Thursday, January 19, 2012

Implications of Joel Zumaya

Joel Zumaya made
one spring training
appearance in
2011, then had
fresh surgery on his
2010 elbow fracture.
The Twins announced Wednesday that Joel Zumaya passed his physical. Given his extensive injury history, that was no mere formality, but the power pitcher is now on the 40-man roter.

Let us assume that Zoom-Zoom is sufficiently sound-sound to pitch coming out of spring training. The assumption here is that he'll immediately join holdover Glen Perkins as the primary bridges to closer Matt Capps. But ...

  • Ron Gardenhire likes to use his relief pitchers on consecutive days;
  • and that may not be optimal or even practical with Zumaya.

One of Gardenhire's strengths over his decade-plus as manager has been his ability to get production out of his bullpen. His two weakest seasons in that regard were 2008 and 2011 -- and those were the post-operative seasons of Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan, respectively. In both years, Gardy was reluctant to use his post-op power guy on back-to-back days, and the limitation forced him to go to less optimal (and less successful) match-ups.

The Twins, therefore, will still be looking seriously at their flock of unestablished right-handed hard throwers, looking for one who can harness his talent and strike out righties in big spots. Alex Burnett, Lester Oliveros, Esmerling Vasquez, Deolis Guerra, Jeff Gray ... even with Zumaya on board, the door to a key bullpen role is still wide open for these guys. And so is the door back to the minors.

Zumaya is certainly Plan A. But few Plan A's come with so much uncertainty, or with such (probably) limited unavailability. A Plan B is always wise; in this case, it's necessary, even if the Zumaya addition meets its ambitions.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment. I like the potential of many of the young guys you mentioned, but most of them are not ready yet. It will be interesting to see who shows the most promise this year in spring training. I also think Terry Ryan is not done yet and we are going to see at least one more veteran reliever signed before spring.