Jan. 18, 2001
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The No. 6 ranked Arizona State University Sun Devil baseball team received some bad news Thursday when starting center fielder Chris Duffy was diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his right knee.
Duffy, a junior college transfer from South Mountain CC and a native of Glendale, injured his knee in practice Wednesday when he collided with freshman Steve Garrabrants during outfield drills. ASU assistant athletic trainer Kenny McCarty projected Duffy to be out for 4-6 weeks, with an anticipated return to the Sun Devil lineup for the three-game series vs. defending National Champion LSU on March 2-4.
The 5-10, 180 pound outfielder was slated as the team's starting center fielder and leadoff hitter. He was just recently picked by Baseball America as a preseason favorite to make the all-conference team and was also tabbed as the league's fastest baserunner and the best defensive outfielder. Duffy hit .409 with 83 hits and led the nation with 57 stolen bases last year at South Mountain CC. Duffy was a 43rd round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox in last June's Major League Amateur Draft.
"Injuries are a part of the game that you just can't control and while this will affect our team both offensively and defensively, it is an early test to see how your team responds and how the younger players step up," said seventh-year ASU head coach Pat Murphy. "We had a similar thing happen to us when our opening day starting pitcher, Mike Esposito, went down with Tommy John surgery and we moved past that and went on to win the league title. We won't have any excuses."
The injury, while a hindrance at first for the Sun Devils, could propel the team when they hit the meat of their tough 2001 schedule. With Duffy projected back in early March and Esposito slated to return in late March or early April, the talented duo will provide a spark as the Devils make a run at a consecutive Pac-10 title. Esposito was 1-0 while striking out 14 batters in nine innings of work before ending his season with the injury.
Filling in for Duffy will be junior Mel Stocker (Tucson), who was projected to be the opening day starter in right field. Stocker hit .344 with four triples and 26 RBI last year as a utility player. Senior Jonah Martin (Waianae, Hawai'i) will start in right field and freshman Steve Garrabrants (Phoenix) is penciled in as the starter in left field. Utility player Nick Walsh (Concord, Calif.) has moved full-time to the outfield and will see action in a reserve role, as well as true freshmen Ryan McKenna (Elgin, Ill.) and Skyler Fulton (Olympia, Wash.).
ASU opens the season Jan. 26 against Texas-Arlington at 3 p.m. at Packard Stadium.