Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reasons to drag out the rehab process

As I suggested earlier Wednesday, Tsuyoshi Nishioka came off the DL to replace Justin Morneau on the active roster, and Dusty Hughes was outrighted to Rochester, which takes him off the 40-man roster (creating room for Nishioka there).

It is, apparently, all systems go for reactivating Joe Mauer on Friday. LaVelle Neal has, in that link, this comment:

(Reporter's note: What the heck is up with the different standards? Nishi and Nathan have to go to Rochester and Mauer doesn't? Who needs it more?)

It's fairly obvious, really. Mauer will be displacing one of two catchers, Rene Rivera or Drew Butera, who are doing a good job behind the plate but are collectively hitting under .200. Mauer is certainly going to be an immediate upgrade over either.

Nishioka and Nathan, on the other hand, aren't fixing something that's broken.

Alexi Casilla, in particular, is playing very well at short, and now he's going to shift to second to make room for Nishi.. Matt Tolbert, who will be displaced at second by Casilla, isn't hitting as well as Casilla, but the infield turned four double plays Wednesday night.

Matt Tolbert, who is about
to lose playing time, is hitting
under .200 this season
Is Nishioka going to make the team better? It's debatable.

Same with Nathan. He says he's ready to return, but (a) he wasn't pitching well before going on the DL and (b) the bullpen has stabilized in his absence. I figure Jim Hoey will be the guy to lose his spot when Nathan returns, and again, I'm not sure the 2011 version of Joe Nathan improves the team.

It gets tricky. Nathan has a distinguished track record, a big contract and diminished skills. Nathan probably has his idea of how and when he should be used, and his abilities right now may not match that idea.

Alex Burnett has been handling the primary set-up role fairly well -- I say "fairly" because he's been protected. The starters are going deeper into games than we're accustomed to seeing, and Burnett is not facing many left-handed hitters or crossing innings. When Glen Perkins is activated (which may be today), Perkins figures to become the primary set-up guy. He had earned the role before his oblique injury, and he doesn't need the protection.

So: Perkins in the eighth, Burnett and Jose Mijares getting outs in the seventh as needed ... where's the late inning role for Nathan? How does swapping Hoey out for Nathan make the team better?

If you think this team can still win the division title -- and I would expect the manager still has that as his primary goal -- it's difficult to justify replacing parts that are working for other parts that are uncertain. If you think 2012 and beyond is a more reasonable concern, trying Nishioka at short makes sense. Nathan, I fear, doesn't really fit either goal.

1 comment:

  1. Nathan has the best K rate of the Twins' relievers this season. His problem has been walks allowed, but he's allowed 5.3/9 IP as opposed to 5.1 for Burnett and 5.5 for Hoey, neither of which is close to as good a K rate. After Nathan pulled himself from the closer role, he had his worst inning giving up three runs in a blowout loss to the Orioles on April 19. After that, he had 12 strikeouts and three walks in nine innings before going on the DL. He will be fine. If he stays healthy, he will be the Twins' best right-handed reliever, by far, and probably their best reliever overall. He may not return to previous form, but he doesn't have to be Hall of Fame great.