BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - A few days ago, Minnesota Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson told Brian Duensing he should be in the starting rotation.
``A lot can happen in spring training, so I took it with a grain of salt,' said Duensing, a swingman the past two seasons.
But on Wednesday, manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Duensing will open the season as a starter. The left-hander responded by tossing two scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Duensing gave up two hits and one walk, striking out two.
At the start of camp, Duensing was not considered a lock for a rotation spot. Over the past two seasons, he has performed equally well as a starter (2.93 ERA in 22 games) and as a reliever (3.18 ERA in 55 games).
``He's done a great job of filling in for us the last two years,' Gardenhire said. ``He's proven he's a big league pitcher. He's gained a lot of confidence and I think he believes in himself now. He's just a pretty doggone good pitcher.'
The Twins still have some holes to fill in their bullpen, but Gardenhire said Duensing has more value as a starter.
``You've got to get through the first seven or eight innings first,' Gardenhire said. ``I think he's a guy who can do that for us on a consistent basis.'
The 28-year-old Duensing was Minnesota's third-round draft pick in 2005. Last year he appeared in 53 games, including 13 starts, and went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA.
``It's going to be the same approach this spring,' Duensing said. ``Get the arm moving, get the body feeling comfortable again. The only thing that's going to be different is I'm going to know exactly when I'll throw and how many innings, as opposed to being a just-in-case guy this spring.'
Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf worked 1 2-3 innings, allowing one run and two hits. The right-hander walked one and struck out four.
``My arm felt really good and that's the most important thing right now,' Ohlendorf said. ``This is the best I've felt in spring training in a few years.'
Ohlendorf ended last season on the disabled list with soreness behind his right shoulder blade. This offseason, he began working out earlier than usual.
``I was also more diligent in my throwing program,' he said. ``I followed it more closely and took counting the number of pitches I threw more seriously than in the past.'
NOTES: Twins first baseman Justin Morneau has not yet been cleared to play due to lingering effects of a concussion, but said he expects to be ready by opening day. Morneau, who's been out since July 7, was examined Tuesday by a specialist in Pittsburgh. ... An MRI exam on Pirates reliever Joe Beimel's sore left forearm showed no structural damage. He'll test the arm Thursday with some short toss. ... Twins outfielder Delmon Young (turf toe) is scheduled to play Saturday. ... Gardenhire plans to flip infielders Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla on Thursday against Baltimore. Nishioka will be at shortstop and Casilla will play second base.
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