Ron Gardenhire's endorsement of a closer-by-committee approach to the bullpen is about as irresolute as it can be.
It'll be a committee, unless they make a trade. Or unless they can talk Francisco Liriano into something resembling enthusiasm for the job. Supposedly some of his teammates are working on him.
LaVelle Neal thinks the mix-n-match approach is a mistake. I think it's the most logical tactic — but they need another reliable lefty in the mix, and it shouldn't be Brian Duensing, who (under a Liriano starts scenario) is Plan B for the starting rotation. Duensing should be in Triple A getting starts and being stretched out when the need arises for a starter.
Neal and I took different lessons from the bullpen problems of 2008. He says they went with setup-by-committee, and it didn't work.
As I see it, that's the way set-up works. The real problem in 2008 was that there was no real committee by August:
- Pat Neshek got hurt.
- Jesse Crain, back on the mound after missing most of 2007 with major shoulder surgery, could take only a limited workload.
- Matt Guerrier was overworked and blew up repeatedly in the final months.
- Dennys Reyes was limited to a LOOGY role.
- Boof Bonser, bounced from the rotation, never got it going
- and Gardenhire refused to use Craig Breslow in game situations.
The committee failed because there weren't enough members. It was three guys —Guerrier, Crain and Reyes — one of whom they didn't want to use on consecutive days and another who they didn't trust against right-handed hitters.
This staff is different. Jose Mijares has the Reyes role, and is talented enough to do more than that. Guerrier and Crain are sound again, and Neshek may be. Plus there's Jon Rauch. If Ron Mahay can be ready soon, there are enough capable bodies to have a quorum.
And all that said, it probably doesn't matter. The Twins will either trade for somebody (and overpay in the process), try to force Liriano into the role (a riskier move than the committee would be) or effectively declare one of the committee members the chairman — and de facto closer.