Friday, July 12, 2013

Making room for Michael Tonkin

Michael Tonkin:
Four batters, four outs.
Michael Tonkin, who tore through the Twins farm system the past year-and-a-half, made his major league debut in fine fashion Thursday. He came in after Josh Roenicke laid an egg in the seventh inning to strike out Evan Longoria, then followed that with a perfect eighth inning.

Tonkin is up right now because fellow rookie Caleb Thielbar is back in Minnesota for his grandmother's funeral. But when Tonkin was brought up, he was told he may stick. Thursday's outing certainly gives the Twins no reason to ship him back to Rochester.

But if they keep Tonkin in the majors, somebody else has to go. The bullpen has been probably the strongest part of a weak team, but it's getting bedraggled from overwork. There's no real shortage of slumping relievers, but there is a shortage of relievers easily sent to the minors.

Roenicke is an example. His ERA has risen from 2.81 after his appearance on June 19 to 3.76 now — nine appearances, 6.1 innings, six runs. For the season, Roenicke has struck out 25 — and walked 21, a lousy ratio. But Roenicke is out of options; as with P.J. Walters, he would have to clear waivers and removed from the 40-man roster to be sent to the minors.

Ryan Pressly's ERA over the past 28 days is 6.39. But as a Rule 5 guy, he has roster restrictions — and at age 24, he has more of a future than the 30-year-old Roenicke. I'd hate to see the Twins give up on Pressly.

Brian Duensing, who lost the job as lefty set-up man to Thielbar, has seen his ERA soar to 4.86. I'm not sure of his option status, but even if the Twins are at liberty to send him down, I don't know how eager they are to pay his $1.3 million salary to pitch at Rochester.

The other guys in the bullpen — Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Anthony Swarzak, Casey Fien, Theilbar  — are not serious candidates to lose their jobs.

My conclusion: If Tonkin stays (and he probably should), the guy he should replace is Roenicke.

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