LIVE › 5-9 a.m. Mike and Mike
NEXT › 6 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter
6:30 a.m. Headlines - from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS
6:40 a.m. Twin Cities Sports Update - with Dave Harrigan and Kenny Olson
6:55 a.m. Twin Cities Sports Update - with Dave Harrigan and Kenny Olson
7 a.m. ESPN SportsCenter
7:10 a.m. Twin Cities Sports Update - with Dave Harrigan and Kenny Olson
Updated: March 21st, 2012 4:25pm
Notebook: Duensing attempting to remedy struggles against righties

Notebook: Duensing attempting to remedy struggles against righties

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
Email | Twitter
SportsWire Daily

Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports

Signup!

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's really no way around it.

Minnesota Twins left-hander Brian Duensing was Randy Johnson against left-handed hitters in 2011. But he was Benj Sampson against righties.

Right-handed hitters batted .330/.387/.560 with 64 extra-base hits against Duensing last year in 524 plate appearances -- the same .947 OPS posted by Reds' slugger Joey Votto in 2011.

He held left-handed hitters to a .217/.242/.280 line with only seven extra-base hits in 187 trips.

"I feel like lefties have a little bit of a problem, because I kind of throw across their bodies a little bit, which is good," said Duensing, who has pitched five scoreless Grapefruit League innings with three strikeouts and two walks so far. "It's harder for them to pick up the ball, it's a different angle than they're used to seeing. Sometimes I think depending on when a left-hander stands in the box, I think the ball could be coming from behind them. ...

"But that also can work negatively against right-handed hitters, because with me throwing across my body they're seeing the ball a lot longer. And for me to get to the inside part of the plate on a righty, I have to come clear across my body and it has to travel a lot longer. And if you're up in the zone at all when you're trying to go inside to righties, it looks like a softball. That happened a lot last year."

It got to the point last season where Duensing was at the mercy of most right-handed batters he faced, with "no margin for error," as he described it, "especially when you're behind in the count, which I was a lot last year. ...

"I think the scouting report was out that I'd go fastball away, fastball away, then try and bust you in once or twice, and that was it. Problem was, I wasn't getting in on guys. And if I did get in, really far in, I wasn't getting the call either -- I was missing. So they could just eliminate that part of the plate."

Clearly, Duensing is fully aware of the issue. And this spring, after a conversation with bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, Duensing's goal is to keep his hand more on top of the ball, to create more 12-to-6 movement.

This, in theory, will create a more difficult plane for right-handed hitters to track.

"The ball was sailing on me," he said. "I was missing up in the zone a lot. And when I'd try to fix it, I'd try to fly open more and it makes it worse. ...

"So if I can get my hand on top of the ball, if I miss I'm going to miss down, or I'm going to miss in, which is OK. Missing in is alright. ... I can throw a fastball in to a guy that knows it's coming, but if it's a good spot down at the knees, chances are pretty good that I'm going to get him out. But that never happened. Every time I tried to go in, if I missed over the plate, it was up in the zone."

At this point, Duensing is slated to be one of the Twins' most important late-inning relief pitchers -- a role he believes could help his cause against right-handed hitters, "because I don't have to worry about future at-bats with them. This is your only chance, and I'm going to throw everything I have at you. Good luck, here it is. If you hit it, great."

Today's result

Twins 7, Tigers 3 in Lakeland

Twins' spring record: 12-8

• Former Twin Delmon Young blasted his fifth home run of the spring in the fourth inning off Liam Hendriks. Aside from that blast, Hendriks faired pretty well on Wednesday, allowing two earned runs on four hits in four innings. He struck out two and walked nobody.

• After not allowing a run in two innings Wednesday, left-hander Matt Maloney is up to 9 1/3 scoreless frames this spring. He struck out three, upping his K total to 13.

Joe Benson (2-for-4, HR, walk) and Chris Parmelee (2-for-5, 3B) both strengthened their cases to crack the 25-man roster. Luke Hughes (2-for-3, three-run HR, walk) did too.

Justin Morneau went 2-for-6 with a double in a Single-A game. In that same game, Nick Blackburn threw four innings, allowing one earned run on four hits. He struck out three and walked one.

Health report

• OF Trevor Plouffe remains day-to-day with a strained hamstring. He did not travel with the team to Lakeland on Tuesday.

• RHP Scott Baker (right elbow) is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game on Thursday.

Numbers game

1.80: Duensing's ERA in 45 innings as a relief pitcher in 2010.

On deck

Thursday: vs. Orioles, 12:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen

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.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
4332