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The Royals aren’t cursed… they’re stupid

May 14, 2012, 6:10 PM EDT

Danny Duffy Getty Images

23-year-old left-hander Danny Duffy complained of elbow tightness following his start April 22 against the Blue Jays.

Kansas City’s solution? An MRI and a precautionary DL stint? It is the team’s youngest starter and a big part of the organization’s future we’re dealing with here.

Nope, the Royals had him skip one start. No tests were scheduled. After Duffy threw a bullpen session without complaint on April 29, he was cleared to pitch May 3.

Duffy made it through that outing and one more. On May 8, he threw 102 pitches in just 4 1/3 innings versus Boston, walking five batters along the way. Five days later, he came out of his outing against the White Sox in the first inning complaining of more elbow soreness.

Only then did the Royals perform the MRI. And now all signs point to him having Tommy John surgery and missing at least the next 12 months.

There’s a very real chance Duffy was going down this path anyway. Still, it makes the Royals look incompetent that it happened the way it did. With so many good reasons to be proactive, the Royals sent Duffy right back to the mound. And now he’s probably not going to be a real asset for them until 2014, if ever.

  1. xsherr - May 14, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Weren’t they the team that left a starter in last season when he got absolutely shelled? The game kept getting worse, but they just left him in.

    • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 6:24 PM

      A lot of teams leave a guy in as a sacrificial lamb in cases where they need to rest their bullpen. Don’t know if that was the case for them but as long as the guy isn’t being left in for 120 pitches it isnt a big deal.

      • Cris E - May 15, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        When choosing a sacrificial lamb, some guys like to shy away from the one complaining about elbow pain. Just passing it along, as it were, no biggie.

    • randall351 - May 15, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      His name was Vin Mazzaro, and he is starting for the Royals tonight against the Rangers, so that should be fun.

      • trchief1603 - May 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        Texas probably thought the same thing before they faced Chen last night.

  2. brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    He complained of soreness once, does every team do an MRI at the first sign of soreness? I dont think so. Those things cost money ya know. He also came back and pitched a bullpen session and 2 starts without complaining of pain. Doesn’t sound like they are so stupid to me.

    • mgdsquiggy17 - May 14, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      “Still, it makes the Royals look incompetent that it happened the way it did. With so many good reasons to be proactive, the Royals sent Duffy right back to the mound. ”

      The power of hindsight makes a genius out of all of us doesn’t it.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 6:53 PM

        Exactly. I have to ask what would the MRI have shown to change anything? I’m no doctor but I gotta think that the only thing the MRI would have done is tell them he’s Tommy John bound about a week earlier than they did find out.

    • paperlions - May 14, 2012 at 8:07 PM

      You know what costs teams a lot more than an MRI? Loosing players for a year or more due to surgery. There is pretty much no situation in which MRI cost would come anywhere close to money saved by keeping guys healthier. One useful MRI out of 100 would more than pay for the medical precaution.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 9:08 PM

        So you must believe that he would not need to have Tommy john had he had that MRI 2 weeks ago. I would bet the situation would be the same regardless.

      • cur68 - May 14, 2012 at 11:04 PM

        paperlions is right: For medical tests, the clinician’s aim is to be wrong a lot. If you’re scheduling tests and finding problems all the time then you aren’t asking for enough tests. Get it? A clinician with 10 MRIs/month and a 2 UCL tear finding in the same period is doing his job WAY better than the clinician with the 2/2 ratio. The 1:1 clinician is under testing: they’re waiting till its obvious. The 5:1 clinician is VERY cautious. That person is heading off problems. An earlier MRI might have seen inflammation and the early sings of UCL fraying typical in the requirement for TJS. A long rest, pitching motion adjustment, and medication might have eliminated the need for TJS.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 11:37 PM

        So what you’re basically saying is you know more than the doctors the Royals currently employ do. Maybe you’re a doctor and you do. But as I’ve said previously, it doesn’t sound like the Royals have done anything differently than most other MLB team in this situation. They tried rest, it seemed to be working. Then it wasn’t so they went to the next level,the MRI. I just fail to see that what they did was “stupid” unless enjoying the obviousness of hindsight is your thing.

      • Reflex - May 14, 2012 at 11:46 PM

        brewcrewfan – Actually Cur68 is a nurse if I remember right. He does this for a living, albeit not for a MLB team so far as I know…

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 11:55 PM

        I’m not saying he doesnt have experience or anything like that. He certainly sounds educated and I didnt mean to sound sarcastic. I just think the doctors the Royals employ are better versed in how to handle the injuries at this level of sport. And it is called “medical practice” because nothing is a given.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 15, 2012 at 12:02 AM

        I meant no disrespect towards cur at all. I just think the Royals medical team has more experience and know how with athletes and this situation. That is all I was trying to say.

      • paperlions - May 15, 2012 at 7:54 AM

        Brewcrew, no…what I am saying is that saying an MRI is cost prohibitive for a MLB team is fucking stupid.

  3. crimhollingsworth - May 14, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    This from the team that has not yet considered dumping Luke Hochevar, because he’s not 30 yet and has “potential,” despite 600+ ip and a 5.39 career era. He had a good start the other day though, so they’ve probably penciled him in for the #1 spot next year.

  4. Jeremiah Graves - May 14, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Ouch…John Lamb, Joakim Soria, and now Danny Duffy all getting Tommy John within the last year.

    That’s a lot of arms who figured to be big parts of the next great Royals team. Rough stuff.

    • xavier46 - May 14, 2012 at 6:48 PM

      In all fairness, there have been A LOT of arms that have figured to be part of the next great Royals team… It’s been a number of years now

  5. DJ MC - May 14, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    So they didn’t learn their lesson when they got destroyed by every reputable media outlet for doing terrible things to Gil Meche’s arm? Or since his arm problems forced his retirement last year, did that just reset their memories?

    Too bad Rany isn’t writing about the team right now. He’d have some awesome things to say.

  6. xavier46 - May 14, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    “There’s a very real chance Duffy was going down this path anyway.”

    Exactly, so why write a story about them being stupid?

    A precautionary DL stint and MRI is not going to avoid a torn UCL at this stage. It only would have bumped things up by a few weeks.

    • Matthew Pouliot - May 14, 2012 at 7:05 PM

      And what if he had wrecked his shoulder trying to compensate for pitching with a torn/partially torn ligament in his elbow?

      There’s certainly no downside to giving him the MRI, only upside.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 7:19 PM

        How often does any team jump right to an MRI? They rested him, he came back and pitched pain free for 2 starts. They didn’t send him out there and say pitch through the pain. They seem to have hAd some issues with guys needing this surgery so maybe they need to reevaluate their pitching programs but I think tou’re trying to turn this one incident into a bigger deal than it is.

      • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - May 14, 2012 at 7:58 PM

        I am totally dumbfounded that people are thumbing this comment down. MRIs aren’t some mystical procedure you need to unfreeze an ancient wizard to perform. These are professional organizations with millions of dollars tied up in the health of their players, and they clearly did not exercise caution with a valuable asset.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 8:04 PM

        But what would the MrI have done here? He had pain. He rested. He pitched pain free. Then he felt pain again and they had it done. Nothing here was improper by the team.

      • paperlions - May 14, 2012 at 8:09 PM

        haha….an MRI is not a pain-o-meter….it can tell you what is going on inside…rest and self-reports as to pain level can’t do that.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        No its not a pain o meter but how often after the first little bit of pain does a team order an MRI? Its a pretty costly procedure if its the first thing they do. They usually do exactly what the Royals did. The way they handled this just isn’t a big deal or a reason to say they’re stupid

      • xavier46 - May 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM

        Matthew,

        That’s the only benefit to having the MRI. He was going to have to get Tommy John regardless of if it was done a few weeks ago.

        You should have mentioned the possibility of wrecking the shoulder in the main article. In the main article you only referenced the UCL – 3 weeks ago or today, he needs TJS.

      • jeffbbf - May 15, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        Oh yeah – pitchers can fight through a torn UCL. Happens all the time. Hey skip…my elbow’s killing me, but I can take the pill…hope it doesn’t affect my shoulder, though… sheesh.

  7. Bryz - May 14, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    I had to double-check to make sure this article wasn’t about the Twins and Scott Baker.

  8. dawgpoundmember - May 14, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Best headline ever!!!!!!

  9. randygnyc - May 14, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    We don’t know for sure, but I’d bet this kid shares a large part of the blame here. At 23, everyone is immortal and he probably told his coaches he was fine.

  10. astrosfan75956 - May 14, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Dr James Andrews will have a job as long as he wants!

  11. randygnyc - May 14, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    An MRI would have done nothing, except move up the surgery by 2 weeks. Either it was torn before, and he tried pitch through it (and it’s no worse now), or he tore it since (and the MRI wouldn’t have shown it). Still, I could have shown partial damage, and we’d still wind up here.

    The real question is, what are the conditioning coaches and athletes doing differently in the last few years that’s blowing out so many elbows? Either that, or pitchers have always blown them out but pitched with it?

    Maybe the pitch count is to blame. Not enough pitches?

    • byjiminy - May 14, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      or, it could have been partially torn, and they could have prevented it from tearing further.

      • xavier46 - May 14, 2012 at 11:30 PM

        Hmmmm…. Do you know what a UCL and the whole Tommy John deal is? partially torn or completely torn = the same result… TJS and around a year of rehab.

      • byjiminy - May 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM

        responding to xavier46, my understanding is that partial tears do sometimes heal. they often try rehab first. It just depends how bad it was. say they diagnosed it as a “strain”. Again I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure the word strain means there is minor partial tearing that doesn’t go all the way through. In which case they would not do surgery, and he might just heal. We’ll never know in his case. The fact that he pitched multiple games after the original problem, then it suddenly got worse, to me implies pitching through it caused further injury. Who knows if the first one would have required Tommy John anyway. But there’s certainly no downside to diagnosing it earlier, and to not pitching with a torn ligament.

        If I were a team owner, I would just buy an MRI machine and test my guys all the time. If you didn’t want to waste the money of having it idle, you could buy or invest in a whole MRI clinic and keep running it as a business, using it for medical tests for the general public the rest of the time. But seriously, one lost season of one player would probably pay for the whole machine.

        a quick google search says that an mri scan costs between $400 and $3,500, depending on the part of the body. You’re not scanning their brain so it’s not going to be the max. BUt say you spend $3,500. Obviously it’s just a tiny percentage of the average player’s contract.

        Looking at the cost of a new machine, it’s usually over a million bucks, which again is much less than one player-year. and there’s a robust after market for used machines, which could drop the cost to a few hundred thousand. Frankly, I thought both of these costs would be higher. That’s cheaper than calling up a minor league replacement.

  12. mungman69 - May 14, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    Look: The Royals always trade anyone young and good. They are always “rebuilding”.

  13. Matthew Pouliot - May 14, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    It’s not all that likely, but it’s hardly beyond the realm of possibility that Duffy’s previous elbow soreness was a result of something else entirely and that he adjusted his arm angle to compensate and blew out his UCL as a result.

    And an MRI is not at all costly for a major league team. Or the Royals, for that matter.

    • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 11:44 PM

      The childish remark at the end was not necessary. The Royals have taken the small market formula and done a good job with it as far as the talent they have aquired. Their results on the field at the moment are not great but talent needs to learn how to win. I know this is a blog and I get the snarky and sometimes underhanded comments but I’d really hope you’d be a little better than that.

      • iamthedoublestandard - May 15, 2012 at 2:29 AM

        Brewcrew, I rarely log in here and say anything but I do read everything. I’ve gotta say. Shut up already. It wasn’t a snarky comment. It’s not an expensive procedure to an MLB club that has these machines at their own disposal. This is what they do. You think it’s coincidence that three or four of their pitchers have gone down to TJS? C’mon dude. Wisen up. You’re here defending KC because of expense? Are u friggin kidding me? Just shut up. It’s always better to be cautious than to spare expense. Especially when you consider that to them, by comparison to the general population, these tests are a dime a dozen. Yes, these tests are expensive…. to you and I. Not to professional million dollar athletes, and multi/million dollar organizations. Get real. Please. Oh, and I, by comparison, AM being snarky. What of it?

  14. brianbosworthisstonecold - May 15, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    Tis better to be safe than sorry.

  15. sportsdrenched.com - May 15, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    The Royals are my favorite team. But lets be clear. If you’re trading places with Pirates on a nightly basis about who has the worst record in the MLB since 2000, you do not get benefits of the doubt. Everyone has to assume your decisions are wrong until you’ve displayed enough winning to convince us you’ve changed your ways.

    I can’t find any reason to disagree with the title, on many levels, not just the health issue. However, The Royals taking care of their players on the health front has been questioned before.

    DJMC, Rany wrote this almost 3 years ago: http://www.ranyontheroyals.com/2009/06/release-hounds.html

    At the time Rany had media credentials with the Royals because he was doign work for a local radio station. This peice hit such a nerve his credentials were revoked. Nick Swartz was fired at the end of the 2009 season. I also find it interesting that the Royals have at least a marketing deal with University of Kansas Hospital. I’m not sure how much actual doctor help UKMC actually provides to the Royals and now their training & medical staff is being called into question again.

  16. teamobijuan - May 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    I had an MRI done in December and it cost I think $400. That was out of pocket, no insurance.

    Can’t imagine what kind of bulk prices MLB could get. $400 is so cheap to a million dollar organization. Stupid.

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