What a difference a week makes.
After his release from Barnes-Jewish Hospital on Tuesday, following a surgery to replace a herniated disc in his neck the day before, Duncan felt as if a weight was taken off his shoulders.
"It felt unbelievable," said Duncan, who sported a patch of gauze over the front of his neck. "Slept good for the first time in a few weeks."
Feeling relieved that the surgery went well, Duncan reported the shooting pain he endured the past few weeks immediately left after the 1 1/2-hour procedure. The numbness in his hand is also receding exponentially.
On Monday, Duncan underwent a five-year-old surgery that has never been performed on a professional athlete. With the future of his career murky, Duncan said that there was no doubt he was scared but gained strength through the confidence of his doctor.
"Anytime you have surgery in that area, there's some risks," Duncan said. "But I think Dr. [Dan] Riew was so confident in his procedure that it kind of put me at ease."
Because the surgery is relatively new, Duncan's doctors could not make any finite promises as to how long the disc will last. It is possible he will not need to replace it, but for now, he can run into walls and bump around as much as he wants once he is fully healed.
It will be six weeks before Duncan can begin to do anything baseball related and a full recovery will be three to four months. Still, for Duncan, it's a small price to pay when the bigger picture seems so full of promise
Once one of the more powerful young hitters in the Cardinals' lineup -- and if his recovery goes well, he can regain his old self -- Duncan visibly struggled throughout 2008, was sent down to Triple-A Memphis and eventually was place on the disabled list on July 22.
At some point in the season -- Duncan believes it was when the club was in Detroit from June 24-26 -- the disc became problematic. When the doctors went in to remove the damaged disc, it was ruptured into three pieces, Duncan said.
"One of the comments the doctor made when he went in there and saw the mess he had on the nerve," manager Tony La Russa said, "he can't believe he was playing over the last period. I mean this guy's got incredible guts."
Unable to move much on the morning the Cardinals placed him on the DL, Duncan's neck became so stiff that his daily routines became arduous. He stood in the clubhouse, holding his arm while he hid his agony as shooting pains ran through. It was so bad that he needed his girlfriend to drive him back and forth to the ballpark.
But now, that's all over and he can begin the healing process
"I think I just have to be careful for a couple weeks and I can do ordinary stuff," Duncan said. "I'm not going to do anything crazy or strenuous but I'm going to go back and see [the doctors] in a couple of weeks and we'll go from there.
"I don't want to get too excited, but there's definitely improvement."
Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less