Friday, February 25, 2011

Bullpen candidate profile: Jeff Manship

Jeff Manship has has a 3-2 record
in  more than 60 innings
 for the Twins the past two seasons.
Pitcher: Jeff Manship
Throws: Right
Age: 26
Roster status: 40-man roster; at least one option left
Chance of making team: Moderate

In the stretch drive of the 2009 season, Jeff Manship was the Twins No. 5 starter. He made five starts in September-October, only twice completing five innings and only once allowing fewer than three runs. The Twins still managed to win four of the five starts, so Manship filled the most minimal requirement of a fifth starter -- he kept the team in games.

But it's pretty clear that he has no real future with the Twins as a starting pitcher. There are six starters already on the major league roster ahead of him, a couple of first-round picks (Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers) rocketing up from behind, and a few others on roughly his level of current skill with more room to grow.

In their current situation, he's not only not Plan B should injuries strike the rotation, he may not be Plan C -- or even Plan D. If he's going to carve out a role for himself on the Twins as anything more than an emergency starter, it's going to be as a reliever.

The Twins appear to see parallels between Manship and the departed Matt Guerrier. Guerrier was a fairly accomplished minor league starter with a good command of a varied repertoire, but his fastball was a tick slow. The Twins made him a reliever, which bumped his velocity up a notch, and he went from long man to middle man to primary set-up man over his Twins tenure.

Manship, says Ron Gardenhire, "can spin it." This is Gardy-speak for "he's got a breaking ball." He throws strikes and has been durable.

If they go with a right-hander as the long man, Manship may well be the choice. But there are a couple of lefties in the mix for that role, and one of the six starters might wind up with that job.

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