Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Imagining an alternative Twins bullpen

Lester Oliveros throws early in training camp. The
righty was among the first cuts this spring, but he might be
one of the first bullpen reinforcements called upon.
It is a basic rule of thumb: Relief pitchers are fungible.

Meaning that they are inconsistent, injury prone and readily replaceable, and that as a result teams are well advised to avoid multi-year or expensive contracts with bullpenners.

There are exceptions -- Mariano Rivera, for one -- but the rule is valid.

The 2013 Twins had eight relief pitchers make at least 48 appearances, and all but one of those eight (Caleb Thielbar) worked at least 60 innings. One of those eight, Josh Roenicke, is gone, and the Twins could (but probably won't) open the coming season with the returning seven.

Say they do. That bullpen, and its roles, would shake down thusly:

Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Jared Burton
Setup 2/MR1: Casey Fien
LOOGY 1/MR 2: Brian Duensing
LOOGY 2: Thielbar
MR3: Ryan Pressly
Long man: Anthony Swarzak

The two at the most risk of losing their jobs figure to be Thielbar and Pressly. Each has options, each is near minimum pay, and each is near the bottom of the totem pole. Meanwhile, the Twins have a stash of out-of-options rotation candidates who might be carried as relief depth.

And they have some interesting alternatives among pure bullpenners as well, even after the demotions Sunday of the likes of hard-throwing Lester Oliveros and lefty Edgar Ibarra (whose health issues kept him out of exhibition play). Burton and Fien have the jobs as the top righties in the pen, but Michael Tonkin might be better than either, and I believe the Twins' patience with Deolis Guerra will someday be rewarded.

Then there's the veteran Matt Guerrier, who is reportedly throwing well in his post-surgical rehab and is scheduled to make his exhibition debut this week, and Matt Hoffman, a non-roster lefty who appears to have learned to use his slider as a strikeout weapon.

And suddenly the Twins have a shadow pen of sorts. Guerra and his changeup mirrors Burton and his off-speed weapon; the high-velocity Tonkin matches the fast-balling Fien; starting candidate Scott Diamond pairs with former starter Duensing; Guerrier has a history in the long relief/middle innings role; Hoffman appears to be a viable lefty specialist. Plus Oliveros, who was praised by assistant general manager Rob Antony even as he was being shipped out.

A bullpen of:

CL: Perkins
SU1: Tonkin
SU2: Guerra
L1: Hoffman
MR: Guerrier
MR: Oliveros
LG: Diamond

might not be a step back from the current alignment.

Patrick Reusse said Tuesday on the radio that he hears the Twins would like to move Burton and/or Duensing. That makes a good amount of sense to me.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting how the young pitchers report to spring training in mid-season form ie. Tonkin. He is touching 96 mph, shows a nasty slider and seems unhittable. Let's hope he is not burned up in August or worse yet hurts himself trying to come north with the team.