In his first game since returning from bereavement leave after the passing of his mother, Shelley Duncan had his best game of the season for Triple-A Durham on Monday night.
The journeyman designated hitter belted a pair of home runs and drove in six in a 16-3 victory over Louisville. The six-RBI game was his first since April 25, 2009 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The 33-year-old left the Bulls after Thursday's game to attend his mother's funeral in St. Louis. His mom, Janine Duncan, died June 6 at age 64 after battling brain cancer for just shy of two years.
"That was good to see," Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo told Durham's Herald-Sun of the return performance. "For somebody to go through what he's gone through and then have [him] come and have a good game -- that's beautiful."
Duncan's first homer was a three-run shot in the bottom of the second that put Durham ahead, 8-2. He added another three-run jack -- this one off Louisville catcher Corky Miller -- in the seventh,. He also walked twice and scored three times as Durham set a season high in runs in its first game since the promotion of Wil Myers to Tampa.
"It was fun to come back and be a part of a 16-run game," Duncan told the Herald-Sun. "The first at-bat, it felt like I had been gone a while. I just tried to relax [after that].
"The longer you're away, the harder it is to get back. It's a weird sport -- everything is based on muscle memory. A lot of guys like to play every day; some have a hard time when they don't. So three days is a lot better than five or six. It's like an All-Star break."
Duncan had remained with Durham in the week after his mother's passing at the insistence of his father, Dave Duncan, according to the newspaper. Dave Duncan was a pitching coach with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1996 until 2011, when he retired to help attend to Janine.
Shelley Duncan said it was difficult to keep playing in the days leading up to the funeral, which took place over the weekend.
"There is nothing more [important] right now than wanting to be with my family," he told the Herald-Sun before leaving for the funeral. "But growing up and being in a baseball family, you kind of do what Dad tells you to do. Dad told me to stay here and play until he needs me and go back home."
Chris Duncan, Shelley's 32-year-old brother, also played baseball and was with his father and the Cardinals when the team won the 2006 World Series. The younger Duncan, now a talk-show host on St. Louis' WXOS, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last October, and as of March, was undergoing chemotherapy.
Shelley Duncan has played 32 games with Durham this season, hitting .250 with seven homers and an .842 OPS. He's also been in 20 games for Tampa Bay.