Monday, March 23, 2015

Molitor's first bullpen

J.R. Graham is a Rule
5 selection and must either
be retained on the 25-man
roster or offered back
to the Atlanta Braves.
The Twins this weekend sent out Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly, two right-handers who spent time on the major league roster last season and who entered camp as reasonable bets to win jobs.

Dick Bremer on Saturday described the 2015 bullpen as a "total makeover" or something along those lines. That's overblown. Glen Perkins is still the closer, Casey Fien and Brian Duensing are still the top righty and lefty set up men. Yes, Jared Burton and Anthony Swarzak are gone, but replacing the fourth and sixth men in a seven-man bullpen -- and even the fifth if Caleb Thielbar loses out on a job -- is more rearranging furniture than remodeling.

Of course, Bremer also called the bullpen of the past few years a "strength," and that's overblown as well. You want to see a team whose bullpen in a strength, look at Kansas City -- and realize that neither Fien nor Duensing would get serious use there.

One of the spring training staples of this blog has been projecting Ron Gardenhire's bullpen, Let's take a stab at Paul Molitor's first, with the guys in parenthesis as the ones I'm least certain about:

Tommy Milone may
mark time in the
Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Fien
LOOGY 1/Setup 2: Duensing
MR 1: Tim Stauffer
MR 2: J.R. Graham
Long:  (Tommy Milone)
LOOGY 2: (Aaron Thompson)

I'm putting Milone in the long man's spot because I've concluded that the Twins will open with Mike Pelfrey in the starting rotation. I wouldn't, but I would have dumped him before spring training. The Twins do not have five better starters than Tommy Milone, but they do have four who are higher paid. Maybe they'll trade him, but I think they'll keep him and wait for somebody to get hurt or fail.

Graham is a Rule 5 pick out of the Atlanta organization who had serious surgery a couple years back and struggled on his return as a starter. The Twins thought a bullpen role would suit him, and that idea is promising enough that they shouldn't return him. I would also think that his role will be lesser until he gets himself established.

Who still in camp am I leaving out? From the 40-man roster, competing for the spot I give to Graham: A.J. Achter and Stephen Pryor. From the non-roster invitees, Blaine Boyer and Mark Hamburger. I'd prefer any of those four to Stauffer, but the Twins made that decision well before camp. For the slot I assigned to Thompson, there's Thielbar.

UPDATE: Since this was posted, the Twins have optioned out Pryor. (I also corrected Mark Hamburger's first name.)

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