Thursday, September 3, 2015

A "no" to Berrios

Terry Ryan made it explicit Wednesday: Jose Berrios will not be a September call-up.

And as I said when the right-hander wasn't brought up at the start of the month, I'm fine with that.

Ryan cited innings pitched; I assume that's a shorthand for a more complex approach to pitcher health. There's no guarantee that shutting down Berrios after this next start will avoid injury, and there's no guarantee that pitching him in regular rotation through September and even October would injure him. Ryan and his colleagues in the organization have to estimate the risk and decide where they draw the line of prudence, and none of us know exactly where that line is. Ryan doesn't know that either, but he's got more information than you, me or anybody else with an opinion and a platform from which to voice it.

But in terms of the reward, I'll repeat what I said Tuesday: There is no obvious need for Berrios on the major league roster right now.  If the biggest reason for bringing up Berrios is to get that wild-card spot, then it follows that you'd use him in high-leverage roles. And there isn't one open.

The Twins' current starting rotation may not feature any Cy Young candidates, but none is doing so poorly that there's a need to boot him from the rotation. Plus Phil Hughes, currently on the disabled list, is to throw a bullpen session this week; he might be ready to return fairly soon.

As for the bullpen: While the roles are certainly in flux, I can't see any reason to force Berrios into a late-inning assignment, and long relief is not exactly a high-leverage use.

There is a criticism going around that the Twins could have/should have planned for this earlier in the season and limited Berrios' workload. Nonsense. Handling a 21-year old-pitcher (Berrios turned 21 in May) in Double A on the basis of the big league team being in a wild card race in September is putting the cart before the horse. You handle that pitcher to develop him.

The Twins are paying Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone something in excess of $40 million this year to be the bulk of the starting rotation; dealing with September is on them.

One other point with Berrios: roster flexibility. He doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter. Call him up now, that changes. So by waiting until 2016 for Berrios' major league debut, Ryan saves a roster spot for this winter.

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