Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: February 2, 1983
Brian Duensing's dream was to play baseball professionally, and on March 7, 2003, that dream almost came to an end. Pitching against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in a game that featured freezing temperatures, Duensing tore his left elbow up. He would eventually need Tommy John Surgery, and would miss nearly two years of college baseball.
Duensing began his college career at Nebraska in fine fashion, being named to the Freshman All-American Baseball Team by Collegiate Baseball. That season, he went 6-2, and finished the year with a 4.73 ERA. More importantly, he appeared in his first of two College World Series, and was the Cornhuskers' starter in the Big 12 Championship Game.
He entered his sophomore season full of promise, and high expectations for himself. Duensing got off to blazing start, posting a 3-0 record in his first three starts. He also dominated then-number 7 Wake Forest, pitching a complete game shutout. However, his season ended on March 7, and he opted to not have surgery.
In 2004, Duensing redshirted, and received Tommy John Surgery. He would go on to miss the entire season, but he vowed to be back helping Nebraska the following year. He even wore tee-shirts that read, "I used to throw 95" on the front, and "The Few, The Proud, The DL", on the back.
He did come back the following year, and put together a season far beyond anyone's expectations. The left-handed went a perfect 8-0, and bailed out Nebraska in the Big 12 Tournament. In his two starts during the tournament, he threw 15 consecutive scoreless innings, including 7 2/3 scoreless in the Big 12 title game against Baylor.
The Twins took Duensing in the third round of the 2005 June Draft, making him the 83rd selection overall. The lefty was the first Husker pitcher taken in the draft, and followed teammate Alex Gordon, who was the second pick overall. The Twins assigned him to Elizabethton of the Appalachian League.
For Elizabethton, Duensing made 12 appearances during the 2005 season, including nine starts. He proved to be better than advertised, as he posted a 2.32 ERA, and struck out 55 batters in 50.1 innings of work. Although his record was only 4-3, he was mostly victimized by bad run support, and did not let up more than three earned runs in any appearance.
The 2006 season was one of promotions for Duensing, who was promoted just as much as any other prospect on the Twins farm. He began the season with the Beloit Snappers, and after earning All-Star Game recognition, was promoted to Fort Myers. For Beloit, Duensing posted a 2.94 earned run average in his 11 starts, and struck out 55 batters.
Duensing would go on to make only seven starts for the Fort Myers Miracle, joining one of the better pitching staffs in the Florida State League. He had a 4.24 earned run average before being promoted to New Britain, and at 23-years old, found himself on the fast track to the Minnesota Twins.
Brian was even more impressive at New Britain, appearing in ten games for the Rock Cats. The crafty lefty had an earned run average under four, and though he was plagued by the long ball.
Duensing began the 2007 season back in New Britain, where he was the best arm on the team. The left-hander posted a 2.66 earned run average in only nine starts, and won four of his five decisions. It was not long before the Twins promoted him to Rochester, where he almost pitched his way onto the Twins' roster.
For the Red Wings, Duensing won 11 games, appearing very dominant throughout his 19 starts. He picked up three complete games, threw a shutout, and had an earned run average of 3.24. However, the Twins did not make the call for the lefty, and he finished up his 2007 season in Rochester.
In 2008, Duensing came back to Rochester, though he had mixed results. Instead of 11-5, like he was in 2007, Duensing was 5-11, as he was often a victim of some terrible run support. He had a very serviceable 4.28 earned run average, acting mostly as the anchor of the Red Wings starting staff. He appeared in 25 games, making 24 starts, and was very consistent.
In 2009, Duensing has raised some eyebrows in big league camp, and has a legitimate shot to make the Twins bullpen mix out of Spring Training.
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup
Fastball. Duensing used to have a plus-fastball before the surgery, and now uses a heater between 86-90 miles per hour. The good thing about his fastball is that it has great sinking action, which allows him to induce many groundballs, and strikeouts. While he has lost velocity, it really has not changed how effective he is on the mound with his fastball.
Other Pitches. Many scouts believe that his slider and his changeup are his two best pitches. He is a crafty lefty, who uses all his pitches to get hitters out. He throws a three-fourths slider, with tight, sharp rotation. When you combine that with a plus-changeup, that he can spot anywhere he wants, it makes for a pretty dangerous pitcher.
Pitching. Duensing is a great "pitcher", and that is one reason he has excelled, even after a potential career-threatening surgery. He has great command of all his pitches, and knows what to throw, and when to throw it. He is a luxury to have on your pitching staff, because he can dominate as both a starter, and as a reliever. Most scouts agree that he has a "feel for pitching."
Projection. Duensing has been a starter throughout his minor league career, but he may make the move to the bullpen in 2009. The Twins are grooming him to be in the bullpen in 2009, and he may be there whether he is in Minnesota or Rochester. If he is used as a bullpen guy, his pitching arsenal would make him very dangerous.
ETA. 2009. Duensing is slated to make his major league debut in 2009, and it is still unclear what capacity that will be in. The young left-hander has been nothing but spectacular during his career, and it will be good to see him come all the way back from Tommy John Surgery to make it to the Major Leagues. He will likely get his first taste of Major League Baseball out of the bullpen, but do not rule out him making a start or two.