Twins contemplating Duensing's return to rotation

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2012 - 11:51 PM

Brian Duensing has a 2.15 ERA in the bullpen, but the Twins have starting needs.

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Brian Duensing in spring training.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged Saturday that the Twins want reliever Brian Duensing to be ready, in case they need him to rejoin the starting rotation.

When Carl Pavano fizzled after four innings Wednesday, Gardenhire had Duensing pitch three innings of relief, and the lefthander held the Angels to no runs on no hits, throwing 45 pitches.

"I didn't know how Carl was feeling," Gardenhire said. "We wanted to check on Carl the next day and see what was up. He's fine, but we stretched Duensing out. Now he's up to 45 pitches. If we want to slot him into the rotation, it's not like we're starting all over again from one inning."

In 2010, Duensing posted a 1.80 ERA in 40 relief appearances before going 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts. He struggled as a starter last year, especially against righthanded hitters, so the Twins moved him back to the bullpen, where he has a 2.16 ERA in 15 appearances, including two perfect innings in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Toronto.

"He's really good in the 'pen," Gardenhire said. "I love him right where he's at, but if we can't get to the bullpen, then what good does it do out there?"

Morneau improves

After having a cortisone shot in his left wrist early last week, Justin Morneau said he felt much better as he took 25 to 30 swings, using a batting tee and a fungo bat. He's eligible to return from the disabled list Wednesday, and expects to play on the team's upcoming eight-game road trip.

"Hopefully [he can play] Wednesday, but there's no way to tell until I start taking some live [batting practice] and get some more swings," Morneau said. "I don't want to rush it and come back too quick and take steps backward."

Bautista: It's the pitchers

Jose Bautista has made Target Field look like a bandbox, hitting 10 home runs in his first 10 games there. After hitting two home runs Friday, his solo shot Saturday was the difference in the Blue Jays' victory.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the stadium," he said after Friday's game. "I think [the Twins have] an aggressive pitching staff. They throw a lot of fastballs, they throw a lot of strikes, they come right after you. That kind of fits my style of hitting.

"They pound the inner half -- at least the way they've pitched me [this week], and everybody knows that's where I look for most of my pitches, especially when it's a good hitter's count."

Etc.

• Infielder Alexi Casilla's only start in the past six games came Thursday, when he went 1-for-3. He had a sore shoulder Monday. Gardenhire said he's healthy now, but for now Jamey Carroll is at second base while Trevor Plouffe gets a look at third.

• Lefthander Matt Maloney cleared waivers and was assigned to Class AAA Rochester. Maloney, 28, posted an 8.18 ERA in nine appearances for the Twins but has a 3.57 ERA in 88 games at Class AAA.

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