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Matt Duffy came up with a huge assist in the dugout for Cubs teammate Adbert Alzolay

3 years agoTony Andracki

Matt Duffy has quickly endeared himself to Cubs fans with a knack for clutch hits over the first few weeks of the season.

But he’s stepping up in a big way off the field, too.

After his outing against the Indians Tuesday night in Cleveland, Adbert Alzolay was quick to credit Duffy with helping him refocus on the mound.

Alzolay had just given up a go-ahead 2-run homer in the bottom of the 5th inning and was frustrated. But Duffy came up to him and knew exactly what to say. The young pitcher responded with a crisp 1-2-3 inning in the 6th to get the Cubs offense back on the field.

“I’ve been really hard on myself on my mental game because I used to show a lot of my emotions and I think after the homer I did it a little bit,” Alzolay said. “I had that thought with me coming down to the dugout. Hands down to Matt Duffy. Man, what a guy. What a professional athlete.

“He talked to me and he got me up again to go get that 1-2-3 inning in the 6th inning. I love having those kind of guys around. When you get in a situation, you know they got your back. He came down, talked to me, got me out of that hole I was getting into at that moment and just bring me back to go out and compete for that 6th inning.”

Alzolay did not go into detail about what exactly Duffy talked to him about, but the veteran infielder certainly has a unique perspective on life and this game.

He was the runner-up to Kris Bryant in Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 but he has had an uneven journey since then. Duffy has battled injuries and didn’t play a major league game in 2017 or 2020. He spent last year with the Rangers and Yankees but was never called up to the big leagues.

So when things are going well — as they have been for him the last couple weeks — he makes sure to take a step back and enjoy the moment because he knows just how difficult this game can be.

“My journey here has given me some perspective on the fact that this game is a blast and it’s not always perfect despite that,” Duffy said. “If you choose to enjoy it as often as possible, then it stays fun.

“There’s a lot of distractions that you can get caught up in that really zaps the fun out of really anything, but even this, as much fun as it can be. If you’re able to step back as often as possible and remind yourself how cool it is to be in the position we’re in, it’s hard to have a bad day.”

In addition to the assist for his starting pitcher, Duffy also went 2-for-5 at the plate in the game while batting 3rd in the Cubs lineup. He is hitting .297 with a .395 on-base percentage this season.

His contact-oriented approach and his influence in the clubhouse has been huge for the Cubs this year and Tuesday was another example.

“That’s what this team is about, just picking each other up all the time,” Alzolay said. “That is the culture that these guys have been creating on this team. Just having, for example, Matt Duffy all around the lineup is huge because I feel that he’s been changing a lot of mentalities in this team with the way that he approaches every at-bat and the way he goes about his day every single day.

“He plays a really important role in our clubhouse, not just for the hitters but for everyone in general. I feel that Matt Duffy is a guy that you can go to all the time on whatever — personal problem, baseball, whatever, you can talk to him about it.”

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