They were college teammates and in each other’s weddings. Now, they’re a few cubicles apart in the Royals’ spring-training clubhouse.
When left-handed pitcher Brian Duensing signed a free-agent contract with the Royals on Feb. 18 after spending his first five seasons with the Twins, he reconnected with former Nebraska teammate Alex Gordon.
“I’ve been saying it for years, we have to get Brian here,” Gordon said.
Duensing, who has a 41-37 lifetime record with 4.13 ERA, is bidding for a spot in the bullpen where the competition is stiff.
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But he knows the Royals, having pitched against the division rival more often than another opponent, and he knows Gordon.
Often Duensing was summoned to challenge the left-handed swinging Gordon, and he has faced him more times than another hitter in his career.
Gordon owns a .294 career average (10 for 34) against Duensing, and he rallied for that after starting 4 for 19 with seven strikeouts.
“He definitely had my number early and then I got him a little bit,” Gordon said. “So it’s been about even. I’m glad I don’t have to face him anymore, hopefully.”
The competition never stood in the way of their friendship, which started in earnest when they became teammates at Nebraska and were among a group sharing a house during the 2005 season that ended in the College World Series.
That year, Duensing went 8-0 and was part of a staff that included fellow future major-leaguers Joba Chamberlain, Tony Watson and Zach Kroenke.
Gordon hit .372 with 19 home runs and won several national player of the year awards.
“Everything seemed so ridiculous,” Duensing said. “(Coach Mike) Anderson would walk up to him, ‘Hey, we need a home run here,’ ask him to hit a home run, and he hits one with like a 15 mile per hour wind blowing in.”
Gordon was a groomsman in Duensing’s wedding and Duensing was an usher in Gordon’s.
“But I was like a fill-in thing, so don’t let him fool you,” Gordon said. “I was the fifth usher, and I replaced somebody else.”
Duensing is scheduled to appear in Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the Rangers, and the battle for a roster spot will begin.
“Everybody in here is fighting for a spot on the team,” Duensing said. “I go about my own business. It’s always up to me, it doesn’t matter what other people do.”