The Twins extended their streak to nine consecutive years without resorting to an arbitration hearing to settle a contract, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7 million deal with lefthanded reliever Brian Duensing on Saturday.
“I’m glad the process is over with and we agreed. I love this organization, I like that I’m here,” Duensing said. “I’m excited to get it done.”
His deal means all six eligible Twins have now agreed to contracts for 2015, meaning Kyle Lohse, awarded $3.95 million in 2006, remains the most recent Twins player to have his contract decided by an arbitrator.
The contract also means the Twins payroll is projected to exceed $106 million this season, roughly $20 million more than the team spent in 2013.
Duensing, who had a 3.31 ERA in 54 ⅓ innings last season, had filed for $3.1 million, while the Twins offered $2.4 million. The agreed-upon settlement is not quite the midpoint, but Duensing said he was happy with the result — and happy not to have to appear before an arbitrator.
“It was a tiny bit awkward at first, but I think I was the only one thinking it was awkward,” said Duensing, who had planned to attend the hearing if necessary. “I didn’t think it would get that far, and I didn’t want it to get that far. I didn’t want it to go to a [hearing]. I didn’t want to be that guy.”
There was no discussion of a multiyear contract, said Duensing, who made his Twins debut in 2009 and has played with the team longer than anyone except Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins. He will become a free agent at the end of the season.
“The free-agent market, relievers are starting to get paid a little more ... but I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,” Duensing said. “We’ve got some work to do here first. We’ve had four tough seasons.”
Don’t count Mike Pelfrey out in the race for the final rotation spot.
The 31-year-old Pelfrey arrived at TwinsFest this weekend feeling healthy and sounding confident that he can be the pitcher he wants to be this season. That’s good news for the Twins, who have watched him go 5-16 with a 5.56 ERA in 34 starts since he first signed in 2013.
Last year was a lost season for Pelfrey. He made only five starts before landing on the disabled list and eventually needing surgery to deal with ulnar nerve irritation. It happened to be the first year of a two-year, $11 million contract he signed during the previous offseason.
Nope, the Twins have not gotten what they paid Pelfrey for, and the veteran righthander knows that.
“I told somebody the other day that I feel bad because I feel like I’ve kind of taken money here from the Twins,” he said. “I have shown glimpses of who I was before surgery but I haven’t put it together for more than a couple of starts.
“So it has been frustrating. You play this game to compete and be successful and do well. That hasn’t happened, and that has been frustrating. But I feel good now and I will be ready.”
He better be. The signing of Ervin Santana to a staff that includes Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco means there will be a scrum for the final spot among Pelfrey, Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Tim Stauffer. And prospects Alex Meyer, Tyler Duffey and Jason Wheeler will be in camp looking to impress.
It’s a crowded field. It also represents what happens when a team has pitching problems. In 2013, Pelfrey’s first year with the Twins, he was part of a rotation that included Kevin Correia, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond among others. Less than two years later, he’s the only one left.
“I left here feeling good [at the end of last season],” Pelfrey said. “I picked up a ball Dec. 1 and it has been good. I know where the ball is going, it’s coming out good. I feel normal.”