In 2012, the Minnesota Twins drafted several college relief pitchers with the idea that some would get the opportunity to start.
Tyler Duffey has been the success story of that strategy to this point. Others have been hurt or returned to the bullpen, but Duffey was one of the better minor league pitchers in the Twins organization in 2014. He was invited to big league spring training this year and has a good chance of surfacing with the Twins in 2015.
Most likely, Duffey will open the season with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts in order to make a few starts before returning to Rochester.
The Houston native stayed home and attended Rice University. There, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. In 2012, his junior season, he was co-closer with JT Chargois (who the Twins drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft).
That June, the Twins used their fifth round pick to select Duffey. He was sent to Elizabethton where the Twins chose to have him work out of the bullpen. As expected, he dominated the Appalachian League. In 19 innings, he walked two and struck out 27 batters.
Duffey made the transition to starting in 2013. He began the season in Cedar Rapids where he made nine starts. In his first start, he threw the first seven innings of a no-hitter. After nine starts, he was promoted to Ft. Myers where he made nine more starts before being ending the season in the Miracle bullpen to keep his innings down. He worked 121 innings in all.
He began the 2014 season with the Miracle, but after just four starts (and a 3-0 record), he advanced to New Britain. There he made 18 starts and went 8-3. He ended last season with three starts for Rochester and went 2-0. Overall, in 149.1 innings, he went 13-3 with a 3.68 ERA. He walked 30 and struck out 113.
Although he has made the transition to starting successfully, it has been a process for him. A starter has to pitch and think differently than a relief pitcher. To be able to do that successfully, Duffey had to adapt a bit. Duffey has a four-pitch mix.
In late December, Duffey’s phone rang with news that he was invited to the Twins Major League Spring Training Camp in Ft. Myers.
Getting the opportunity to be a non-roster invitee is exciting for a prospect. It’s an opportunity to work with the big league coaches and have them see what he is about.
Duffey was also able to learn from the veteran pitchers in the clubhouse. “I try and watch how guys carry themselves. I’ve got a routine that I’ve learned, but I’ve been starting for two years and there’s guys who have been doing it for 10, 15 years, or did it for 15, 20 years. They know a little more about the game than I ever will. So, I just try to pick up things here and there, just listen.”
Duffey was called into manager Paul Molitor’s office and informed that he was being sent back to minor league camp, but he enjoyed the opportunity and learned a lot.
The reality is that Duffey could make his major league debut as early as 2015.
“Stay healthy and give my team a chance to win. Wherever I end up, I end up. It’s not really up to me at this point. I just hope that, wherever I go, I want to pitch and hope that good things happen. That’s really all I can hope for.”
--- Source: Twins Daily