Royals' Danny Duffy Tears Ligament, Needs Tommy John Surgery

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It’s yet another instance of the worst-case scenario coming to fruition for the Royals.

Danny Duffy’s MRI on Monday in KC revealed every pitcher’s biggest fear: a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

And the only cure? Tommy John surgery.

In a season filled with ups and downs, losing arguably this team’s best and most promising pitcher could prove to be the biggest blow of them all. Duffy has shown so much promise this season. He was 2-2 with a solid 3.90 ERA, was averaging 9.1 K/9, and had the second highest average fastball in baseball at 95.3 mph.

Given the nature of their business, almost all pitchers have a tear of some degree in the elbow of their throwing arm. It’s usually just a matter of time before either it tears completely or the team decides it’s the right time to have the surgery. The Royals chose to go with the latter alternative.

The Royals have known about a tear in Duffy’s elbow since 2010. Duffy usually experiences some sort of elbow pain after a start, which has been the norm for him over the past few years – so the Royals never really gave his elbow pain much thought. A few weeks ago, the team decided to skip one of Duffy’s starts because his elbow pain was more intense than usual. So why didn’t the Royals give him an MRI then?

It’s a solid question begged by fans, radio hosts, and columnists alike.

But the Royals already knew about Duffy’s elbow tear. An MRI then would not have revealed anything they didn’t know already.

Duffy came back and made two more solid starts before leaving the game on Sunday.

The bottom line of the ordeal is this:

Danny Duffy’s elbow was a ticking timebomb. It was only a matter of time before he was going to need to undergo Tommy John surgery. Duffy throws extremely hard and possesses a curveball that has an extreme bite to it; he generally throws a lot of pitches and is a max effort guy.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said that the Cardinals knew about a tear in then-pitching-prospect Adam Wainwright’s right elbow back in 2004. They opted to bypass the surgery at the time, knowing that he’d need it at some point in the future. What happened after that? Wainwright went on to close out the 2006 World Series, became a multiple Cy Young candidate, win 20-games, and a NL Gold Glove. He finally went under the knife in February of 2011 - 7+ years later.

All in all, the Royals and Danny Duffy just wan into bad luck on this one.

The only way to prevent having Tommy John surgery, according to the man whom the surgery is named after, is this: don’t be pitcher. You can’t blame Ned Yost on this one. Or Dayton Moore. Or even David Glass.

The typical recovery time for TJ surgery is anywhere between 10 and 18 months. So, at this rate, Duffy could be back around this time next year at the earliest.

It was only a matter of time. Better now than next year.

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