Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Duensing in bullpen isn't official ... yet

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: March 1, 2013 - 6:51 PM

FORT MYERS, FLA. _ The Twins trailed Detroit by three games with four to play in AL Central in 2009. The race could have ended on Oct. 1, but the Twins won 8-3 in Detroit. Two days later, it was tied, as the Twins won twice against Kansas City and the Tigers lost twice to the White Sox.

Both teams won on Sunday, setting up the epic Game 163 _ the last great ballgame in the Metrodome.

Scott Baker made that start. This put manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson in need of a starter for the first game of the division series at Yankee Stadium. The nominee was rookie Brian Duensing, who had nine starts and 15 relief appearances that season.

Duensing's numbers were better as a starter: 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA, compared to 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA as a reliever.

The rookie lefthander couldn't handle the Yankees that night _ lasting 4 2/3 innings, allowing five runs and taking the loss.

The starter/reliever numbers have gone through quite a reversal since then. Duensing started the 2010 season in the bullpen, became the late-inning lefthander and was phenomenal. He was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 39 appearances. Desperation set in and the Twins moved him to the rotation.

"I was pretty good as a starter that year,'' Duensing said.

He was right _ 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts.

Duensing had a total of 22 big-league starts in the regular season, but it was enough to put him in solid as a starter for the 2011 Twins. He looked good in April, and then things went to Hades. He couldn't get out righthanded hitters. He made 28 starts in 32 appearances, and finished with a season ERA of 5.23.

"I don't know what happened,'' Duensing said. "For two years, it seemed like when I started, I couldn't get the ball down.''

Duensing opened 2012 in the bullpen and the numbers were excellent: 1.71ERA in his first 19 appearances. Desperation to find starters was higher than ever, and Duensing was used for 11 starts from June 23 through Aug. 30. He tried to get it done throwing out of the stretch, which only made him look more overmatched.

He was 2-8 with a 6.92 ERA in those 11 starts and 2-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 44 relief appearances.

"All I know is Gardy and Rick Anderson have told me, 'Wherever we put you this time, that's where you're going to stay,' '' Duensing said Friday. "It looks like the bullpen, but I'm not sure. We don't have that many lefthanded starters.''

Actually, the Twins only have one, Scott Diamond, and he had his first bullpen session on Thursday after elbow cleanup surgery in December. If he can't go, will the Twins want to open the season without a lefty starter?

Duensing smiled and said: "That would be interesting. But I think Scott will be ready.''

Duensing pitched out of the stretch with no base runners on Wednesday. When the baseball maven, LV Neal, pointed this out on Twitter, Duensing saw Neal on Thursday and said: "Hey, I pitched out of the windup last time out. Get off my back.''

Duensing is big on self-deprecation, but he might prefer that the deprecation part comes from himself.

The odds are strong Duensing will be in the bullpen, even if Diamond isn't ready to open the season. The only lefty set for the bullpen is Glen Perkins, and he's going to be the closer. The other lefty relievers _ Pedro Hernandez, Tyler Robertson, Caleb Thielbar _ are more suspects than worthy contenders at this time.

With that in mind, Duensing was asked for a review of a bullpen that was OK last season, until the rotation got it running on fumes late in the summer because of overwork.

Perkins as the closer? "I love it,'' Duensing said. "Perk's got that quality ... that edge to him you see with closers.''

Jared Burton? "Laid-back country boy. The opposite personality of Perk. You never see him get worked up over things. That  'splange' of his is one of the best changeups I've ever seen.''

Casey Fien? "He's as wired as you get. It must be all that Red Bull. He drinks about five every day.''

Alex Burnett? "He's got his feet under him now ... more confidence. He's strong, heavy sinker, good stuff all around.''

The bullpen in general? "It's good. It should be a solid part of the team.''

A step toward that will be to stop messing with Duensing and just put him in the pen.




Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 91 4th Qtr 3:58
Miami 101
LA Clippers 102 4th Qtr 3:23
Minnesota 97
New Orleans 68 3rd Qtr 2:46
Dallas 73
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 0 3rd Prd
Chicago 4
Montreal 0 1st Prd 14:46
San Jose 0
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 57 1st OT 3:39
Howard 58
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 88 1st OT 0:07
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 56 2nd Half 2:12
Savannah State 45
Texas Southern 58 2nd Half 9:14
Alabama A&M 51
Prairie View 36 2nd Half 15:26
Alabama State 36
Oklahoma 48 2nd Half 14:55
Iowa State 28
Grambling St 34 2nd Half 11:52
Miss Valley St 39
Boston College 52 2nd Half 15:43
Virginia Tech 30
Jackson State 29 1st Half 1:07
Ark-Pine Bluff 34
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
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