The family of the new Dodgers left-hander, who was acquired Thursday from Kansas City for a player to be named later, made the 150-mile pilgrimage from the Central Coast to Dodger Stadium three or four times year, one drive taking seven hours because of traffic.
Duffy’s favorite player was Mike Piazza, and after the future Hall-of-Fame catcher was traded to the Florida Marlins and flipped to the New York Mets in May 1998, Duffy always tried to attend games when Piazza returned to Dodger Stadium.
“Gosh, man, I cried my eyes out when he got traded,” Duffy said before Sunday’s 13-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field. “Him and [Todd] Zeile, I think it was, and Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Manny Corpus and Jim Eisenreich?”
Duffy was 9 years old at the time but almost nailed the seven-player trade. It was Manny Barrios, not Corpus, and he forgot to include catcher Charles Johnson, who went from the Marlins to the Dodgers.
“That was a tough couple of days of my childhood, so that can kind of paint a picture of how I felt about the Dodgers growing up,” Duffy said. “And now, having it come full circle and being able to play for them, I’m walking a little bit higher right now. It’s just crazy.”
Duffy got lost in the Scherzer Shuffle last week, his trade overshadowed by the blockbuster deal for Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner. But the Dodgers believe Duffy can be a key piece in their quest for a second straight World Series title.
Duffy, 32, is on the injured list because of a flexor strain, but he is expected to return in late August or early September. Though he has been a starter for most of his 11-year career, he could serve in a high-leverage, multiinning relief role for the Dodgers, much like Julio Urias has in recent seasons.
“It’s awesome to think a team like this thinks I could bring something to the table that could potentially help,” said Duffy, a 2007 graduate of Lompoc Cabrillo High. “Whatever that looks like, I’m here for it.”
Duffy, who mixes a 93-mph fastball with a slider, curve and changeup, is 4-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 games, with 65 strikeouts and 22 walks in 61 innings.
He missed five weeks of May and June because of the flexor strain, returned to pitch six games and went back on the injured list July 20. He said he feels like he “turned a corner a little bit physically” last week and is confident he will return to full strength.
“My ligament is fully intact,” Duffy said. “It’s just my flexor is a little cranky, but it’s getting better every day.”
Duffy described the last four days as “a whirlwind,” saying farewell to the many teammates, coaches and team executives he grew so close to in Kansas City and meeting so many new faces with the Dodgers.
But he couldn’t have picked a better team to go to. At a predraft workout in 2007, Tommy Lasorda signed a baseball to him that said, “To Danny, a future Dodger.”
Now that Lasorda’s prediction has come true — it only took 14 years — Duffy, who won a World Series in Royal Blue in 2015, is starting to envision what it would be like to win one in Dodger Blue.
“You look through that clubhouse, and there’s a lot of dudes who have accomplished some major things,” Duffy said. “I try to take the emotions out of it, but this is the team I grew up rooting for. Honestly, I’m humbled they think I can help them. … I’ve played a little Tetris in my brain, and I feel like I could do some special things if called upon.”
Mookie Betts was activated off the injured list and started at second base Sunday in an effort to ease the stress on his inflamed right hip, but manager Dave Roberts said it was more of a one-day move and that Betts will be back in right field Tuesday.
“Just talking to the training staff, we have a day on [artificial] turf, which is not [ideal for] a hip-pointer,” Roberts said. “If we can keep him off turf, get to the off-day, it will be better for him.”
Betts made a nice over-the-shoulder running catch of Drew Ellis’ broken-bat flare in shallow center in the first inning. He fielded two grounders cleanly and threw to first and turned a smooth unassisted double play to end the eighth.
Betts also had two of the Dodgers’ 14 hits, including a solo homer in the ninth. Albert Pujols hit a three-run double in a five-run second, Justin Turner hit a three-run homer in the seventh, and AJ Pollock had four hits, including two RBI doubles. Urias gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked none in five shutout innings.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.