FORT MYERS, FLA. – Kyle Gibson had the flu. But Brian Duensing was the one who probably felt sick.
Gibson was scratched Monday night after coming to the ballpark with the flu, and the game was turned over to the bullpen, with reliever Blaine Boyer getting the impromptu start just a few hours after being informed that he made the team. “I didn’t realize signing a contract today got him into the rotation,” General Manager Terry Ryan joked.
Boyer was fine, but Duensing, after a solid spring, was shellacked by the Red Sox. Duensing gave up seven consecutive hits in the fourth inning, including a home run and four doubles, and gave up six runs while retiring only three batters. The result was a 14-2 loss to Boston at jetBlue Park.
By the time the game was out of reach, Boyer was home, packing up his family for the trip north.
“It was a load off my shoulders, that’s for sure. It was one of those surreal moments,” Boyer said of his afternoon meeting with Ryan and manager Paul Molitor, who told him he has earned a spot in the Twins bullpen with his 1.46 ERA this spring. “I was just ecstatic, and very thankful to Terry Ryan.”
His day was just beginning, though. Gibson “was prepared to give it a go, [but] it doesn’t make sense to push him,” Molitor said of the righthander’s illness. “Being weak, he potentially could pull something or whatever. We’ll just back him off and get him healthy.”
The Twins decided to simply use relievers against Boston, and asked Boyer to pitch a couple of innings. One problem: His wife and two sons are leaving for Georgia on Tuesday, and he planned to pack their trailer Monday night. No problem, the Twins said; we’ll just make you the starter.
So Boyer, whose 265 major league appearances include zero starts, faced seven batters, threw 40 pitches and then went home to pack. He hit 94 miles per hour on occasion with his sinker, gave up only one hit, and lowered his spring ERA to 1.46.
“I found myself acting like a starter out there, stretching and running and throwing,” Boyer said. “But I felt good.”
Duensing, however, did not. The lefthander, who had given up a run only once in seven Grapefruit League appearances, gave up an RBI single in the third inning, then melted down in the fourth. Mike Napoli homered, and the next six Boston batters whacked hits, most for extra bases. Duensing was charged with six runs, plus a wild pitch and a balk.
He wasn’t the only veteran lefthander to have problems, either; Caleb Thielbar gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits over two innings. The 14 runs scored by the Red Sox were the most the Twins have allowed this spring.