Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alex Burnett, Tyler Robertson and bullpen roles

Alex Burnett's
strikeout rate has
dropped from 7.0
K/9 in 2010 to
4.5 in 2012.

So ... this morning the Twins optioned Alex Burnett to the minors. This leaves 28 players in camp, but non-roster guys Rich Harden and Rafael Perez are clearly not ready to pitch yet (Perez has thrown some batting practice and Harden has started working off the mound), and the presumption is that Tim Wood will go on the disabled list.

If in fact Wood is out of the immediate picture, the bullpen looks like this:

Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Jared Burton
Setup 2/LOOGY 1: Brian Duensing
MR 1: Casey Fien
MR 2: Ryan Pressly
LOOGY 2: Tyler Robertson
Long: Josh Roenicke

Quite possibly Ron Gardenhire and Co. would flip-flop Pressly and Roenicke. In practice, I don't think there's going to be much distinction; Roenicke can't give them two innings every day, and there's going to be too much work for one long man with this starting rotation. Pressley's going to work more long relief and mop-up than meaningful outs for a while.

Neither Burnett nor Robertson had good stat lines this spring, not that eight innings or so proves anything. I do regard the choice of Robertson as a more realistic one. The Twins (at least until Scott Diamond returns) have an all-right-handed rotation, most of whom will need early relief help. Robertson gives them a lefty to use to get out of those fifth- and sixth -nning jams while saving Duensing for the seventh or eighth.

Robertson may be too inconsistent to be a truly good LOOGY, but he's better equipped for the job than any of the right-handers. Probably.

Bullpens are always works in progress, and with Anthony Swarzak and Wood presumably somewhere on the rehab trail, there will certainly be some changes made before April ends.

As for Burnett ... regular readers know that I've grown increasingly skeptical of his value. When he came up, I envisioned him becoming a new version of Juan Rincon, who gave the Twins three very good seasons of set-up work. It hasn't happened for Burnett. His strikeout rate has fallen each year in the majors, and while his walk rate has fallen also, it's still too high.


Byron Buxton, the No 2 overall draft pick last June, made the trip to Bradenton, Fla., for the nooner exhibition with the Pirates. As with Miguel Sano last week (and again Tuesday), this has nothing to do with competing for a big-league spot this year. Just a glimpse for Gardy and Crew, and a reward for Buxton.

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