Thursday, May 28, 2015

The imminent return of Casey Fien

Tim Stauffer hasn't
appeared in a
major league game
since April 29.
The Twins go into today's off-day with an eight-man bullpen, one more than optimal. On Wednesday, the rehabbing Casey Fien worked the second day of back-to-back outings; if he reports no issues with the shoulder that had sidelined him, he's ready to come off the disabled list.

So change is coming. Maybe changes, but certainly at least one of the relief pitchers has to go to make room for Fien. Who?

Cross off Glen Perkins, Blaine Boyer and Aaron Thompson, the closer and the current top two setup guys. (Thompson may be spluttering a bit now after a sensational start to his season -- he hasn't gotten through a full inning since May 9 -- but he's still left-handed.) Cross off J.R. Graham as well; he's not a key member of the bullpen, but this is not a time to break the Rule 5 commitment.

That's four of the eight, leaving, alphabetically, Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly, Tim Stauffer and Michael Tonkin.

Duensing is likely to stay, with the left-handed thing working in his favor. But he hasn't been particularly effective -- 21 baserunners allowed in 10 innings -- and the one out he got Wednesday pinned Eddie Rosario to the outfield wall.

Pressly and Tonkin were part of the late-innings parade between starter Phil Hughes and Perkins Wednesday, Paul Molitor hasn't come to really trust either. although Tonkin in particular has come though in very brief outings with men on base. (Wednesday he entered in the eighth after Thompson gave up a hit to walk Hanley Ramirez and get David Ortiz on a weak grounder.)

Stauffer, whose return from the DL last week gave the Twins this eight-man pen, hasn't entered a game since his return. The starters haven't needed a long man for a while, and Molitor doesn't (and shouldn't) want to use him in a winnable game.

But he does carry a guaranteed major-league contract, and the Twins are unlikely to find any takers for it. So if he's the one to go, the Twins would have to eat the contract.

Which is what I expect them to do: Designate Stauffer for assignment (and eventually release him, since nobody's going to pick up that contract), reactivate Fien, and move on. Stauffer's signing was a mistake, but a minor one. The Twins shouldn't compound the error by keeping him around any longer.

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