The Minnesota Twins haven’t had a lot of holes to be filled this year.
I mean heck, the bullpen is second in the majors in ERA, the offense is first in the majors in batting average, and their rotation has been anchored by two pitchers that consistently give them a chance to win in Carl Pavano (17 quality starts) and Francisco Liriano (16 quality starts).
The major question the Twins have had to try and answer over the course of the season has been who is going to put their best foot forward and take the third spot in the rotation.
While having five starters worthy of major league starts would be nice, it is not a luxury the Minnesota Twins have had this year.
That has made the third spot extremely vital for this team, considering the consensus is that having three starters for the playoffs is a must. Not all the starters the Twins have need to step up, it would only take one.
A good place to start would be Nick Blackburn.
He made a start against the Yankees last year in the playoffs and had quite honestly been the Twins most consistent pitcher over the previous two seasons entering this year, posting an ERA around four and making 33 starts each campaign.
Unfortunately, the unforeseen 6.66 (maybe a sign?) ERA this year and a trip to AAA Rochester slid his name down the list a little.
The next man on the list is a guy the Twins have held in the highest regard since they drafted him in the second round in 2003, Scott Baker.
Baker’s 2008 (11-4, 3.45 ERA) and consistent 1.2 WHIP inspired some to think he was a top of the rotation guy.
Those thoughts have evaporated with Baker’s 4.85 ERA and ten quality starts in 24 attempts this year. Having him as a number three entering the playoffs is essentially giving a game away.
Kevin Slowey, a man who does nothing but win baseball games (21-8 last 40 games), has put up some worrisome numbers in the midst of his winning ways.
His .309 BAA in 2009 makes his 10-2 record seem lucky, and his 4.86 ERA that year would back that up.
Until his last five starts (3-0, 2.11 ERA), Slowey wasn’t doing much to dispel his right place-right time image. Still, if he continues to pitch like he has lately, he will be in the conversation for a rotation spot come October.
That covers the rotation the Twins were trotting onto the field on a game-by-game basis at the beginning of the year, but when it was clear that the promise-filled starters were crumbling in the back half, Ron Gardenhire was forced to look for other options.
When it came to “other options”, the choice had to be clear for Minnesota, as their number one starter entering the playoffs last year was busy shutting down teams from the bullpen.
Brian Duensing went 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA last year after becoming a starter, pitched in game one of the Twins series against the New York Yankees, and was left out of the rotation heading into this year.
That sounds ludicrous, but the Twins envisioned the rotation they had heading into this year for a long time, and felt that it gave them the best opportunity to win.
Still, Brian Duensing is one great insurance policy to have when things began to crash and burn.
Since stepping into the rotation at roughly the same time as last year, not surprisingly Duensing has posted phenomenal numbers.
In five starts going into Friday’s start against Anaheim, Duensing was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, and has the best ERA on the team among starters in August.
Nothing changed in Duensing’s start Friday, as he went eight innings and allowed one earned run, lowering his ERA to 2.19 and getting his fourth win.
Although Duensing does not have overpowering stuff, it’s not hard to spot why he is so dominating.
“He’s not going to blow you away,” said FSN analyst Ron Coomer. “But he never misses up. He’s a lefty with a lot of tail on his ball and so if he’s missing, it’s down and away to a righty, and it’s hard to do anything with that pitch.”
Duensing has shown no sign of slowing down over his two half seasons as a starter, and his consistency has to warrant the third spot in the rotation at this point over the inconsistent, disaster-potential of Kevin Slowey.
Brian Duensing may not be flashy or a big name, but he is a consistent workhorse that has been as good as any starter on the Twins staff when given the opportunity.
When the time comes around for a game three of a playoff series in 2010, Brian Duensing has earned, and will continue to earn another shot at toeing the rubber in the biggest game of the Twins season.
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