Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Can't get no relief

It's not truly accurate to blame Monday's bullpen disaster on Sunday's 15-inning marathon.

Imagine for a moment that Brandon Kintzler hadn't coughed up the lead Sunday and the Twins had won in nine innings. On Monday Paul Molitor would still have had the same problem: His three most trusted relief arms -- Kintzler, Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey --  had been worked hard. Duffey threw two innings Saturday and really shouldn't have been used Sunday but was, and Rogers and Kintzler each pitched Saturday and Sunday.

The Twins brought up two fresh arms in Drew Rucinski and Jason Wheeler, but Molitor didn't trust either with a six-run lead and six outs to go. That might have been his undoing,

He used Ryan Pressly, Craig Breslow and Matt Belisle, each having worked on Sunday after Kintzler blew the lead, and they each failed. .And yeah, the outfield defense, weakened by the injury to Bryon Buxton, didn't help, but still ...

Molitor's choice underlines the lack of bullpen depth. Rogers and Kintzler aren't the prototype late-inning arms, but they've been pretty effective. The problem is, two late inning arms and one multi-inning middle man -- which is what Duffey has been -- worked for Earl Weaver some 30 years ago, but it's not enough in the modern bullpen.

The Twins have aggressively shuffled their bullpen, and that continued after Sunday's game, with Rucinski returned to Rochester and Buddy Boshers recalled. But it continues to be a parade of low-impact arms. The power arms that might made a difference are awaiting surgery (Nick Burdi), recouping from injury (J.T. Chargois, Tyler Jay, Jake Reed) or simply deemed not ready for the majors (Mason Melotakis and John Curtiss). The roster moves are just swapping out one minor-league free agent for another.

I know this: The relief pitchers we saw Monday aren't the answer.

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