Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bullpen competition A.Z. (After Zumaya)

Non-roster invitee
Jason Bulger has
138 strikeouts
in 133 career
major league innings.
With Joel Zumaya officially out of the 2012 picture, who among the 32 pitchers left in camp benefits?

Well, toss out the seven guys with seven-figure salaries (the five putative starters plus bullpenners Matt Capps and Glen Perkins). They are, if anything, worse off now, because a healthy Zumaya would have made their pitching chores a bit lighter.

Of the remaining 25, the six lefties (Brian Duensing, Scott Diamond, Matt Maloney, Phil Dumatrait, Aaron Thompson and Tyler Robertson) are relatively unaffected. They aren't candidates for the right-handed set-up job Zumaya was ticketed for. Duensing is likely to be the second lefty in the pen regardless.

Now exclude Liam Hendriks, who won't be in the major league bullpen. That still leaves 18 right-handers looking for jobs, with a high-leverage role up for grabs.

The Twins want a power arm to match up against right-handed power hitters. LaTroy Hawkins held that role in Ron Gardenhire's first couple seasons as manager. Then came Jesse Crain, with short-term appearances from Grant Balfour and Pat Neshek. This is the role Jim Hoey was supposed to inherit last season and in which he failed so utterly. This is the role Zumaya was intended to fill.

Jared Burton has
fanned 143 batters
in 169 innings.
So one might think the hard-throwers among the 18 would be the primary beneficiaries of Zoom-Zoom's misfortune. But I suspect that Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson would have been reluctant to use Zumaya as frequently as they did Crain or the Hawk. They would have avoided using him on consecutive days; they would have been reluctant to use him to finish one inning, sit for a while, then pitch the next inning. They would have wanted a second power arm.

Split the 18 into two groups: Power guys and pitch-to-contact (* indicates that he's on the 40-man roster).

Power arms: Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Lester Oliveros*, Esmerling Vasquez, Luis Perdomo, Casey Fein, Alex Burnett*, Deolis Guerra*.

Pitch-to-contact: Brendan Wise, Carlos Gutierrez*, Kyle Waldrop*, Jeff Gray,* Anthony Swarzak*, Terry Doyle*, P.J. Walters, Daryl Thompson, Steve Deduno, Jeff Manship*.

These are not necessarily exact classifications. Burnett pitches as if he's a power arm, but he really hasn't missed many bats. Deduno does miss bats, but he relies on a good curve ball, not on velocity.

Odds are that Swarzak will be on the opening roster. Doyle, a Rule V pick, is perhaps only slightly less likely. Both profile as long relievers, better suited to working multiple innings than to coming in to get one or two crucial outs with men on base.

As a Rule V draftee,
Terry Doyle either
makes the 25-man
roster or is offered
back to the White Sox.
Assigning people to roles:

Closer: Capps
Setup 1: Perkins
Setup2/Middle relief 1: Zumaya
LOOGY: Duensing
MR 2:
MR 3: Doyle (or one of the lefties)
Long man/spot starter: Swarzak

Slot one of the power arms in the SU2/MR1 slot. The MR2 job might be a second power arm -- as I figured would be the case if Zumaya made the roster -- or it might be a pitch to contact guy, although this formation already has Doyle and Swarzak from that group.

Five guys I'll be trying to keep tabs on: Bulger, Barton, Guerra, Gutierrez and Oliveros.

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