Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gee, the bullpen B's

Dillon Gee will probably feel like a ping pong ball soon, if he doesn't already.

The right-handed pitcher was released on June 18 by Texas. The Twins signed him to a minor-league deal on the 22nd. The Twins then called him up on the 24th. He spent three days sitting in the Twins bullpen, and Monday night he was optioned out to Rochester without getting into a game. And even though he hasn't pitched since June 14, there's a pretty good chance the Twins will make him their doubleheader callup for Saturday in Kansas City.

I had assumed Gee, in his eighth major-league season, was out of options when I speculated in the Monday post that the most likely demotions (to make room for Hector Santiago today and probably Phil Hughes later in the week) were from the trio of Trevor Hildenberger, Adam Busenitz and Buddy Boshers. Gee went first. But somebody is likely to go later in the week, and that adds intrigue to Paul Molitor's bullpen choices late in Monday's game.

Jose Berrios gave up two runs in the first (and was probably fortunate that it was only two), then settled in for the next five. But the Twins couldn't do much with Chris Sale and trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. Berrios was pulled in the seventh with men on first and third, one out, for Matt Belisle.

Comments: Belisle has a lousy ERA, but almost all his bad outings have come when he started an inning. He's actually fared fairly well at stranding inherited runners; entering Monday's game, he had inherited 12 runners and allowed just two to score. Whether that's just random success or some sort of skill -- and I'm inclined to the randomness theory -- that is doubtless part of why Molitor continues to use the veteran in game situations.

And why not one of the "big three" in the Twins bullpen (Tyler Duffey, Taylor Rogers and Brandon Kintzler)? Probably because

  • The Twins were already behind
  • That trio was worked pretty hard in the Cleveland series
  • Santiago in't likely to go much more than five innings tonight. If he can keep the Twins in the game, Duffey will likely be needed for one of his usual two-inning stints..

So it made sense to go to the bullpen's second line.

Belisle gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia, driving in a run. Then he threw a sub-optimal pitch that Chris Gimenez failed to corral (ruled a passed ball), putting runners on second and third. Molitor granted Xavier Boegarts the intentional walk, then pulled Belisle for Buddy Boshers with the bases loaded and one out.

Comments: Belisle didn't give Molitor a lot of reason to stick with him in the Pedroia/Boegarts at-bats, and Molitor has seen too many big innings from Belisle already. Can't blame him for getting him out of there. I'm not a fan of the intentional walk to load the bases, but there is a logic behind setting up the double play.

The intriguing thing here is the use of Boshers over fellow lefty Craig Breslow. Boshers worked two innings the day before, and Breslow has pretty clearly been higher in the bullpen heirarchy. But Breslow have given up nine runs in his last seven innings.

Mitch Moreland hit a deep fly off Boshers -- there are several parks in which that ball is a homer -- and the Red Sox had another run, Boshers got the next man to fly to center also, and that ended the inning.

Busenitz got the eighth, and worked a 1-2-3 inning, flashing upper-90s velocity in the process.

So what does all that tell us?

  • Boshers may be in better position to stick than Breslow.
  • Belisle's status as the "No. 4" reliever, probably based on his success at stranding inherited runners, may be in jeopardy.
  • Busenitz has the stuff to be a power reliever.
I don't know long the ropes are for the veterans, Breslow and Belisle. I would like Molitor to be open to replacing either or both, and that may be happening already with Breslow. But that's going to be a process.

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