Monday, May 8, 2017

Up or Out: Michael Tonkin and the missed opportunity

The Twins swapped out another piece of the pitching staff over the weekend, dumping Michael Tonkin (designated for assignment) and restoring Justin Haley from the disabled list.

Michael Tonkin
gave up four
homers in 11
innings this year.

As noted in the Monday print column, Tonkin had more than a year in the major league bullpen, a period of extreme disruption in that bullpen, and never managed to seize a role greater than mop-up/long relief. Remember: The Twins came north last year with Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May and Casey Fien as the four late inning arms. None made it through the full season with the Twins, and two two (Perkins and May) are on the 60-day DL and the other two are not on 40-man rosters.

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressley, Tayor Rogers -- they all took advantage of the opportunity created by the upheaval. Tonkin did not.

The "up or out" system, used in a variety of endeavors, is effectively at practice here. The role Tonkin held for seven months or so is essentially an entry-level position. Nobody is expected to make a career at mopup work. A young pitcher gets called up and tested in it; he succeeds or fails; he moves into a more prominent role or departs.

Haley is a Rule 5 selection, and the mopup/long-man role is basically designed for Rule 5 pitchers. Tonkin missed his opportunity. Now it belongs to Haley, and it will be up or out for him as well. His ninth inning struggles Sunday (three hits and a walk in a third of an inning) didn't matter in the context of the game, which was already lost; they do matter in terms of building his resume to move into a more significant role.

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