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Duensing's role could switch next season

  • Article by: Phil Miller
  • Star Tribune
  • September 25, 2013 - 12:31 AM

Here’s some Twins trivia that might surprise you: What pitcher owns the most victories in Target Field history? And is second in career strikeouts here?

Not many casual fans would come up with Brian Duensing, the correct answer with 17 wins and 152 strikeouts, probably because he’s been exclusively a relief pitcher for more than a year. But Duensing’s days in the starting rotation might not be over.

“I still think there’s a ceiling there we would like to see him get to. … There’s still talk about whether he should be a starter,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday. “I think this guy’s got good stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t play out on the field as much as we’d like it to — he doesn’t get lefties out like we think he can. But I still think he can get better.”

Duensing wouldn’t mind that, either, though he has no complaints about spending 2013 in the bullpen. He’s allowed 66 hits in 59 innings and owns a 4.12 ERA. He’s also allowed only four home runs.

“This is the first time I’ve been in the bullpen for an entire season. It was a little different. There was a stretch there where I had trouble getting over the hump, mentally and physically,” the 30-year-old lefthander said. “It took awhile to get comfortable. Now I feel like I’ve kind of figured it out a little bit.”

But he’s open to returning to the rotation, if that’s what the Twins want.

“Absolutely. That’s where I’ve been through my entire career, all through the minors,” Duensing said. “Even when I was relieving, I thought of myself as a starter until this year. They said at the end of last season, wherever we put you, we’re going to keep you there.”

Which they did. But the offseason might change things — depending upon who is on the roster next year.

“We have to consider it. He’s had a pretty solid year,” General Manager Terry Ryan said. But he said Duensing is more of a Plan B for the Twins, depending upon how trades and free agents change the pitching staff.

Stolen confidence

Alex Presley has stolen 17 bases this season. Too bad they’re all for Class AAA Indianapolis.

The Twins would like to see him steal a few in Minneapolis, but so far, their new outfielder acquired from the Pirates last month in the Justin Morneau trade is 0-for-2 on the bases — which is making him more reluctant to run, Gardenhire fears.

“We’ve been trying to get him to [steal],” Gardenhire said. “[Pitchers are] using slide steps on him, but we definitely would like to see him take a few chances here. If he gets thrown out, he gets thrown out. We’ve been telling him that. He got thrown out [during his first week with the Twins], and he hasn’t gone since. So we’re anxious to see him get into [running] situations and try some things.”

Arcia out

Oswaldo Arcia was out of the lineup for a second consecutive day after bruising his knee while running into the outfield wall during batting practice Monday. Arcia’s right knee is badly bruised, Ryan said, and he’s limping. He’s day-to-day, but the Twins would like to get him back into the lineup for the season’s final series this weekend.

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