Monday, June 26, 2017

Contemplating Buddy Boshers

Pretty good weekend for the Twins in Cleveland. They swept the defending AL champs and returned, narrowly, to first place in the Central Division.

And give a lot of the credit to the oft-criticized and oft-battered bullpen. The Twins allowed just two runs in the three games despite getting just 15.2 innings from the starters. The bullpen worked four innings in Friday's shutout (Tyler Duffey two, Taylor Rogers one, Brandon Kintzler one); 4.1 in Saturday's win (Duffey 1.1, Matt Belisle 0.2, Rogers 1.1, Trevor Hildenberger one) and three Sunday (Buddy Boshers two, Kintlzer one).

Broken down like that, we see the usual pattern in use. Paul Molitor used each of his three most-trusted bullpen arms (Duffey, Rogers, Kintlzer) twice. He even used Duffey in back-to-back games, which is not part of the usual pattern. Molitor tried again to get crucial outs from the veteran Belisle, and Belisle gave up the one run the bullpen yielded all series.

Having gotten 10 outs from Duffey (and seven from Rogers) in the first two games of the series, Molitor pretty much had to find somebody else Sunday for the bridge role. That somebody was Buddy Boshers.

And that went quite well. Two innings, no hits, one base runner (a disputed HBP), one strikeout.

It was Boshers' 11th outing for the Twins this year, and his first in a game they ultimately won. (He does have one hold, which came in a game in which Belisle and Craig Breslow combined for a nine-run meltdown after Boshers threw a scoreless inning.) Sunday wasn't a hold, because the Twins had a four-run lead when he entered, but Boshers definitely got the job done. His ERA is down to 2.50.

The Greg McMichael Rule comes into play: Get outs and they'll find a role for you. (Greg McMichael was a pitcher with the Atlanta Braves during the height of the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz era who was a minor league free agent in spring training and the closer by the second half of the season.) Boshers has gotten outs, and a bigger role is clearly available.

But ...

The pitching staff's revolving door is about to spin some more, with Hector Santiago coming off the DL for Tuesday's start in Boston and perhaps the return of Phil Hughes. The Twins had nine guys in the bullpen in Cleveland, and three of them (Breslow, Adam Busenitz and Dillon Gee) didn't pitch. I would expect Gee to be "piggy backed" with Santiago on Tuesday; I certainly don't expect the Twins to try to demote him before pitching him.

Belisle and Breslow can't be optioned out; clearing them off the major league roster means waiving them. So the bullpen options for clearing roster space for Santiago and/or Hughes would seem to be Busenitz, Hildenberger or Boshers. We'll toss starter Aldaberto Mejia into that mix as well, even though he has the third best ERA of the nine men who've started.

It's a bit of a puzzle. The Twins signed Belisle and Breslow with an eye to leavening the inexpeience on this pitching staff. They haven't been very good, but they are difficult to move. I don't think the Twins will option out Boshers to make room for Santiago or Hughes, but it's hardly impossible. One good outing doesn't make his job safe.

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