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Updated: June 12th, 2010 5:52pm
Burnett, Duensing have been pleasant surprises in bullpen

Burnett, Duensing have been pleasant surprises in bullpen

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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While I once again wrap work at Winter Park, a team of 1500ESPN.com correspondents has Target Field covered. Here's the latest:

MINNEAPOLIS -- Clay Condrey stopped by to see pitching coach Rick Anderson before he left the Twins' clubhouse late Saturday afternoon. Condrey, 34, is headed to Fort Myers, where he will throw with the players assembled before the start of the rookie leagues later this month.

The right-handed Condrey was signed by the Twins in January for the modest sum of $900,000. He was knocked a few times in exhibitions and was shut down with a sore right shoulder. He was able to throw at the end of spring training and the Twins left Florida with Condrey on the 25-player roster.

Then, Condrey said the shoulder remained sore and Alex Burnett, 22, a rookie who had received only a brief look in spring training, was flown from Fort Myers to Anaheim for the start of the season.

"That kid has been as nice of a surprise as we've had this season,'' pitching coach Rick Anderson said Saturday. "We don't know that much about him on the big-league staff. I asked some of the guys that had him and they said: 'He has good stuff and he has guts. He'll come in and throw it over.''

The second pitcher on Anderson's surprise list is Brian Duensing, 27, a left-hander who hung tough through a series of late-season starts a year ago.

"We were looking at Duensing as a guy we could stretch out and use as a longer guy in the pen,'' Anderson said. "Then, Jose [Mijares] had problems, and we were forced to use Duensing as a late lefty. And he's done so dang well, you really don't want to use him in long relief and lose him for two, three days.''

Burnett and Duensing are solid members of the Twins' seven-pitcher bullpen with 100 games left on the schedule. So are closer Jon Rauch, set-up guy Matt Guerrier and, in all probability, Mijares.
Jesse Crain pitched himself back to Class-AAA Rochester for a time last season. He's wavered between effective and puzzling.

"We talked to him in Toronto about spinning the ball early -- about pitching backwards,'' Anderson said. "He did that for a few games and it went well. Then, the last couple, he went back to mostly fastballs and had some problems.

"As Stelly says, 'Control the situation; don't let the situation control you.' With Jesse, sometimes it's the other way around.''

Stelly is Rick Stelmaszek, the Twins' bullpen coach. He's watched Crain pump the live fastball and spin the curve and slider in the bullpen and sent him to the mound expecting good things. For the past few years, it has been a coin flip as to whether Stelly's expectations would be met.

The other reliever is Ron Mahay, soon to be 39. The veteran is definitely the third lefty in the bullpen.

Which means, if Crain lets the situation control him a few times in a row, or if the Twins feel as if they have a better option than Mahay, then those are the two relievers that could be vulnerable.

What's interesting is the Twins have a handful of pitchers that would be under consideration:

* Condrey has started to get serious with his rehab. Around the All-Star break, the Twins are probably going to find a place for Condrey or write him off as a bad investment.

* Pat Neshek is back from his finger injury and has made two appearances at Rochester. If he can get his velocity close to 88-89 miles per hour, the Twins do like having Neshek around to get out righties with his funk.

* Kyle Waldrop, 24, was the long-shot reliever that most-intrigued Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire in spring training. He's been effective in a set-up role at Rochester.

* Anthony Slama, 26, has 16 saves for Rochester - including two tough ones against Cleveland's farm club at Columbus on Thursday and Friday. He's not a hard thrower, but Slama has an outstanding slider and a deceptive delivery (although not as deceptive as Neshek).

* Glen Perkins, 27, ran into a shoulder issue last season and it carried over. He was terrible early at Rochester, but his starts have been getting better and Anderson remains interested.

"I've always thought the best spot for Perk might be in relief,'' the pitching coach. "A lefthander with a live arm coming out of the pen ... those guys aren't that easy to find.''

That handful of possibilities for the Twins' bullpen was kicked around for a few more minutes and Anderson said:

"When we had to go get a pitcher last year, we didn't know what to do. There are some guys with big-league experience and a kid like Waldrop ... you'd like to see what he can do up here.

"We have Jeff Manship at Rochester, too. He's handled himself when he's pitched here. He might be the guy if you needed a starter, or wanted a long reliever. We got some depth this year -- and that's a good thing.''

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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