On any given night, only ten players (including the pitcher) take the field to start the game. It leaves a handful of starting pitchers, relievers, and position players on the bench. Those select starters may help decide the outcome of one game, but over a full season it takes a collective effort from all 25 players.
Injuries call for players to step up, as do slumps. When an everyday player goes out, someone needs to be there to keep things moving smoothly. The same goes for starting pitchers and relievers after long streaks of work.
As the Twins got ready to take the field against the Chicago White Sox and go for the sweep of a three-game series, the realization of baseball being a team effort was clear. Starter Francisco Liriano was set to take the mound, but last minute inflammation in his throwing arm knocked him out.
With hours to go until the first pitch, the Twins were faced with a decision. In the end they called upon rookie Brian Duensing to make his first major league start in a key divisional game. The lefty went five innings, allowing just two solo homeruns, and leaving with only 64 pitches and his team tied for the lead.
Duensing stepped up for his team, and went from being a long reliever to a spot starter in moments notice. The Twins also received strong efforts from Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez although they’ve at times struggled this season.
The middle part of the lineup (Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel) in the three-game set with Chicago went a combined 3-27 to give them a .111 batting average for the series. What might normally hurt the team did not as the Twins received strong performances from players who stepped up, much like Duensing did in his major league starting debut.
It may be the everyday players and the All-Star that set the tone, but without backups and players who can step up in a moments notice, contending is only an afterthought.