Monday, April 18, 2011

Redesigning the bullpen

It wasn't pretty, but Glen Perkins got through
the eighth without allowing a run. He's now
two-for-two at holding a save situation
intact in the eighth inning.
After two straight bullpen meltdowns,  the Twins made significant changes Sunday to the relief corps, both in personnel and in roles.

Joe Nathan not only is no longer the closer — the $12 million man is, at least for a while, not going to pitch in high-leverage situations.

Matt Capps, who has been used to get out of seventh inning jams and in the eighth inning — the kind of usage pattern that I suspect played a role in wrecking Pat Neshek's arm — has the ninth inning job.

Jim Hoey brings his fastball to the majors. Jeff Manship takes his curve back to Triple A.

And the eighth-inning job goes to ... Glen Perkins.

That's subject to change, but look at the alternatives.

Nathan has to re-establish his command and/or stuff before he's going to be used to protect narrow leads or ties. Jose Mijares has walked five men in five innings. Dusty Hughes has been just as inconsistent as Nathan, but his bad games have generally come when the Twins are well behind anyway. Hoey has the stuff to take the job, but has yet to demonstrate that he has harnessed it. Kevin Slowey is on the shelf, Manship has pitched his way off the 25-man roster and Alex Burnett might be following suit.

Perkins is in line for the job by attrition -- and by dint of what he's done in the seasons's first 15 games.

Perkins has twice now been deployed to protect a lead in the eighth, and he's done the job both times. It wasn't pretty Sunday-- he walked a man, then fell behind the next batter and gave up a hit-and-run single. (A co-worker said something along the lines of you can't blame Perkins for that one, but you can. The Rays knew Perkins had to throw a strike, which made the hit-and-run easier to put on.) Perkins got out of it, though, by inducing a double play.

Perkins -- who has now worked 7-plus innings without being charged with a run and has allowed just six men to reach base -- has the Greg McMichael Rule working for him. Get outs and they'll find a role for you. Right now, he's one guy getting outs.

Assigning the current bullpen to the roles I laid out during spring training:

Closer: Capps
Set-up 1: Perkins
LOOGY 1: Mijares
Setup 2/MR1: Hoey
LOOGY 2: Hughes
MR2: Nathan
Long man: Burnett

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