Saturday, March 9, 2013

The forgotten lefty

Rafael Perez had
shoulder surgery
after just 7.2 innings
last season.
Glen Perkins, the Twins closer, is in Arizona pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Brian Duensing has been working in relief in the first couple weeks of Grapefruit League play; while the radio boys continue to talk about Duensing as a starting candidate, he hasn't been deployed that way yet, and I don't expect him to be. (He did, however, work two innings Friday night, a bit of a stretching-out.)

Perkins and Duensing in the pen, closer and LOOGY/setup respectively. Which leads to the questions: Will the Twins carry a third lefty? If so, who?

Tyler Robertson spent a good part of 2012 on the major league roster, showing a good but inconsistent slider and a mediocre fastball. Caleb Thielbar, native Minnesotan, was added to the 40-man roster during the winter. Both have had their moments this spring, but on the whole their work has raised speculation that the Twins would be better off with just two lefties.

Overlooked in that chatter is Rafael Perez. The one-time Cleveland stalwart impressed Twins scouts with a bullpen session as a free agent late in the offseason and signed a minor-league deal just after camp opened. The Twins talked about him at the time not only as a bullpen candidate, but even as a potential starting pitcher.

Then he had his first bullpen in camp. First and, so far as is known, last to date. There was a quick consensus that Perez had significant shoulder rehab work to do, and he's reportedly been limited to long toss since. Maybe he's going to be a factor with the Twins, but it seems less likely now than it did when he was signed.

The absences of Perkins and Perez are probably giving Robertson and Thielbar added opportunities to show their stuff. That may be a mixed blessing.

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