Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Duensing ramping up his velocity in the 'pen

For the second season in a row, the Twins have taken a player who had previously served as a starter and given him a prominent role in the bullpen. Last year the Twins were very pleased with the performance of Glen Perkins as he developed into their most reliable arm in the bullpen. In a lot of tough situations, Ron Gardenhire turned to Perkins to get the team out of a jam. But in the middle of a miserable season, it was hard to see the true value of those performances.

Flash forward to 2012 and the Twins have shifted Brian Duensing into a role as one of their most important relief arms out of the bullpen. Through the first 18 games of the season for the Twins, Duensing has appeared in half of them. There has only been one game in which he gave up any earned runs and he has been primarily used in the eighth inning. Out of the team's five wins, Duensing has appeared in four of those games so the team is using him when they need him the most.

Last season, Twins fans were astonished with the ability of Perkins to ramp up his velocity with his new spot in the bullpen. During the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Perkins was primarily used as a starter for the Twins. His fastball velocity sat around 90.5 mph in 2008 and in the next year it dropped to 89.7 mph. These are not numbers that jump off of the page at you. But if a pitcher is able to control this pitch and have some movement on it, he can still be successful. Take a look at the change in his velocity as he started to find his spot in the bullpen.
Much like Perkins before him, Duensing has spent a little bit of time as an arm out of the bullpen before. This means he has experience with the current role he is filling. But in many of the previous seasons when Duensing has started the year in the bullpen, he has found his way into the starting rotation by the end of the year. The least amount of games that Duensing has started in a year was nine games in 2009. He hasn't stayed in the bullpen for an entire year to show what he can do as a full-time relief option.
Duensing hopes to find himself in the same territory as Perkins by the end of the year. The Twins were so impressed with the way Perkins looked in the bullpen that the club signed him to a contract extension during spring training. He will now be with the team through the end of the 2015 season and the organization has a option for the 2016 year. If Duensing is able to find similar success to Perkins in 2012, the team might consider giving Duensing a long-term deal. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time in 2013 so there is still time for the Twins to figure out what they have in Duensing.

In an ideal world the Twins might have wanted Duensing to spend the entire year in the bullpen so he could be more accustom to this job. With all of the issues so far in the starting rotation, it makes it hard to imagine a situation where the Twins wouldn't have to turn to Duensing as a starter at some point in 2012. Scott Baker is out for the year, Francisco Liriano has been a disaster, and Nick Blackburn has been trying to come back from an injury. The Twins have already put Liam Hendriks into the rotation and Anthony Swarzak continues to be an option for making spot starts. In the minor leagues, Scott Diamond is off to a tremendous start but it is hard to imagine him being a long-term solution.

It is nice to see Duensing showing the ability to transition back to the bullpen after spending most of last year in the starting rotation. There might be a chance that he moves back to the starting rotation at some point in 2012. But at this point, it looks like the team will give Duensing every opportunity to be a dominant relief option. If Perkins is in line to be the closer in the near future for the Twins, Duensing could be a dominant set-up man leading to the ninth inning.

1 comment:

AcousticJulia said...

Not only are they ramping up speed, but their ability to perform makes them fan favorites. On the other hand, we have a particular closer that is struggling to win over fans with the drama he carries us into the 9th inning, even with his proven win record.