21 September 2009
What's gotten into this guy?
Brian Duensing, a member of the Rochester Red Wings starting rotation for the past three years, was promoted to the Bigs out of necessity in early June. He had a 4.66 ERA that year with the Triple-A squad after originally making the team out of Spring Training. Duensing was recalled on July 3 at the expense of Sean Henn.
Duensing worked out of the bullpen for his first fourteen appearances. While some argue that long-relief is the best place for a rookie pitcher, most Twins fans were convinced that Duensing could not reach his full potential until he pitched as a starter. After all, he had been the starting pitcher in all but five appearances in his minor league career. Maybe returning to his comfort zone would help deflate the 4.95 ERA he boasted.
Read more after the jump...
While held on a strict pitch count, Duensing made a spot-start on July 29 against the White Sox when Francisco Liriano was nursing an injury. He managed to go five innings while giving up just two runs on three hits. Duensing had thrown just 62 pitches, but was pulled in favor of Jesse Crain, who was awarded the win.
That start was nothing but good medicine for the Twins, who were on a four-game winning streak. Glen Perkins was complaining about some arm ailment, and Liriano wasn't in the best shape either. Should either one of those guys go down, the Twins wouldn't have too many replacement options to draw from. Duensing's start gave him the status of "next in line."
As we all now know, both Liriano and Perkins (as well as Kevin Slowey) landed on the disabled list. The Twins traded for Carl Pavano, and he has provided a few spectacular outings, but the other two rotation holes were filled from within. Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship have handled one spot, while Brian Duensing has taken care of the other.
Since becoming a starter on August 22, Duensing is 4-2 with a 1.45 ERA in six starts. He has held opponents to a batting average of just .237 and opponents are hitting an OPS off him that is nearly 300 points lower than the league average. Duensing has single-handedly added 1.26 wins to this Twins team since setting up shop in the starting rotation.
What's the deal? If all Duensing really needed was a move back to the starting rotation, why wasn't he succeeding in Rochester?
Seth Stohs offers the suggestion that pitching coaches in the minor leagues are more focused on development than recording outs. When he was promoted, every aspect of his game -- from his workout routine to delivery mechanics -- was intended to retire batters. Duensing's ERA still isn't below 3.00 thanks to his lengthy stint in the bullpen, but he is nearly 10 pitching runs above average (pRAA).
Whatever is causing Duensing to pitch beautifully is expected to continue by the Twins management, as they have twisted around their rotation so that Duensing will get the opportunity to pitch against the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park next week.
For a 26-year old rookie, Duensing has handled himself with the poise and left arm of a veteran.
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