Some curious moves, or non-moves, Saturday by Ron Gardenhire with his bullpen crew.
Going at it in chronological order:
* He pulled starter Jeff Manship after six innings and 86 pitches. Maybe a bit hasty, but it was a one-run game at that point, and Manship hasn't exactly established himself.
* Brian Duensing pitched the seventh, throwing just 10 pitches. And that was it for him for the night. Which, in retrospect, is curious because later — after the game had gone into extra innings — Dick Bremer talked about how Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson mentioned that they don't have a long man in the bullpen. Duensing should be the long man, but he has been used as a short man — in fact, that's probably why Manship got the start. Duensing isn't the rotation's Plan B now. Manship is.
My point being: If they want a long man, it would have made sense to stretch Duensing out a bit more and give him the eighth inning.
* Instead, they went with Matt Guerrier, and he blew up after getting two outs. Three hits, two runs, tied game. The big blows came from left-handed hitters, this with LOOGY Ron Mahay available.
It is rare for one of the Twins set up guys to start an inning, give up runs, and still finish the inning. Almost all the middle relief meltdowns I chronicle here involve three or four relievers, none of whom can get the first guy out. This blown lead was a reversal of Gardy's SOP.
* Mahay got the ball to open the ninth, but after three batters, one hit and two outs, he gave way to ... not Pat Neshek, not Jesse Crain, but Alex Burnett, the rookie who has been limited to low-leverage situations.
Crain had pitched the day before and, according to Bremer, did some more throwing on the side earlier Saturday, so it's not surprising that Gardenhire/Anderson wanted to hold him out. But choosing Burnett over Neshek suggests that Neshek slid down the totem pole with his lousy outing on Wednesday.
*Burnett got a long leash. He threw 36 pitches and ultimately took the loss, and only 12 of the 36 pitches were strikes (He had two intentional walks, but even if those eight pitches are ignored it's still 16 balls to 12 strikes). It took a big-time throw from Denard Span and catch-block-tag at the plate by Drew Butera (photo above) to keep the Tribe off the board in the 10th, and Burnett didn't get an out in the 11th.
* Crain pitched after all. Closer Jon Rauch warmed up in the eighth; Neshek didn't even do that much.
For the game, the Minnesota bullpen worked 4.2 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks. The only one who truly pitched well was Duensing.