Middle relief, middle relief, middle relief.
I second-guessed Ron Gardenhire for his Friday decision to have Matt Guerrier pitch to Alex Rodriguez, and offered as an alternative a scenario in which Brian Duensing faced Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.
What I didn't offer was a right-handed alternative to Guerrier facing A-Rod, because right now there isn't a good one.
Jesse Crain (above) demonstrated that Saturday with his horrid (three runs allowed, one out gotten) outing.
Exhibit No. 2,725,831 in defense of the adage you never have enough pitching: The Twins went into spring training figuring that they had bullpen depth stacked up. Joe Nathan to close; Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Crain as right-handed short men; Jose Mijares as a shut-down lefty; Clay Condrey to eat middle-relief innings; Pat Neshek returning from his surgery.
Middle of May: Nathan's done for the year, Condrey has yet to throw a major league pitch, Neshek's also on the disabled list, Mijares just came off the DL, Rauch is closing, Crain's ERA is 6.75 and rising ... Had Duensing not emerged as a late-inning reliever to join Guerrier, the bullpen would be in desperate straits indeed.
The Pioneer Press says Gardenhire is still counting on Crain. Le Velle Neal's Sunday post suggests patience with Crain is wearing thin.
A commenter on this blog earlier this year suggested that Crain hasn't been effective in five years. I suppose that depends on how one defines effective. His ERA in the second half last season (after his return from a minor league demotion) was 2.91. He hasn't become the stud set-up man I expected when he arrived, as LaTroy Hawkins and Juan Rincon were for a few years each, but he's been useful.
I don't know if the minor league route is available with Crain this year; he may well be out of options. I don't think Condrey's ready to return yet, and I know Neshek's not, and even if the Twins brought up somebody like Anthony Slama or Kyle Waldrop, Gardenhire is not going to throw either of them into the fire immediately.
Which leaves me looking at Alex Burnett, who has been pitching mostly low-leverage innings so far with some competence.
If he starts getting close-game use, we'll really know Crain's in the doghouse.
Last week's poll (on the best use of Wilson Ramos) had 38 participants and a solid plurality looking for a trade.
Eighteen (47 percent) said trade him; nine (23 percent) want him and Joe Mauer to split catching and DH duties; seven (18 percent) want him to emerge as Mauer's backup; and four (10 percent) think the Twins should move Mauer to a different position and install Ramos as the regular catcher.
I haven't a weekly poll idea I like right now, but I have a one-day wonder to offer.