Sunday, February 20, 2011

27 pitchers and so few jobs

LaVelle Neal had a post Saturday about one of the issues with having 27 pitchers in camp: How do the manager and coaches get a good look at everybody?

Jeff Manship is part of a
crowded competition for bullpen
jobs with the Twins.
A somewhat related issue is that of making sure that the top dogs on the staff get enough work to be ready for the season.

Consider this: The Twins will almost certainly carry 12 pitchers on their 25-man active roster, as they have in recent years. Assuming everybody's healthy, we can name nine of them right now: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps and Jose Mijares. We don't necessarily know what role each will play, but the combinations of salaries and track records mean each will be either active or on the DL.

That leaves 18 pitchers in camp competing for as few as three bullpen jobs. Theoretically competing, I should say; Kyle Gibson, for example, is not going to pitch middle relief, and Anthony Swarzak and Deolis Guerra are more likely competing to remain on the 40-man roster than to crack the majors.

From this distance, I would say these are the 10 pitchers in camp who can realistically hope to get one of those three jobs, with some being in better position than others: left-handers Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond and Dusty Hughes; right-handers Pat Neshek, Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, Jeff Manship, Jim Hoey, Eric Hacker and Kyle Waldrop. (Waldrop is the one man on that list not on the 40-man roster.)

Ten pitchers for three jobs is probably a bit more manageable than the 27-pitchers thing appears at first glance, but it's still a lot.

So why are there so many other pitchers in camp? Some (Gibson, Carlos Guttierez) are highly-regarded prospects who didn't have to be put on the 40 this winter but are likely to ge major-league ready by mid-summer; the big league staff gets to know them this spring. Some (Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait, Yorman Barzado) were minor-league free agents signed to deepen the Rochester staff and promised a spring training invite as part of the deal. Some (Swarzak and Guerra) are fading prospects the team has invested heavily in and is unwilling to discard.

Guys like Swarzak and Dumatrait may feel when they get sent to minor league camp that they didn't get a fair shake. The reality is that even 15 good  innings in spring training shouldn't outweigh a full season of poor results in Triple A. The reality also is that the opening roster is not set in concrete. Get outs in Triple A, you'll eventually get a shot in the majors.

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