Tyler Duffey Moved to the Bullpen, Replaced His Curveball with a Slider and Has Become One of the Minnesota Twins' Best Relievers

Photo credit: Brad Penner (USA TODAY Sports)

Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Minnesota Twins with the 160th pick in 2012. A once-promising starting prospect, he has seen his fair share of struggles. From fighting his way up to a spot in the starting rotation five years ago to spending a few seasons shuttled back and forth to Triple-A, the “Doof” has hit his stride in the Twins bullpen.

Starting his career

When the Twins were still managed by Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer was hitting singles and opposite-field home runs, Tyler Duffey’s name was called in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft.

The starting pitcher out of Rice University began his pro career like most pitchers working his way up through the minors: Duffey spent his first three seasons working his way up to Triple-A Rochester. In 2015, under new manager Paul Molitor, he got his call to the show.

In his first season with Minnesota, he started 10 games with a 5-1 record and a 3.10 ERA. That year the Twins finished three games shy of the last wild card spot and Duffey was beginning to be built into the team’s future plans. The next year, however, things would take a turn for the worse.

In the infamous 103-loss season, Duffey found his way into the starting rotation for most of the year and was forced into action on a sinking ship that had Miguel Sano playing right field for some reason.

While he led the team in wins that season with nine, he paired it with 12 losses in 26 starts and a not so pretty 6.43 ERA.

After having struggled that season as a starter, Duffey would begin to see more innings in relief and fewer as a starter. Throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons, he struggled to find what worked for him, pitching in only 96 innings.

Replacing his curveball with a slider

With new management comes change, and that’s not always a bad thing.

In 2019 Rocco Baldelli took over as the new manager for the Twins and several players improved. Duffey was one of these players.

Duffey started the season in Triple-A. After two call ups, one in April that lasted a week and the final one in May, Duffey got to work coming out of the bullpen. With the change in position came a change in how Duffey pitched. He initially relied on his curveball, and now seems to have scrapped it for a slider that he first started using in 2017.

His curveball was used around 40% in his first few seasons. Now he uses it less than 10%. His slider on the other hand has jumped from being used 7% of the time to 37%.

The Doof in relief

On a team that has seen inconsistent pitching throughout the past decade, like Sam Dyson and Blake Parker, Duffey has become a consistent middle to late-inning pitcher that can be used against the better teams in the league.

In 58 games last season Duffey posted the lowest ERA in his career, 2.50. Duffey has become one of the best relievers for the Twins but also one of the best in the league.

Statistically, the numbers prove it:

  • Dating back to last July he has 0.63 ERA in 28.2 innings while striking out 50 batters.
  • In this short season, Duffey has made six appearances and given up two hits, no runs or walks and collected 10 strikeouts.
  • He also has continued to boost his miss percentage, which is at 43% since August of last year and leads pitchers with 20 or more appearances in that time frame.

Duffey has come a long way from where he was in 2015. He has been able to prove himself as a strong reliever and could be closing games for the Twins one day in the future.

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