Brian Duensing tossed two scoreless innings against the Pirates this afternoon, but the bigger news came just before he took the mound when Ron Gardenhire replied “absolutely” when asked if Duensing would be in the Opening Day rotation.
After re-signing Carl Pavano the Twins have six starters for five rotation spots and Duensing has the most relief experience of the bunch, so there was some thought that he’d be the odd man out as the Twins try to strengthen their rebuilt bullpen.
Duensing has made 55 of his 77 career appearances as a reliever, posting a 3.18 ERA in 76 innings, but he’s also 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 22 starts and Gardenhire is apparently committed to giving him an opportunity to stick in the rotation.
Assuming the Twins don’t trade Francisco Liriano, that means there are three “locks” for the rotation and Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn are competing for the final two spots. Baker bouncing to the bullpen seems unlikely considering he was the team’s Opening Day starter last season and has made 138 career starts with a 4.32 ERA, but his offseason elbow surgery to remove bone chips could complicate things.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.