Duensing helping to raise cancer awareness

Cubs reliever wearing T-shirts donated by families, organizations in September

Duensing helping to raise cancer awareness

CHICAGO -- Brian Duensing is wearing gold-colored laces in his game shoes on purpose. The Cubs' reliever is doing his part to raise awareness this month for pediatric cancer, and he will wear a different T-shirt donated by families and organizations each day in September.

Duensing started the effort a few years ago when he was pitching for the Twins.

"We ask anyone who is dealing with pediatric cancer -- whether it's a charity, foundation, a family or someone who has dealt with it before -- to send us the information about their organization and a T-shirt for their organization," Duensing said Saturday. "What I'll do is wear one shirt every day and take a picture of me doing it and put the picture up there with the information. We're just trying to raise awareness."

At the end of the season, Duensing's foundation will make a donation to each of the organizations or families who sent a shirt. The first year he did this, Duensing received 47 shirts, including some from New York, Florida, Tennessee and Colorado, and he had to ask his Twins teammates to wear a few of them. Last year, he got 30 shirts.

"It's been really humbling," Duensing said.

There's still time to send Duensing a shirt for September. He wears a large, by the way.

Duensing didn't start his T-shirt promo because of anyone in his family.

"It's just something that tugged on my wife's heartstrings, and we wanted to get involved," he said. "It puts things in perspective. We're trying to raise awareness and help any way we can."

On Friday, all Major League Baseball teams joined in the effort to raise awareness for pediatric cancer, and players wore gold wristbands and ribbons on their jerseys.

Worth noting
• Outfielder Leonys Martin, whom the Cubs acquired from the Mariners on Thursday, joined the team on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster, lefty Jack Leathersich was designated for assignment.

"[He has] speed. He can run," manager Joe Maddon said of Martin. "He's stolen some bases. Very good outfielder, very strong arm. The thought process there was primarily to get speed off the bench. The ancillary benefit is he has a great arm."

Martin learned of the trade after he was pulled from a game.

"I'll do whatever they need," Martin said. "I'm going to be ready."

One of the first things Martin wanted to do was talk to Jake Arrieta and John Lackey because they were so difficult to face.

"I'm happy to be in the same room with them," Martin said.

• If you've watched Anthony Rizzo enough, you've seen how he chokes up on the bat in two-strike situations. It's something Maddon is a proponent of -- he calls it a "B hack," and it's something he'd like to see taught in the Minor Leagues.

"All it is is contact-oriented," Maddon said. "It's getting your top hand closer to contact. It's better control of the bat head. When you do that, you automatically shorten your movements to the baseball because you've made this concession, in a sense, to the pitcher, which is fine. Having Riz be the poster child for us is awesome."

Maddon started teaching it in the late '80s when he was with the Angels.

"It's been hard [to sell]," Maddon said. "When the home run became more prominent, it was really difficult [to sell]. Guys see themselves getting paid by hitting homers. It's cool to hit a home run. I've made that argument to a lot of guys. In a perfect world, how many home runs would you hit this year? They'll say maybe seven, eight. So why would you try to do that every at-bat? It has to be ground into you at the Minor League level."

• The Cubs announced the Sept. 16 game against the Cardinals, which was listed as 12:05 p.m. CT, will now start at 3:05 p.m. CT.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.