Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bullpen candidate profile: Alex Burnett

Alex Burnett pitched
 in 41 games for the
Twins in 2010.
Pitcher: Alex Burnett
Throws: Right
Age: 23 (turns 24 in July)
Roster status: 40-man roster; two options remaining
Chance of making team: Moderate

Alex Burnett made the Twins opening roster in 2010 as the last man in the bullpen and did quite well for a while: His ERA on June 15 was 2.30. A month later it was above 4, and he was back in the minors before July was out. Although he was recalled in September, he didn't pitch well in Rochester or in Minnesota the rest of the way.

His final tally with the Twins: 2-2 with two holds, no saves, 41 games, 47.2 innings, 5.29 ERA and more than 4 walks per nine innings -- and there's your problem, control. In Triple A, he worked 19.2 innings with an ERA of 5.49.

I thought, then and now, that at the root of Burnett's struggles was how he was used, as a long man. Seventeen of his 41 appearances were multiple-inning outings, and a good share of the other 23 were intended to be more than three outs but were cut short because of ineffectiveness.

I think he'd be more effective as a short man, but that role wasn't available on the 2010 Twins, and (unlike Matt Guerrier earlier in his career) he didn't get enough outs as a long man to force his way up the ladder. There may be too many people (imports, injury returnees, other prospects) who've moved ahead of him on the organizational pecking chart for him to open 2011 with the big club.

Still, I see parallels to Juan Rincon in him -- short righties with decent fastballs and good sliders, not much of a change -- and I still believe he can become an effective set-up man. He needs another chance, and he needs to throw more strikes when he gets that chance.

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