NEW YORK -- Joba Chamberlain generally roots for his former University of Nebraska teammate Brian Duensing. Not Saturday, though, explained the New York Yankees reliever while referring to his fellow Cornhusker as a "dork" in the nicest sense possible.
The 27-year-old Duensing takes the mound at Yankee Stadium in an American League Division Series for a second straight year, this time with the Minnesota Twins trailing two games to none and facing elimination Saturday.
Last October, Duensing took the loss opposite CC Sabathia in Game 1 in the Bronx, a day after the Twins won a play-in game against the Detroit Tigers to determine the AL Central champion. Duensing allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings, including a two-run homer to Derek Jeter, in the Yankees' 7-2 victory.
"He's awesome, real laid back, kind of a dork," said Chamberlain, who teamed with Duensing in 2005 at Nebraska when the program reached the College World Series. "He's just a great dude, one of the people I've stayed in touch with and had the opportunity to watch come up and have success.
"He pitched against us here last year and nobody knew who he was. He didn't pitch that bad. He got the loss, which I'm happy for, but he's a great kid. He's been successful. I'm happy for him today, but tomorrow I want him to give up about 40."
As for the dork comment, Chamberlain explained: "BD is just BD. That's his personality. I mean, he's a great dude. But he does some dorky stuff every once in a while."
Both pitchers still live in Nebraska during the offseason, and see each other at Cornhuskers football games.
"I've been a little late to being back home the past couple of years and he's been home a little bit earlier," Chamberlain said, taking a playful dig at Minnesota's 2009 postseason exit at the hands of a Yankees sweep. "I haven't been catching many football games. But we catch as many games as we can together because they [Duensing and wife Lisa] come down [to Lincoln, Neb.] and say hello. Our relationship over the last few years has been great, just texting back and forth and calling and making sure he's doing all right and if he needs anything."
Duensing recalled last pitching in an elimination game as a starting pitcher in the College World Series. The left-hander went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 53 appearances (13 starts) during the regular season this year. He entered the rotation July 23 in place of a struggling Nick Blackburn, who had a 6.53 ERA at the time.
"The way we've been playing throughout the season is what got us here," he said. "So I feel like we played in some big pressure situations already -- Chicago in Chicago late in the year."
The Twins have lost 11 straight postseason games, eight of those to the Yankees, but Duensing and teammates mostly shrugged that off.
"It's not like we're going out there and giving up or laying down," Duensing said. "We're playing all nine innings as hard as we can. Sometimes it takes some luck to get wins, and hopefully we can kind of switch that around."
Said teammate Brian Fuentes: "There's never that sense of panic. Obviously losing stings, but you don't see anyone really hanging their heads. It's not like guys are moping around, thinking, 'We're down 2-0 and we're dead in the water.' The bad news is we're down 2-0. But the good news is we're only down 2-0.
"I think of last year with Anaheim," Fuentes continued. "It was my first year with them last year. But I guess Boston had given them problems every year in playoffs. When asked about it I said, 'You know, I wasn't with Anaheim for the last five years when they got booted by them,' or whatever it was. I was like, 'It makes no difference to me.' We went out and ended up sweeping them and moving on. People kind of made a big deal like, 'They finally did it. They finally beat the Achilles heel of that team.' People want to talk about a 10-game losing streak and this and that. I wasn't here for that. Half these guys weren't here for the 10 games."