Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Current Outsider Projected Opening Pen (COPOP)

Does Kevin Slowey fit better in the
long relief job, or as trade bait?
Late in Friday's exhibition game I left my seat behind home plate to visit with three other Twins bloggers -- Topper Anton, Nick Nelson and Seth Stohs -- who were sitting a section over and further up. I raved to them about the breaking pitch I'd seen a few innings earlier from Dusty Hughes (a pitch that led to my Monday print column).

Then I saw Carlos Gutierrez coming in to pitch the eighth inning, and scurried back to my seat to get a better look at his vaunted sinker.

It was a weird inning. The Hammond Stadium radar gun (which has been widely suspect all spring) gave him some of the highest pitch speeds of the game. But he got no ground balls -- two outfield flies and a baserunner cut down trying to advance on a pitch that popped out of the catcher's glove.

I returned to the trio and reported seeing nothing that resembled Gutierrez's reputed strengths.

Somewhere along the line, Anton asked how I projected the bullpen, and I responded with what I had posted a few days earlier:

Closer: Joe Nathan
Setup 1: Matt Capps
Lefty 1: Jose Mijares
Setup 2/middle relief 1: Pat Neshek
Lefty 2: Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond or Dusty Hughes (in that order)
MR 2: Jim Hoey
Long man: Kevin Slowey

But, I added, I think there's a better chance that one of the six starters will be traded or put on the disabled list than that one will wind up in the bullpen. (And while we were talking, Kyle Waldrop struck out the side in the ninth inning.)

Since that conversation, I've come to doubt Hoey's viability as a candidate. Yes, he has more velocity than anybody else in camp. It's not helping him get outs.

Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune has a fresh column  that essentially projects the bullpen jobs thusly:

Cl: Nathan
S1: Capps
L1: Mijares
S2/MR1: ? a trade target
L2: Hughes
MR2: Waldrop
LM: Jeff Manship

Reusse expects Slowey to be dealt for a relief pitcher and says the Ron Gardenhire/Rick Anderson duo like Manship, Hughes and Waldrop.

I've discounted Waldrop's chances this spring because he's not on the 40-man roster. But at least one spot on the 40 is likely to open, because Perkins and Diamond are use-or-lose. If Hughes wins the second lefty job, it's going to be tough to fit either of them on the 25-man roster, and there's no way all three will stick.

If the decision had to be made today, I think Diamond would be returned to the Braves. That would open a slot for Waldrop.

But I continue to believe that the Twins will be loathe to give up on Perkins. Hughes has options left, Perkins does not. Gardenhire may prefer Hughes, but the front office justifiably hates giving up inventory and is quite capable of overruling him on this one.

So let's make this the Current Outsider Projected Opening Pen (COPOP):

Cl: Nathan
S1: Capps
L1: Mijares
S2/MR1: Neshek
L2: Perkins
MR2: Waldrop
LM: Manship

It's a flawed projection, because it anticipates a trade of Slowey without a return. That's possible, but not likely.

COPOP will be updated with some frequency.

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