In the early March post, I pointed out that Duensing had benefited from a very lucky .275 BABIP last year, and that coming out of the bullpen would maximize his greatest asset -- pitching against lefties -- while minimizing his greatest weakness -- pitching against righties. My conclusion:
As a reliever, he would provide the Twins with an established commodity in a bullpen that lacks many. He'd be able to fully utilize his dominance against lefty swingers rather than facing starting lineups stacked with righties. And, should one of the five other starters get injured or fail to cut it, he'd be available to step into the rotation, as he's done successfully in each of the past two seasons.Sure enough, while Duensing has been solid out of the rotation, he hasn't been able to replicate his sterling results from 2009 and 2010. One part of the problem is that his batted ball luck has gone in the opposite direction; he entered yesterday's start against the Mariners with a .331 BABIP. More importantly, though, Duensing has predictably struggled with increased exposure to right-handed hitters, who were hitting .315/.386/.496 against him over his first eight starts before driving in two runs in a 3-0 Mariners victory at Target Field yesterday.
Instead, assuming everyone stays healthy, the Twins will opt to either potentially weaken the bullpen by asking Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn to pitch in relief -- something none of them have experience doing -- or weaken their starting pitching depth by trading one of those three.
Duensing has continued to excel against lefties, holding them to a .633 OPS with a 9-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he hasn't had the opportunity to face them all that often. If he were pitching out of the bullpen, he would see port-siders more frequently while also providing a proven weapon to a relief corps that is currently devoid of reliable options.
It's looking like the Twins made the wrong call here (broken record, I know). There's little question that they'd be in better shape right now with Kevin Slowey starting and Duensing serving in a high-leverage bullpen role. It's not too late to correct this problem, as Slowey could be whipped into starting shape with a couple outings in Rochester and Duensing could replace either Dusty Hughes or Phil Dumatrait in the bullpen, instantly upgrading the unit dramatically.
Instead, I suspect the Twins will stick with their awful bullpen and trade Slowey for pennies on the dollar while Duensing continues to get knocked around by righty hitters.
Like I said on Monday, the Twins seem more interested these days in compounding their mistakes than correcting them, which is why fans have every right to be completely fed up with the way this team is being run.