Updated: August 14th, 2010 8:26pm
By blanking A's, Duensing removes all questions regarding future role

By blanking A's, Duensing removes all questions regarding future role

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Duensing turned in the best performance of his career on Saturday night -- a complete-game, three-hit shutout -- out-dueling 22-year-old Trevor Cahill as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Oakland A's 2-0.

Duensing (6-1, 2.00) struck out four, walked two, and threw 104 pitches, and the A's never had a baserunner pass beyond second base.

Cahill came into the game as perhaps the hottest pitcher in baseball, having not allowed an earned run since July 23 -- a streak that stretched across 27 innings until Orlando Hudson's sacrifice fly drove home Alexi Casilla in the third inning to put the Twins up 1-0.

The Twins added insurance in the bottom of the eighth when Joe Mauer ripped an RBI single to left field off former teammate Craig Breslow. Mauer tallied three hits in four at bats on the evening, raising his batting line to .328/.400/.485.

Cahill finished allowing just the one run on six hits and a walk while striking out five in seven innings. A solid outing, no doubt, but just a footnote to Duensing's dominance.

"On a night where we weren't going to use our closer, we really had three right-handers out there we weren't going to touch, he saved our tails tonight," Gardenhire said about Duensing.

With left-hander Jose Mijares going down with a torn meniscus, Ron Mahay and Glen Perkins -- who actually fares better against right-handed hitters throughout his career -- are the only remaining bullpen lefties. Combine that with the fact that Nick Blackburn has allowed only two earned runs in three starts since being demoted to Rochester, and it was logical to wonder if the Twins planned to move Duensing back to a late-inning role.

"The first couple (starts) I thought maybe we were just kind of giving Blackburn a mental break," Duensing said. "I just kind of felt like it was more to give him a break, and then if things work out, great. If not, then we can always move back to the 'pen, so that's kind of how I went about it. It kind of took some pressure off myself, thinking about it that way."

Speaking of Blackburn, despite his solid performances at Rochester, he is not scheduled to rejoin the Twins in the immediate future.

"Blackburn's home having a baby," manager Ron Gardenhire said during pregame warm-ups. "We're going to wait and let Blackburn's wife and him take care of all those things, and then after the fact we'll see. He's going to make another start in triple-A, that's the plan... Duensing's starting. He's doing fine."

Not that anyone needed assurance -- Duensing had yet to allow more than three earned runs in any start since joining the rotation on July 23 -- but his complete-game shutout shifted the questions from, "how long will Duensing remain a starter?" to "should we come up a nickname for this phenom?"

Conveniently, Duensing already has one -- Dues (pronounced, "deuce"), given to him by Gardenhire back in spring training of 2008.

"I don't think he understands where that came from," Duensing said. "He actually gave me the nickname, and he has no idea. My first big league camp, everyone would call me, "Duens," obviously short for Duensing. I was the first guy there for camp, and I was over on the minor league side. He came over to watch some guys play, and I think he thought people were calling me Dues. He walked up to me and he's like, 'Dues, how you doing?' I didn't know he was even talking to me. I told some guys that story and now it's just stuck."

It appears as if Duensing's current role will stick as well.

"To reiterate on the questions before the game," Gardenhire said, "we'll keep Dues in the rotation and not put him back in the bullpen."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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