Tyler Duffey tinkers with pitch mix and starts seeing results
Coming into Wednesday, the veteran has turned in five consecutive scoreless outings spanning 7 1/3 innings
Tyler Duffey walked into the interview room near the Twins clubhouse earlier this month and before the first question to him had been asked, he let his emotions be known.
Duffey had entered in the seventh inning, the Twins trailing by a run. A single, intentional walk and three-run home run later, the New York Yankees had put the game out of reach.
“It’s (expletive) frustrating,” Duffey said.
And it sure had been. At that point in this season, Duffey had already surrendered more home runs than he had in all of 2021. One of the Twins’ most reliable relievers over the course of the past few seasons, Duffey’s 2022 had been anything but.
But coming into Wednesday, the veteran has turned in five consecutive scoreless outings spanning 7 1/3 innings, as he tweaks his pitch mix and works to make adjustments.
“The game’s changing. High fastballs were en vogue and now guys can hit those, so you’ve got to throw something different,” Duffey said. “The game lets you know when it’s time to change. I think it was one of those things for me where all of a sudden I was old news, so it’s like (I’ve got to) do something different. We’re making progress and I’m liking where I’m at.”
One of those adjustments has been mixing in a changeup, which he threw as a starter but hasn’t utilized in years.
He started messing around with it in the bullpen. At one point while in Toronto, he threw five in a row that he described as perfect, which helped give him confidence to start introducing the pitch into game action.
“It’s a viable pitch,” he said. “It’s not like I’m just throwing something up there like, ‘OK, there it is,’ ” Duffey said. “It works. The plan is to mix it in and use it and not get beat on it, obviously, but use it where it fits and try and keep this little momentum we’ve got going.”
Duffey has also been toying around with a breaking ball that he’s been trying to get “slider-y movement” out of.
“I’ve always been afraid to do (that) because in my mind, you see sliders on TV getting hit for homers,” Duffey said. “Just trying to get a little more movement where I can start it on the plate and I can get it off, versus what I was doing was missing a lot with my curveball just off the corners, and so it allows me to keep me to keep it in the zone a little longer, maybe get some swings, weak contact, things like that.”
While Duffey had been relegated to low-leverage situations — the importance of the situations he’s been used recently has been slightly bumped up — manager Rocco Baldelli said over the weekend that Duffey looks good “stuff-wise” and said the way the ball is coming out of his hand “looks like the guy that we know.”
“I don’t care who you are, you have to be willing to adjust. And we talk about growing and figuring things out on the field. He’s going to do that. He’s done it before in his career, he’s doing it again right now,” Baldelli said. “And he’s giving himself a real chance to have even more success. He’s been a good major league reliever now for a while, and he’s figuring out new ways to get hitters out, which is good to see.”
Twins test roles
The Twins have not officially announced how they will reconfigure their coaching staff when pitching coach Wes Johnson departs for Louisiana State University after Thursday afternoon’s game. But as they prepare for life without Johnson, they did have bullpen coach Pete Maki coach from the dugout on Wednesday and run prevention coordinator Colby Suggs out in the bullpen. Suggs also spent Tuesday night’s game in the bullpen.
“Anytime you can go through something before it actually counts and you have the ability to learn and even pick up on a few things, it’s just the experience that comes along with it,” Baldelli said. “And you’re only going to pick up so much in one day or two days, but it’s better than no days.”
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