On the moving reasons Royals pitcher Tyler Duffey wants to talk about his melanoma

Kansas City Royals pitcher Tyler Duffy is speaking out about his recent skin cancer diagnosis. After undergoing surgery recently, Duffy may resume throwing soon.

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March 8, 2024 - 2:30 PM

Kansas City Royals pitcher Tyler Duffey poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on Feb. 22, 2024, in Surprise, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images/TNS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Veteran pitcher Tyler Duffey, auditioning with the Royals as a non-roster invitee, made his second spring training appearance on Feb. 26. Like the first outing, it went well enough. He threw another shutout inning, albeit this time allowing two hits in the process.

Then … Nothing since.

And nothing spoken of.

Amid the hope-springs-eternal buzz around more high-profile new players and the young core led by emerging star Bobby Witt Jr., Duffey’s abrupt absence was something only ardent fans and friends of his might have noticed.

But they certainly wondered.

“‘You haven’t pitched; what’s going on?’” Duffey remembered the texts coming.

He was tempted to just send back a statement in the form of a photo: a 40-stitch scar supplanting the skin over what he called essentially the length of his left trap.

Instead, he labeled the picture with what he called, “fair warning:”

He was contending with melanoma, which he learned when the biopsy results were delivered hours before he pitched on the 26th. Figuring he was about to be “on the shelf” for a while, he opted to pitch that day.

But that wasn’t so much being casual about it as a coping mechanism for an anguishing development that he spoke about publicly for the first time on Wednesday after being cleared to start throwing again, and perhaps resume pitching by next week.

While he’d later joke that he wasn’t trying to be a crusader for the cause, he certainly is seeking to create more awareness about the urgency of screening and attention to what the Mayo Clinic calls the first signs and symptoms: a change in an existing mole or the development of a new pigmented or unusual-looking growth on the skin.

“It’s eye-opening,” he said. “Because you don’t think about it, and here we are: I’m 33, getting stuff cut out of my neck.”

Had it gone a year without being detected, he added, he “may be missing a lot more than a piece of skin.”

Early detection, though, virtually always is promising: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.

Beyond his hopes of prompting others to be alert, Duffey’s sensitivity to it could hardly be more personal and profound.

That was evident through a sudden burst of tears as he divulged that each of his parents had died from cancer and his father, in fact, had died in 2021 from melanoma at age 64.

“It’s a nerve,” he said as he paused to compose himself.

Speaking about them now, in this context, made for another way to honor their memory and even enlist them to the cause.

While he still feels them with him everywhere, Duffey said, anybody who knows such loss can tell you that consoling feeling doesn’t really fill the voids, either.

Like the one Duffey pointed to when he said his dad “was there for everything,” so much so that he encouraged the few of us speaking with him to “go look up my call-up story.”

So we did, and it basically goes like this, per MLB.com:

When Duffey finally got the call to join the parent Twins club in Toronto in August 2016, he was playing Triple A ball in Rochester, N.Y. … Without a passport.

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