Duffy On Fire

Chris Duffy

Since he returned to the baseball diamond on July 2 with the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple A affiliate the Indianapolis Indians, Chris Duffy has been sizzling offensively and scintillating defensively.

Duffy went 4-for-5 as visiting Indianapolis defeated Richmond, 5-2, on Monday afternoon. His four hits raised his average to .358 over 81 at-bats with the Indians. The 26-year-old, center fielder hit a RBI single in the third inning, singled and scored in the sixth and doubled in the ninth.

Pirates' general manager Dave Littlefield has noticed.

"It's been very positive," Littlefield said. "Performance wise he has done what we're hoping to have him do. Go down there and gain some confidence and have success with the bat and his overall game. Included in that he's doing a nice job defensively too. We feel very good about where Chris is and what he's doing."

Duffy was handed the Pirates starting center field job coming out of spring training this season.

He struggled offensively and defensively as soon as the season began. Finally, on May 14, Pirates' manager Jim Tracy and general manager Dave Littlefield called Duffy into Tracy's office and told him he and his .194 batting average were being sent to Indianapolis.

Duffy was upset and did not report to Indianapolis.

What followed was a month of soul-searching and visits to a sports psychiatrist, and then a 2 1/2-week stint in Bradenton, Fla., to get back into baseball shape.

When he did get to Indianapolis on July 1, he indicated he was ready to play baseball again.

"If I wasn't 100 percent sure I want to do this again, I wouldn't be back here," Duffy said in his first public comments since May 14. "I think in time this will all be swept under the rug and I can just go out and be the player I once was and just have fun."

Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett has been pleased with Duffy's play.

"I'm pleased with everything Duffy's done," Jewett explained. "He's had good focus and good energy. Everything seems to be in order, and he's been a productive player and he's been a good player."

Duffy lost his zest for the game, but Jewett and the coaching staff have been working hard with him both on and off the field.

"Everything has been positive," Jewett reported. "He's been a big contributor to some of the success we've had here of late. He's fit in well with the team and he's fit in obviously very good on defense and he's fit in good on offense. He's come with a good frame of mind and has got everything lined up. His game has been excellent."

If Duffy keeps playing the way he has Littlefield indicated he probably would return to Pittsburgh sometime after the July 31 trade deadline.

"I think it will be important to get a look at Chris," Littlefield explained. "Because he is a guy that is a nice fit and kind of sets up the rest of the guys and helps our team overall - if he is a ballplayer and if he ends up showing that he can handle playing in the big leagues. Of course being a fit on paper is a lot different than being a fit on a daily basis, and the big difference is you've got to perform. At this point in time we've got to see Chris do it more at the Major League level and we've haven't at this point. That's what we're hoping to have happen.

"Again performance is the key here and if Chris performs like everybody else and if he performs well he'll get more opportunities and if he performs less he'll get less opportunities. That's the nature of our business. We're rooting for it to happen because Chris does fit in well defensively - he's got speed that we'd like to have utilized in our lineup. He's done well in short stints in the past and like a lot of guys you do struggle at times becoming established as a big leaguer. But hopefully this will be the impetus to jump up there and improve as time goes on."

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