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06/02/10 8:48 PM ET

Duffy reports to extended spring training

KANSAS CITY -- Left-hander Danny Duffy, one of the Royals' top pitching prospects, is back with the organization in extended spring training, the club announced Wednesday.

Duffy, 21, was so highly regarded that he was invited to the Major League camp this year at Surprise, Ariz. It was there on March 24 that he informed team officials he wanted to take a leave of absence. Now he's back at Surprise to resume his baseball career.

"Danny took some time off to re-assess his priorities and see if this was something he desired to do and realized he did," said Scott Sharp, the Royals' director of Minor League operations. "He missed the game very much and wanted to come back."

This will be Duffy's fourth year in the organization since the Royals selected him in the third round of the June 2007 First Year Player Draft and paid him a reported $364,500 bonus.

In the last two seasons combined at Single-A Burlington and Advanced-A Wilmington, Duffy had a 17-7 record in 41 starts. He was the Royals' representative in last year's Futures Game. Including his first year in Rookie ball at Surprise, his record is 19-10 with a 2.49 ERA in 52 games. He has 290 strikeouts against 83 walks in a total 245 2/3 innings.

The Royals will assess his physical condition at Surprise before integrating him back into full baseball activity.

"He's indicated to us that he's been throwing, he's been working out and he's excited about returning," Sharp said. "He's one of our better prospects and we're excited to have him back. He's seems to be in a good mental place and ready to go."

Sharp said he could only speculate about why Duffy took a leave of absence. Shortly before he left, Duffy was hampered by elbow stiffness but the club indicated that wasn't the reason.

"I just think he really felt like, 'Hey, I'm not in this 100 percent right now and I know I can't be in it at 80 percent so I'm going to step back and make sure that I'm ready to do it at 100 percent,'" Sharp said.

Duffy was expected to start this season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and, depending on how his workouts go, that might be where he ends up this summer.

"We're going to take it slow," Sharp said. "Obviously he was projected to go to Double-A and if he comes back and he pitches and he's throwing and he's ready to go out ... it's not going to be at a higher level than that. It would probably be that level."

Duffy was drafted from Cabrillo High in Lompoc, Calif., where as a senior he had a 5-3 record, a 0.60 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.