Thursday, March 15, 2012

Duensing the LOOGY

Brian Duensing
figures to have a
key role in the Twins
bullpen. What that
role is depends on
if he can retire
right-handed hitters.
Ron Gardenhire may be, as Phil Mackey tweeted Tuesday, unfamiliar with the acronym LOOGY, but anybody who's watched the Twins manager shuttle the likes of Dennys Reyes and Jose Mijares in and out of games knows Gardy believes in using Left-handed One-Out GuYs.

But Reyes is out of baseball now, and Mijares is in Kansas City. There's been more focus this spring on identifying the right-handed components for this bullpen construction project, and for a very good reason: Brian Duensing.

Duensing was a starter in 2011, and ended both 2009 and 2010 in the rotation, but is ticketed for the bullpen after a dismal 2011 in which he simply could not get right-handed hitters out.  Righties hit .330/.376/.536 off Duensing; lefties, just .217/.242.280.

Duensing entered camp talking about a correction in his delivery that would help him get right-handers out, and that would be welcome; even a LOOGY has to face some righties. But even if nothing else changes, Duensing's certainly capable of being the guy Gardy wheels out to confront the likes of Prince Fielder, Eric Hosmer or Shin Soo-Choo with two on in the seventh.

Whether one wants to let him face Miguel Cabrera, Billy Butler or Carlos Santana in a winnable game is uncertain.

Dan Gladden has talked during the spring training broadcasts about Duesning pitching multiple innings, but I don't see it. Yes, Duensing has been a starter, and so what? There will be other guys in the pen for long-relief roles -- Anthony Swarzak, most likely, possibly Matt Maloney or Terry Doyle.

The Twins have to be looking at Duensing for a late-inning role. LOOGY seems most likely; while the Twins certainly need at least one alternative to Glen Perkins to set up Matt Capps, they would probably prefer a right-hander, especially with Duensing's struggles to get righties out last year.

Maybe Duensing's right about being able to fix what failed last year. Maybe he is capable of being the second set-up man and take on entire innings in close games. But he's going to have to earn that role, just as Perkins did last season -- by getting outs.

And even if Duensing proves himself overqualified for a specialist role, the Twins will still need that right-handed arm to deal with right-handed power bats.


  1. I guess I don't see Duensing being used as a LOOGY at all, if he is, it will be a tremendous waste of a valuable reliever. Why would you waste a young pitcher with several good pitches by having him come in to face 1 or two batters? If Gardy does that, he should be looking for a new job.

  2. If Maloney remains effective this spring and makes the team, I sort of expect him and Duensing being used in tandem, sometimes for an inning or two, occasionally to come in and get one out. If a starter gets in trouble early, either or both of these guys could be used for a single or multiple innings. If they aren't needed early, they may get into a game for a single out or two later in the game.

    Having 2 guys like this might mean you nearly always have a lefthander available for almost any circumstance.

  3. If he doesn't end up in the rotation again due to injury of one of the starters, I think Duensing is likely to be occasionally used as a LOOGY, but more often as a 6th and/or 7th inning guy. Last year he was bad against right handed hitters, but he was not that bad in the two previous years. I think not having to worry about pitching to contact so he could go 6-7 innings, he will be more focused on getting each batter out the best way he can.