Friday, January 2, 2015

Not invited to the bullpen party

The six pitchers who will be in the Twins major league camp as non-roster players -- J.O. Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Mark Hamburger, Taylor Rogers, Ryan O'Rourke and Adrian Salcedo -- fall into two categories.

Three of them -- Berrios, Duffey and Rogers -- are starting pitchers, each of whom have reached Double A at least. They have no chance of making the major league roster out of camp; not only are they not on the 40-man roster, but there are at least seven pitchers in camp ahead of them and probably more.

Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Logan Darnell -- these guys have, at the least, all had big league starts. The three non-roster starters will be jockeying for position to sub in for the older arms as they fail or get hurt or both.

Hamberger, O'Rourke and Salcedo are more likely bullpen candidates, although both Hamberger and Salcedo got a few starts last season as well. They too spent 2014 in the upper levels of the farm system, and O'Rourke and Salcedo at least posted intriguing strikeout rates.

I've suggested before that the Twins need to shake up their bullpen, and they have discarded two staples of recent seasons in Jared Burton and Anthony Swarzak. But they also invested in veteran free agent Tim Stauffer. There are bullpen openings, but barring injury we should expect to see Glen Perkins, Stauffer, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien in the bullpen, That's four of the seven jobs already locked down, and probably the four most important roles to boot.

O'Rourke might compete with Caleb Thielbar for a LOOGY job. Hamberger and Salcedo might compete with the likes of Ryan Pressly, Lester Oliveros and others for a utility pitcher spot. None of the pitchers in this paragraph figure at this point to get high-leverage innings.

Left out of this equation are the Twins' high-end bullpen prospects: Nick Burdi, Zach Jones, Jake Reed, J.T. Chargois. This quartet of power arms haven't gotten out of High A ball, and two of them spent much of 2014 recovering from significant arm surgeries, but they represent a more significant opportunity for improvement.

They won't be in major league camp next month. But maybe new manager Paul Molitor and new pitching coach Neil Allen will hear the gloves popping on the minor league side and wonder what's going on.

Burdi in particular might be major-league ready right now, but the Twins are habitually cautious. In his specific case, I believe, too cautious.

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