The path stretches 13 miles in Santa Barbara, Calif., linking Royals pitcher Danny Duffy’s offseason home to his grandparents’ place. On many days over the winter, Duffy would ride a bike along the trail. He deemed those moments relaxing, and it quickly became clear that was the point.
Those moments amounted to a temporary break from the chaos that consumed him throughout the offseason, from the events he would describe as anything but relaxing.
“I hope I never have another offseason like this again,” he said.
There were trade rumors, a guilty plea for driving under the influence, an elbow surgery and wildfires that closed within 500 yards of his California home.
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Duffy replied to the trade rumors most publicly — “Bury me a Royal,” he tweeted — but privately, he first confronted the things within his control. In August, he was cited for DUI in the drive-thru lane of a Burger King. In the immediate aftermath, he asked people to not give up on him. The long-term outlook required some self-reflection.
“I set out this offseason to take a peek in the mirror,” Duffy said, adding, “How can I get the best version of myself out? Certain things that I need to curve. Thankfully I was able to do them.
“Sometimes you look at the fork in the road, and you just wanna pave your own path. Sometimes you just gotta go down the path that has a little more resistance than another.”
But squeezed into the work of self-improvement, Duffy closely followed the Royals offseason, which in December pivoted toward trade talk. During the winter meetings, the Royals fielded calls for offers involving Duffy, and general manager Dayton Moore, in so many words, said the team was willing to trade any player not named Salvador Perez.
“It’s been extremely difficult,” Duffy said. “I was worried about it. Obviously I understand the business of baseball. I totally get it.
“It doesn’t mean I have to like it. I signed back here to remain a Royal. I never really had heard major rumors about myself (before). It’s tough, man. It’s tough. If I could be candid with you guys, there’s nowhere else I wanna be.”
On Friday, just a few minutes before Duffy greeted the media, Moore sat down before reporters and reiterated his desire to replenish the club’s farm system and keep the payroll in shape. He did not mention Duffy specifically, but the left-handed starter has four years left on a five-year, $65-million extension he signed last January.
Asked if he had received any assurances that he would be in Kansas City on opening day, Duffy said, “Oh, man, I’m as sure as I possibly can be. I know how Dayton Moore feels about us. I’m completely aware of the fact that baseball is a business. But with that being said, I’m still here. I fully intend to lead this staff this year.”
Duffy said he “feels 29 again” after he felt physically older than his age the past few years. That prompted the elbow surgery.
He’s in a better place mentally, too, and he even talked about becoming more of a leader to younger players.
“I’m still gonna wear my Kobe jersey. I’m still gonna wear flops when I got 400 shoes in my closet. I’m still gonna be that guy,” Duffy said. “But I wanna carry a little more responsibility.
“I wanna be a better person. I wanna be a better man. I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve gone through.”