miles per hour with his fastball. This is a good fastball!
As a sophomore in 2012, Royals starter Danny Duffy has averaged just over 95 miles per hour with his fastball. That is an even better fastball!
Now, correlation is not causation and I can't prove any link here, but while Duffy's velocity is up, he's also recently dealt with elbow problems. Sunday, Duffy had to be removed from a start after feeling elbow discomfort, and he was sent for an MRI. The Royals don't yet know the results of the MRI, or they do know and haven't yet made them public, but whatever the case, the Royals have gone ahead and placed Duffy on the disabled list:
#Royals LHP Danny Duffy has been placed on the 15-day DL. Still awaiting results of the MRI.
Now, the Royals are hoping it's just inflammation or a minor injury, although club officials privately fear the worst - that Duffy will require Tommy John surgery to replace the ligament.
Nate Adcock was recalled to take Duffy's place on the roster. The Royals are a lot less interested in Adcock than they are in what's up with Duffy, and they're expected to know whether Duffy will be out for a little while or a long while in a little while. Of course club officials would fear the worst. Why wouldn't they fear the worst? This isn't even just about the Royals organization. This is about Danny Duffy being a young pitcher, and young pitchers being as fragile as falling eggs.