Sometime in mid-June, when his ERA was lingering around four digits, Brian Duensing walked into Paul Molitor’s office with a message: Don’t give up on me.
Molitor is glad he listened.
“We had a nice talk about where he was at and where he could still go and how he could still help us,” the Twins manager said of his veteran lefthander. “He’s been able to do that.”
No kidding. Duensing, 32, whose ERA topped out at 10.50 when he allowed two runs and got one out in Texas on June 12, has been almost untouchable ever since. He hasn’t allowed a run in his past 11 appearances, holding batters to three singles in 13 ⅔ innings, a .075 batting average with two walks and nine strikeouts.
“I haven’t really done anything very different. It’s just a matter of locating the ball better,” Duensing said. “I knew I would come around. I’ve been around long enough to know my stuff can get people out. So I went in and talked to him, told him that I was mentally still OK, I wasn’t losing faith in myself. I wanted him to know I still have confidence in myself, and he reassured me that, ‘We haven’t lost confidence in you.’ ”
He wasn’t certain a face-to-face was necessary, but then again, the Twins released righthanded reliever Tim Stauffer right about that time, too.
“It put my mind at ease, so I wasn’t pressing on top of everything else,” Duensing said. “He said they were going let Aaron Thompson take the late-inning [assignments] until I got turned around. I think I’ve had only one shaky outing since then.”
More Brunansky magic
Chalk up another success story for hitting coach Tom Brunansky. Before Saturday’s weekly pregame softball home run derby in the Target Field outfield, Brunansky took one of the contestants into the Twins’ batting cage for some pre-contest pointers. Sure enough, his pupil — son Ryan Brunansky, 23 — clubbed three home runs to win the contest over, among others, T.C. Bear and Kirby Puckett Jr.
Not bad for a two-time All-American from Whittier College — in water polo, not baseball.
“I liked the way they introduced them — the sons of sluggers from 1987. You look at the names on the jerseys, it kind of brings back the old days,” Brunansky said. “It was fun to see. And it’s not easy to beat the bear.”
Pelfrey’s new trick
Mike Pelfrey has been working with pitching coach Neil Allen on trying something new. He’ll unveil his creation Tuesday against the Pirates.
Pelfrey, 0-5 with a 6.87 ERA in his past seven starts, has been trying to learn a slider similar to the one thrown by Kyle Gibson. He spent much of Friday working on the grip and threw the pitch in the bullpen Saturday.
“It’s just a little slider, the Gibby slider. I’m trying to make mine tighter,” Pelfrey said. “It was moving pretty good in the bullpen, so we’ll see.”
The idea, Pelfrey said, is to make the pitch easier to throw, so he can get more velocity without sacrificing movement.
“I always feel like I have to ‘make’ it move, but this pitch moves on its own,” Pelfrey said. “It’s a new grip, a new feel. I can just throw it and it doesn’t have any choice but to move.”
• Ryan Pressly’s shoulder has recovered from the lat strain he suffered early this month, and he should begin throwing again within a week, General Manager Terry Ryan said. Pressly likely will need a rehab stint as well, so he’s likely still three weeks or more from returning.
• Garrett Jones was a Twin for 31 games in 2007 but had no future in Minnesota “because we just had no room,” Ryan said. “We had Justin Morneau, so that wasn’t going to work.” But Jones, who contributed an RBI single for the Yankees on Sunday, has had an impressive eight-year major-league career since then. In fact, other than Boston’s David Ortiz and Atlanta’s A.J. Pierzynski, no active ex-Twin has more home runs (120) and RBI (395) than the 34-year-old first baseman.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Ryan said. “He’s got some kind of power. He’s a good human being, a good teammate who works hard. He’s going to be around awhile.”