Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Duensing isn't starting on a lark; the Twins need this to work; Dozier sits again

Posted by: Phil Miller under Twins game coverage Updated: August 14, 2012 - 5:32 PM

Brian Duensing is 1-5 with a 6.12 ERA as a starter, and if you take those numbers at face value, you might assume the Twins would be wiser to put him back in the bullpen.

But as Duensing returns to the mound tonight to face the Tigers at Target Field, the Twins should have no intention of turning back. Their starting pitching cupboard is depressingly bare. Duensing, 29, has had success as a starter in the past, and this is critical window to find out if can work again.

Duensing has made seven starts. In the first two, he went three innings and four innings, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, but he was in the process of rebuilding his pitching count after starting the year with 30 appearances out of the bullpen.

Duensing’s third start was going pretty well -- 4.1 IP, 2 ER at Detroit -- before taking a line drive off his ankle, forcing him from the game. After an 11-day break, he returned and had an ugly one against Oakland: 2 IP, 6 ER, 3 HR.

The Twins decided it was time to pull the plug at that point. And hey, I’m not saying you should throw out the results of all four of those starts, but there were clearly some underlying circumstances behind the numbers.

As I’ve said before, Duensing has better pure stuff than fellow lefthander Scott Diamond. Not to take anything away from what Diamond is doing, but he is showing how good you can be when you command your fastball low in the strike zone and complement it with an above average change-up. Diamond’s breaking pitches aren’t as good as Duensing’s. And let’s not forget, Duensing went 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts in 2010.

Since returning to the rotation for the umpteenth time, Duensing is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in his past three starts. He’s done it by pitching primarily from the stretch. He tried the windup for one batter in his last start and wound up walking Jason Kipnis to start the first inning. For now, Duensing should stick with the stretch and bring back the wind-up as an offseason project.

Duensing could be a big part of the Twins 2013 rotation. He has about 10 starts left this season to prove himself again, and the team needs to let it play out.

Update: The Twins are using the same lineup that banged out 18 hits in Monday's 9-3 victory, but that means another night to sit for rookie shortstop Brian Dozier coming off his much-discussed play in the 10th inning of Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay.

"I’m not worried about [the effect of Sunday's play on Dozier]," Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We’ve talked in detail about everything. Now he’s just going about his business out there, doing his work. His mind’s floating. Well, this is the big leagues. Your mind’s going to float every once in a while. Deal with it, and he’ll move on from there. That’s all we’ve got to do."

* Gardenhire said Denard Span (sore clavicle) likely won't play until Friday, at the earliest. The Twins have a day game Wednesday and an off day Thursday, so the hope is that Span can use that time to heal. 

TIGERS (61-55)

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Omar Infante, 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
6. Delmon Young, DH
7. Jeff Baker, RF
8. Andy Dirks, LF
9. Gerald Laird, C

Starting pitcher: RH Doug Fister (6-7, 3.48 ERA)

TWINS (50-65)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Darin Mastroianni, RF
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, DH
6. Ryan Doumit, C
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Jamey Carroll, SS
9. Alexi Casilla, 2B

 

Starting pitcher: LH Brian Duensing (2-7, 4.46 ERA)

Target Field. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Networks

Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib

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