One day Brian Duensing will make a great long reliever.
Or a Left-handed, One Out Guy (LOOGY: My favorite acronym in baseball).
Or setup man.
Anything except a starter.
This isn’t meant to be mean; it’s just the truth.
Entering Thursday’s contest against Seattle, he had ten starts, a 3-9 record with a 5.28 ERA and two of his last seven starts lasted less than three innings.
In Thursday’s game Franklin Gutierrez doubled to right and Kyle Seager singled to left in the first inning—allowing one run to score—and Duensing only got out of the inning when a double play was turned behind him.
In the second inning, Justin Smoak, a struggling prospect in the Mariners organization, led off with a walk. For some reason, that turned on a switch.
Duensing retired the next nine batters.
It almost seemed that he did his own long relief!
Things got uncorked in the sixth, when Brendan Ryan singled up the middle, Dustin Ackley walked and Gutierrez singled up the middle, bringing pitching coach Rick Anderson to the mound.
Seager would score another a run with a sac fly, tying the game at two, and Duensing would be replaced by reliever Casey Fien and clapped off by the fans as he entered the dugout.
“He battled all the way through,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, “and once he started getting the ball up there in the sixth it was a really long inning.”
“It’s one of those outings that’s decent,” said Duensing, “not quite good enough.”
Gardenhire did not want to discuss a potential change in role for his pitcher following the game.
“He did a good job today,” said the skipper.
“I don’t want to take anything away from him right now and start talking about other stuff. That’s not the right way to go about it.”
The Twins aren’t being cruel by starting Duensing, they’re just dealing with the cards they have been dealt.
There are two reasons that he’s not in the bullpen right now:
For starters, the original starting rotation is no longer.
Carl Pavano and Scott Baker got injured, Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis struggled and Francisco Liriano got traded.
Duensing is being used as an emergency replacement. The fact that he was the guy they called upon to make a spot start when Liriano was dealt is evidence of that.
Secondly, Anthony Swarzak is the incumbent long reliever.
The former starter turned long reliever appears to have the position on lock down.
It might not be a bad idea, however, to have two guys in the bullpen who can pitch long relief.
Swarzak is a righty and Duensing is a lefty, meaning that if things go haywire for a right-handed starter, the team can throw in Duensing knowing that the other team’s lineup has been set for a righty (or vice versa with Swarzak).
Furthermore, Duensing has had good stretches during poor starts, indicating that he’s able to handle four, five or six inning outings. He just can’t string them together on a regular basis.
Finally, and most pertinently, he likes to throw from the stretch, which is ideal for a guy in relief. After all, teams tend to use long relief when men are on base.
He could provide additional roles in the bullpen as well.
He’s left-handed, meaning he could be used as a specialist, and with Capps injured/being run out of town, he could become a setup man for Glen Perkins in the future.
There is a spot for Duensing on the Twins roster.
It’s just not in the starting rotation.
All quotes were obtained first-hand.
Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.