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Cubs DFA Brian Duensing, creating bullpen opening in final days of camp

Brian Duensing last season | John Minchillo/Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs on Sunday designated struggling left-hander Brian Duensing for assignment, clearing a 40-man roster spot to add lefty Tim Collins.

Collins, who pitched for Royals and Nationals in parts of five big-league seasons, was signed to a one-year big-league deal and optioned to Class AAA Iowa.

Duensing, a clubhouse favorite, enjoyed a career year for the Cubs in 2017 before signing a two-year deal to return and slumping during a 2018 season that was also hampered by injuries.

Assuming Duensing and his $3.5 million salary aren’t claimed off waivers by another team, he’s expected to return to the organization and start the season in the minors.

“This guy’s been a big part of our culture and our success the last couple years,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a big part of the maintenance of our bullpen. And even in the clubhouse, he’s just a really good guy to be around; guys gather towards him. And that’s missed right now.

“But if this whole thing works out you may see him back here again with us as he continue to work through some stuff.”

The move leaves the Cubs with only one left-hander (Mike Montgomery) locked into the projected Opening Day bullpen.

The Cubs have six right-handers along with Montgomery in the eight-man pen, with three remaining pitchers in camp vying for a spot: right-hander Allen Webster, who’s having a good spring, and lefties Randy Rosario and Kyle Ryan.

“It’d be nice to have more than one,” said Maddon, who suggested the Cubs might yet add another arm from outside the organization as they scour waiver wires and explore potential low-level trades or free agents for both pitching can backup catching.

Collins, 29, was with the Twins this spring before being released. The 5-foot-7 reliever missed four seasons recovering from multiple elbow surgeries before resurfacing with the Nationals last year.

He has a 3.62 career ERA with 9.3 strikeouts – and 5.1 walks – per nine innings.

Collins was scheduled to pitch in the Cubs’ Cactus League game against the Padres today.

“I guess everything is working well right now,” Maddon said. “We’re eager to see what it looks like today.”