Saturday, October 3, 2009

When to pitch Duensing

The tragic number remains 2. The White Sox did their part for the Twins — Jake Peavy was brilliant, and Edwin Jackson continues to slide — and the Twins managed to survive some sloppy defense and middle relief work.


Over at, Rob Neyer is first-guessing Jim Leyland's plan to start Alfredo Figaro today against the White Sox.

Neyer is quite willing to concede that starting 20-year-old Rick Porcello on short rest is not a wise option. His suggestion: Start Justin Verlander on short rest and follow, if needed, with Porcello on Sunday.

I suspect that the Tigers ruled that out on the basis that they want Porcello to have at least a full week off after his 111-pitch outing Tuesday against the Twins.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the Twins options with their starting pitchers.

Nick Blackburn starts today on three days rest. Brian Duensing is penciled in for Sunday.

There are three possible situations for Sunday.

A) The Tigers have clinched.
B) The Tigers remain one game ahead.
C) The Twins and Tigers are tied.

If it's scenario A, Sunday's starter will be of interest only for statistical purposes.

Under B or C, however, the Twins might be inclined to use Carl Pavano on short rest — definitely so if Duensing is used in relief today, which is a possibility considering how hard Ron Gardenhire used the bullpen the past few days. (Pavano pitched less than five innings on Wednesday, Scott Baker went just five on Thursday, and Jeff Manship was pulled Friday with one out in the sixth, so the bullpen has had to get 36 outs the last three days.)

Here's a question: Who would you rather pitch in a one-game playoff Tuesday: Pavano or Baker? Baker's the better pitcher, but ... Baker has four starts this year against Detroit; he's 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA, 20 innings; over three years, 2-3 (10 starts), 4.17 in 62 2/3 innings. Pavano is 4-1, 3.00 this year against the Tigers.

So, two choices: Duensing on regular rest on Sunday, with Pavano or Baker available to start a Tuesday play-in game, or Pavano on short rest on Sunday and Baker — who doesn't match up as well against the Tigers — for the play-in game.

Because, face it — if Gardenhire is unwilling to start Duensing against the Royals in a crucial game, he's not going to call on the rookie for the play-in start either.

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