Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A bullpen overview

The Twins caravan swung through Mankato on Monday night. Theoretically I could have gone -- Monday is one of my nights off -- but it wasn't really on my radar screen to begin with, and when I tried to walk the dog around 5 p.m. and found the driveway and sidewalk ice-coated from the drizzle, all notion of leaving the house was abandoned.

But about 300 people did show up, including the Free Press' free-lancer Denny Weller, who produced this report.

The players on this leg of the annual promotional journey were relievers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly, who emerged during the sorry 2016 season as the bullpen arms Paul Molitor most trusted -- which is not to say that they were truly good. Each was, as it turned out, arbitration eligible this year, and each got a nice raise for their veteranness.

We don't know when or to what level Glen Perkins will return from his shoulder surgery. I'm a Perkins fan. as evidenced by my repeated sponsorship of his Baseball Reference page, but I'm not optimistic about his future. Shoulder surgeries are inherently career-threatening, and on the range of outcomes, a return as the 97-mph flamethrower he once was is probably the least likely.

If Perkins is back, that's great and wonderful. But the Twins should wait to see it before they count on him.

And what does a non-Perkins bullpen look like? Presuming Trevor May is in the rotation, this would be a likely outline of six pitchers and roles, at least to open:

Closer: Kintzler
Setup 1: Pressly
Setup 2/LOOGY 1: Taylor Rogers
MR 1: J.T. Chargois
LOOGY 2: Ryan O'Rourke
Long man: Michael Tonkin

I'm not impressed, and you shouldn't be either.

To be sure, there are plenty of contenders for the last four roles, and I doubt that these precise six will all go north for the opener. I hope there will be a genuine long man, not Tonkin's masquarade. But Kintzler and Pressly, with their squatter's rights, will go to Fort Myers penciled into the top two slots. (It's also quite possible tha the Twins will open with a 12-man staff, not the 11 this implies, but they aren't winning or losing games on their 12th pitcher, or shouldn't be.)

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