Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ex-Twins watch: Craig Breslow and Steve Tolleson

I wasn't thrilled when the Twins tossed Craig Breslow aside in May of 2009, and nothing that has transpired since suggests to me that discarding him was the right move.

When the Twins waived him, Breslow had a 6.28 ERA in a bit more than 14 innings. He went to Oakland and ran off a 2.60 ERA in 55-plus innings — this while the Twins were cycling though lefty relievers.

And this season? He entered Saturday's game with a 3.12 ERA in 52 IP. His splits still suggest, as they did with the Twins in 2008, that he's overqualified for the LOOGY role.

In the wake of Jose Mijares' injury, the loss of Breslow continues to sting.

Yes, Breslow gave up a run Saturday, but that was in part because his infield failed to get the out at third base when Denard Span decided to go from second to third on a grounder to short.

And the shortstop involved in that play? Steve Tolleson spent years in the Twins farm system — they drafted him in the fifth round in 2005 — before he was waived to make room on the 40-man roster when the Twins signed Jim Thome.

With the Twins he was generally a second baseman; the A's used him mainly at shortstop in Triple A Sacramento this year (54 games at short, 13 at third, just five at second), where he hit .332. (Last year he hit .266 between Double A and Triple A for the Twins; this illustrates the difference between the Pacific Coast League and the International/Eastern Leagues.)

I don't know if the Twins underestimated Tolleson's defense or if the A's are overestimating it, but I do know that the Twins had a few years to evaluate him. Nor do I know if he's going to get serious playing time at short in Oakland; Cliff Pennington has been the regular there, and he's hardly emerged as a star. I suspect that neither is the answer to the shortstop question.

(Tolleson is the on-deck hitter in the photo above.)


  1. Was there any official explanation for dumping Breslow?

  2. As I recall, they said they had hoped to pass them through waivers and send him to Rochester.

    His ERA was high, but it was just 14 innings. I believe, at the core of it all, Gardenhire just didn't think much of him. In 2008, when he was ptiching well and the rest of the bullpen was imploding, Breslow seldom pitched with a lead or tie.