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With all of injuries, turmoil and ineptitude in the Twins starting rotation this year, it’s strange that Brian Duensing hasn’t been given a chance. The lefthander is 21-16 with a 4.15 ERA in 50 career starts, including a 7-2, 3.05 run in the second half a of 2010. While he’s had his ups and downs in the role, Duensing is a far more accomplished starter than P.J. Walters, Liam Hendricks and Anthony Swarzak, who have all been given a shot in the rotation this season.
The company line on Duensing is likely that he’s too valuable in his current role as lefty relief specialist, but it’s hard not to question that. The bullpen has been the strength of the Twins pitching staff in 2012, while the starters have been a mess. Adding a player like Duensing to the rotation could not only keep the Twins in more games early, but put less stress on the bullpen later.
I caught up with the 29-year-old veteran outside his locker before Friday’s game and had a quick chat about his role and more as Nirvana’s Unplugged played over the clubhouse sound system.
DZ: Could you just talk in general about how the season is going for you?
DUENSING: It’s going alright, I’ve been having some success in the bullpen and kind of getting acquainted to the role of being in the bullpen. I’ve had a couple of shaky outings here and there, but for the most part I’ve been pretty consistent. It’s been going pretty good.
DZ: You’ve had some success as a starter in the past, are you completely adjusted to the bullpen now?
DUENSING: Yeah, I think so. It doesn’t take me as long to warm up, I am kind of learning when I should be ready to go to come into a game and stuff like that. So yeah, I think I have fully taken on the relief role.
DZ: Would you like to start again if the opportunity came up?
DUENSING: Sure, yeah, I enjoy starting. I like knowing when I am going to pitch. I like being able to have the four days to prepare for a start. Someday I would like to start again, but right now I am enjoying the bullpen.
DZ: Right now there are some openings in the rotation with guys getting hurt or going down (to the minor leagues), is that something that can go in and talk to a coach or manager about that or do you wait for them to come to you?
DUENSING: I think where I am at in my career, it’s something where I wait. I am not going to go in and say anything to them or anything like that. That’s their call, that’s their move, I am not in a position to say anything.
DZ: You have a pretty good friend in this division that you play quite a bit, (Royals outfielder) Alex Gordon - I know you went to college with him. What’s it like when you face him?
DUENSING: It’s fun, especially since I kinda own him - knock on wood (Matt Capps literally knocks on the wood of his nearby locker stall). Thank you (to Capps). He’s a good guy - we were in each other’s weddings and he’s been having a lot of success over there in Kansas City and I am happy for him, but every time I see him come to the plate, there’s a little bit of extra incentive to get him out. He’s a good friend and a heck of an athlete, so it’s always fun.
DZ: Is there any trash talk or texting between you two?
DUENSING: No, I don’t like to do that. I don’t like to jinx it or anything like that. Anytime I get him out, I feel very fortunate.
DZ: So if you see him after the game, you don’t mention the at-bat or anything?
DUENSING: Maybe after the series is over, that’s the only time. Otherwise, we don’t really talk smack to each other.
DZ: Being a reliever, you guys have a lot of downtime in the bullpen - obviously you want to watch the game - what do you do to pass the time?
DUENSING: Usually we just talk amongst each other, see how things are going or about movies, music or whatever. We people watch a little bit in the stands. There’s not much we can do out there because we are always on TV, so we can’t get away with too much.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players: