Monday, April 13, 2015

A bullpen based on March

The last seven men
to face Blaine Boyer
all got hits.
The Blaine Boyer Experience this weekend wasn't pretty.

On Saturday he entered the ninth inning of a tied game with one out and nobody on. He got his first batter out, then: single (misplayed by shortstop Santana), double, single, one run in and the third out at the plate.

On Sunday he faced four batters in the eighth inning of a one-run game: single, stolen base, single, home run, single. Added to Sunday's misery: It was all against right-handed hitters, and if Boyer offers a bullpen anything of value, it's facing right-handed hitters.

That's a fairly substantial if. Boyer is 33, has a lengthy track record -- Sunday was his 269th major league appearance over nine full or partial seasons -- and is what he has always been: A fringe reliever, the 12th or 13th pitcher on a 12-man staff.

So why is he suddenly getting key innings for the Twins? Three reasons:

  • Casey Fien has a balky shoulder;
  • Boyer had a strong spring training;
  • Tim Stauffer was awful in spring training

I see two groups of relievers on this roster. The first are the secure veterans: Glen Perkins, Fien, Brian Duensing, Stauffer. They entered camp knowing they would be on the roster; the first three knew what their specific roles would be.

The second group got roster spots on the strength of what they did in Florida last month: Boyer, J.R. Graham, Aaron Thompson. Graham is in a unique position as a Rule 5 draftee; he either sticks on the roster or goes back to the Atlanta Braves, and there's too much there to consider giving him up.

One week into the season, and the bullpen is a mess. I have no basis to judge if Fien should be on the disabled list or not, but if he can't take the mound and Stauffer and Boyer can't get outs, the right-handed portion of the relief corps is down to Graham, and there isn't enough of him for that.

Something must be did, and the likeliest candidate to do it to is Boyer. Stauffer's contract may be digestable, but December's decision to give him a major-league contract suggests the front office will wait until at least mid-May before admitting the mistake.

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