When Matt Duffy took his position at third base late in Sunday afternoon's game at Hagerstown, he was visibly frustrated. Then, Suns third-base coach and manager Brian Daubach, a few feet away, softened the blow by saying, "'Sorry, we're not trying to hit you,'" Duffy recalled.
But Hagerstown did and, as a result, Duffy will have a record that lasts much longer than his bruises.
The Astros prospect was plunked three more times while accounting for four runs in the Legends' 16-6 romp over the Suns.
"We play them a bunch," Duffy said, "and I have been hit a lot of times."
Eleven times in 20 games, in fact. Daubach and his pitchers have played a significant role in Duffy's historic and somewhat dubious distinction: The 23-year-old University of Tennessee product broke the South Atlantic League single-season mark for HBPs with 33 through 111 games. Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan recorded 32 with Hickory in 2004 but probably for a different reason. Morgan is a slight left-handed hitter. At 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds -- with 14 home runs to his name -- Duffy is decidedly not.
"It's a little bit of both: I do dive a little bit in my stance. And the book on me, [against] righty power hitters is to not let them get extended, to pitch inside," Duffy said. "The pitch can get away from them sometimes, especially at this level where guys don't have pinpoint accuracy.
"Three in one game, I was little frustrated today."
That also set the Sally League's single-game mark, which has been accomplished many times but not since 2002.
"It's a unique record to have, for sure," said Duffy, who added that he's most often hit on his left (lead) arm, in the upper, inside corner of the strike zone. "I feel like I get hit every other game. I don't wear a pad, but I should probably invest in one.
"They usually don't hurt too much. As long as I am not getting hurt, it doesn't get to a point where it's dangerous."
Duffy, a 20th-round pick in last year's Draft, was hit by a pitch 13 times in 63 games at short-season Tri-City in 2011, giving him a share of the New York-Penn League lead. For what it's worth, the Milton, Mass., native also was plunked 13 times in 54 games as a collegian in 2010.
No other Minor Leaguer this season has been hit more than 30 times. Class A Advanced Winston-Salem's Cyle Hankerd is next in line with 21.
Has the midseason All-Star felt like he's been hit on purpose?
"I haven't," he said. "A lot of hitters think, 'They might bean me if I hit a homer and celebrate too much,' but I've never gotten beaned liked that."
In this, his first full season as a pro, Duffy is doing much more than getting free bases. He's also earning them, with a .299 batting average, 46 extra-base hits and a .395 on-base percentage despite walking only 37 times.
"It's been a good year," he said. "I started off slow. I remember realizing how long of a season it is. Man, it's been a long season -- I didn't realize how long it would be. I've always floated around .300 as a hitter, but [I decided to] forget the numbers and trust the process and have a solid approach."
And solid contact -- with his bat, not his body.
"I want to hit home runs and do all the great stuff hitters do," he said, "but I'll take what the game gives me."
Duffy also singled in a run in the fifth inning Saturday. He was not, however, one of six Legends to record a multi-hit game. Brandon Meredith led the way with four hits and three RBIs, falling a triple shy of the cycle.
Zach Johnson drove in three runs, breaking Jake Goebbert's 2010 single-season team record with 100 RBIs.
Lexington starter Chris Devenski (7-5) gave up three runs on seven hits over five innings.
Suns counterpart Taylor Jordan (0-2) was charged with five runs on five hits over three frames. He hit three batters, including Duffy twice.