Monday, June 26, 2017

Contemplating Buddy Boshers

Pretty good weekend for the Twins in Cleveland. They swept the defending AL champs and returned, nattowly, to first place in the Central Division.

And give a lot of the credit to the oft-criticized and oft-battered bullpen. The Twins allowed just two runs in the three games despite getting just 15.2 innings from the starters. The bullpen worked four innings in Friday's shutout (Tyler Duffey two, Taylor Rogers one, Brandon Kintzler one); 4.1 in Saturday's win (Duffey 1.1, Matt Belisle 0.2, Rogers 1.1, Trevor Hildenberger one) and three Sunday (Buddy Boshers two, Kintlzer one).

Broken down like that, we see the usual pattern in use. Paul Molitor used each of his three most-trusted bullpen arms (Duffey, Rogers, Kintlzer) twice. He even used Duffey in back-to-back games, which is not part of the usual pattern. Molitor tried again to get crucial outs from the veteran Belisle, and Belisle gave up the one run the bullpen yielded all series.

Having gotten 10 outs from Duffey (and seven from Rogers) in the first two games of the series, Molitor pretty much had to find somebody else Sunday for the bridge role. That somebody was Buddy Boshers.

And that went quite well. Two innings, no hits, one base runner (a disputed HBP), one strikeout.

It was Boshers' 11th outing for the Twins this year, and his first in a game they ultimately won. (He does have one hold, which came in a game in which Belisle and Craig Breslow combined for a nine-run meltdown after Boshers threw a scoreless inning.) Sunday wasn't a hold, because the Twins had a four-run lead when he entered, but Boshers definitely got the job done. His ERA is down to 2.50.

The Greg McMichael Rule comes into play: Get outs and they'll find a role for you. (Greg McMichael was a pitcher with the Atlanta Braves during the height of the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz era who was a minor league free agent in spring training and the closer by the second half of the season.) Boshers has gotten outs, and a bigger role is clearly available.

But ...

The pitching staff's revolving door is about to spin some more, with Hector Santiago coming off the DL for Tuesday's start in Boston and perhaps the return of Phil Hughes. The Twins had nine guys in the bullpen in Cleveland, and three of them (Breslow, Adam Busenitz and Dillon Gee) didn't pitch. I would expect Gee to be "piggy backed" with Santiago on Tuesday; I certainly don't expect the Twins to try to demote him before pitching him.

Belisle and Breslow can't be optioned out; clearing them off the major league roster means waiving them. So the bullpen options for clearing roster space for Santiago and/or Hughes would seem to be Busenitz, Hildenberger or Boshers. We'll toss starter Aldaberto Mejia into that mix as well, even though he has the third best ERA of the nine men who've started.

It's a bit of a puzzle. The Twins signed Belisle and Breslow with an eye to leavening the inexpeience on this pitching staff. They haven't been very good, but they are difficult to move. I don't think the Twins will option out Boshers to make room for Santiago or Hughes, but it's hardly impossible. One good outing doesn't make his job safe.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pic of the Week

Trevor Plouffe celebrates a homer on Wednesday.

I had post a bit more than a week ago about former Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe being designated for assignment by Oakland. He was quickly traded to Tampa Bay, and on Wednesday hit his first homer as a Ray.

My wife, when I told her about Plouffe joining the Rays, said something about how I would still get to make puns off his name. I replied: Yes, his career hasn't gone plouffe.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wimmers and Melotakis

As noted in Friday morning's post, the Twins needed to clear room that day on their 40-man roster to make room of Dillon Gee and Trevor Hildenberger. They did so by designating for assignment two minor leaguers who were high draft picks.

Alex Wimmers (first round, 2010) wasn't a great shock. He's bounced up and down between the big league club and Triple A the past two seasons. He was viewed when the Twins took him with the 21st overall pick out of Ohio State as a prototypical Twins strikethrower, but he's been anything but as a pro. He had enough trauma early in his minor league career that simply making it to the majors was an accomplishment, but that he was a failed first-round pick was evident years ago.

Mason Melotakis (second round, 2012), was a surprise. He's left-handed, for one thing; for another, his stats are superior to Wimmers'. He had a 2.42 ERA at Double A Chattanooga (26 innings, 31 strikeouts); then he was promoted to Triple A and had two scoreless outings.

And now he's bounced from the 40-man roster? What gives?

From Berardino's story:

.... Melotakis saw his velocity sit in the 89-90 mph range at Triple-A Rochester, where he recorded five outs without allowing a run. In the past, Melotakis had consistently run his fastball into the mid-90s ...
This is one of those times when I remind myself that the front office knows more about these guys than I do. A few weeks ago I was mildly surprised when the Twins chose to promote Randy Rosario, another lefty relief prospect, to the majors instead of Melotakis. That may have been an indication that Melotakis' stock had declined.

It will be interesting to see what happens regarding Melotakis in the next few days. The stat line says there should be other organizations eager to pick him up. The scouting reports may give a different recommendation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Chris Gimenez, Nik Turley and more pitching moves

Thurday's rain delay was apparently the longest in Twins history -- five hours -- and it sure didn't take long for the Twins to suspect that they should have just postponed it.

It was still the first inning when I sent this tweet:

And sure enough, the Twins backup catcher pitched the ninth inning, his sixth pitching appearance of the season.

There was a lot of chatter leading up to the draft about two-way players, and the question arises: At what point to we consider Gimenez a two-way player? My answer is: When his pitching is not limited to the ninth inning of blowout losses.

That said, Gimenez has now pitched five innings with a 7.20 ERA this season. The Twins have used 25 pitchers (and counting; two new names, Dillon Gee and Trevor Hildenberger, are being called up). Six of them have worse ERAs than Gimenez and eight have fewer appearances.


Nik Turley is one of the six and of the eight (ERA 16.39 in three games, all starts, total of 9.1 innings). The Twins merely optioned him out rather than designating him for assignment Thursday, but the Twins need to make space on the 40-man roster today for both Gee and Hildenberger, and DFAing Turley is an obvious possibility.

I feel for the guy. He was a 50th round draft pick, spent a decade in minors, finally gets to the show and gets three starts, every one of which goes poorly, every one worse than the one preceeding it.

Indeed, he may be the least effective pitcher in Twins history, although I'm not sure how to weigh ERA vs. opportunity. For example: Randy Rosario has an ERA of 30.86, but Turley has seven more innings and two decisions.

Having written that, I looked up Steve Carlton's Twins record. The no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer pitched 53.2 innings for the Twins at the end of his marvelous career with an 8.54 ERA, going 1-6 in 1987-88. Andy MacPhail and Tom Kelly gave him a lot of rope.


As for the new guys: Gee was signed to a minor league deal earlier this week, and presumably he's going to take Turley's rotation berth, although I wouldn't care to wager that he's ready to go deep into his first start. As I said when he signed, I don't expect much.

Hildenberger is a sidearming right-handed reliever who has shot up the minor league system, posting some ridiculous ERAs in the process. Last season he had a combined 0.75 at two levels (high A and Double A). That is not a typo: Zero point seven five. This year's ERA is a more normal 2.05 with 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings at Triple A. That K-rate is roughly what he's posted consistently.

No velocity; if he threw hard he would have been up earlier. I don't know how his style is going to fare in the majors and particularly against lefties, but

  • he's been getting outs in the minors and
  • the Twins are in no position to ignore that.

He calls to mind Anthony Slama. another funky righty who never got a real chance with the Twins despite some overwhelming minor league numbers. Slama had some bad timing with injuries, but at the core of his lack of opportunites was a belief that his minor league success was based on minor league hitters chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Slama always walked more guys than Hildenberger has, though.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Minnesota in Puerto Rico

The games will be April 17-18 and are offically both home games for the Twins. I had figured that they'd be split as home games for Cleveland and Minnesota, but once again I thought wrong. 

At least it figures to be a bit warmer there in April than at Target Field. (Or at the Cleveland stadium, for that matter.)

The last MLB games in San Juan were in 2010. In the early 2000s there were quite a few games played there; the Expos, as wards of the league, at one point split their home schedule between Montreal and San Juan.

With the island on the verge of bankruptcy, it's highly unlikely MLB is exploring San Juan as a team location. This is more likely about growing the game's appeal among Puerto Rico's youth, which really shouldn't be necessary. Puerto Rico has long produced outstanding talent. But that talent started drying up when MLB subjected the island's residents to the draft. This removed the incentive for MLB teams to invest in developing the kids; why spend the money when somebody else can then benefit from it? 

There are three Puerto Rican natives on the Twins roster: Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas; Hector Santiago, who is from New Jersey, also played for PR during the World Baseball Classic. Cleveland has the biggest star from the island of the two teams in shortstop Francisco Lindor. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Phil Hughes, reliever


Hughes has been a reliever before -- he spent much of 2009 as a set-up man to Mariano Rivera as the Yankees won the World Series -- but he hasn't made more than a couple of relief apperances in any season since.

The idea is that shorter stints will avoid the tingling sensation in his fingers, an echo of the symptoms that led to last year's thoratic outlet syndrome surgery.

Hughes as a reliever isn't what Terry Ryan (or Hughes) had in mind when Hughes signed his contract extension after his outstanding 2014 season, but if he has the usual uptick in velocity in the bullpen role, Hughes as a reliever might solve one of the pitching staff's issues. A reliable right-handed short man would ease Paul Molitor's burden.

He (and the also rehabbing Hector Santiago) are to pitch today for Rochester. Per Berardino, the idea is that this weekend Hughes will try pitching in back-to-back games. Back-to-back outings in rehab assignments are typically a trigger to bring the pitcher off the disabled list, so it's possible that Hughes will be back next week. Santiago was reportedly reluctant to go on a rehab assignment at all, preferring to simply return to the rotation, so it's possible Santiago will be back next week. Getting both back on the mound can't hurt.

Meanwhile, the Twins have signed Dillon Gee to a minor league deal. Gee has had some success in a major league rotation, but not lately; the Rangers cut him loose earlier this year after he gave up four homers in 13 innings. I'm not counting on much, but he may be an upgrade on Adam Wilk.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Notes, quotes and comment

Cleaning up roster moves from the weekend: Alex Wimmers came and went; he was the 26th man for the Saturday doubleheader, pitched in the first game (ineffectively) and returned to Rochester.

Adam Wilk, who started that game (ineffectively) was designated for assignment immediately afterward and Alan Busenitz added to both the 40- and 25-man rosters.

I saw some Twitter chatter ascribing the selection of Wilk to start the opener of the doubleheader as a passive-aggressive move by Paul Molitor aimed at the front office. Not at all. He needed an additional starter for the double header; they gave him Wilk. And Wilk started the first game so they could cut him between games and add Busenitz.

For better or worse -- and it's been most worse, for certain -- guys like Wilk, Nick Tepesch and Nik Turley are the Plan C arms for the rotation. With Trevor May, Hector Santiago and Phil Hughes all sidelined, the Twins worked through their first line of reserve starters. The Plan B guys -- Jose Berrios and Aldaberto Mejia -- have been good (Berrios) or mostly usable (Mejia). That third line, though ...


Speaking of Santiago and Hughes, both are expected to go on a rehab assignment this week. And Glen Perkins is apparently about to pitch in games for the Fort Myers Miracle, with reports that his velocity has ticked up in recent sessions (although still considerably below his pre-injury norms).


It didn't take long for Trevor Plouffe to land a new job; the Tampa Bay Rays picked him up Saturday, and he made his debut Monday night at DH.

The Rays have Evan Longoria at third base, and even though Longo isn't having a stellar season, nobody should see Plouffe as a challenger for that job. He'll probably get some time at first and DH with an emphasis on facing left-handed pitchers.

The Twins signed their top two draft picks, Royce Lewis and Brant Rooker, over the weekend. One thing for the bonus pool system: Players aren't holding out into August and essentially losing out on the minor league season.