Suzanne "Sooze!" Solheim, one of the Babes (who) Love Baseball, has a little crush:
Personally, I fell in love with Brian Duensing last season. It wasn't exactly the same type of love I have for Man Muscles... it was more like a proud admiration.
Duensing faces some tough competition this Spring with Glen Perkins having a ton more experience over the past two seasons before hurting his shoulder, and Francisco Liriano fresh off a strong winter ball performance.
So my question to you is this: does Duensing have what it takes to somehow find his way into the rotation this season?
It's been an odd few years for Duensing.
The lefty reached Triple-A in 2007 and went 11-5 with a 3.24 ERA. The Twins didn't bring him up in September.
In 2008, again in Triple-A, he went 5-11 with a 4.28 ERA. The Twins didn't bring him up in September.
In 2009, once again in Triple-A, he went 4-6 with a 4.66 ERA ... and the Twins brought him up in July. In late August they stuck him in the rotation and he thrived, going 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA in eight starts. It's probably not a stretch to suggest that without Brian Duensing the Twins wouldn't have won the division. Remember, once you got past Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, the Twins' other starters included Francisco Liriano (5-13, 5.80), Glen Perkins (6-7, 5.89) and Anthony Swarzak (3-7, 6.25). For a while it got ugly, and Duensing's starts did much to calm those pitching seas.
It's not surprising that he occupies a special place in Suzanne Solheim's heart. If I loved the Twins he would be somewhere in mine, too.
The problem is that Duensing doesn't have the underlying skills that might suggest a long and happy career as an American League starter. He just turned 27 this week, and his Triple-A performance (as we've seen) hasn't been thrilling. If he ever strikes out twice as many hitters as he walks, it'll be an upset.
It's possible that Duensing discovered last year how to keep from giving up deep fly balls -- he allowed only nine homers in 159 professional innings -- but good luck seems a bit more likely.
Really, it's simple: If Duensing's a ground-ball pitcher, he's got a chance to stick as a No. 5 starter. If not, he goes to the back of the line and has to spend the next few years fighting for scraps. That said, at the moment the Twins don't have a lot of great candidates for that slot; Swarzak is raw, Perkins problematic. If I have to bet, I'm betting on Duensing.
Just not for long. If you love him, be sure and enjoy him while you still can.