Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Applying the "opener" to the Twins

The Monday print column examined the Rays' innovative use of veteran short reliever Sergio Romo, who has been deployed four times in two weeks to pitch the first inning against righty-heavy lineups.

The Rays all told have done this five times in that span, using another righty bullpen arm for the first inning and then turning to another pticher for length.

The column got about as long as I care to submit for print without getting into the applicability of this strategy for the Twins. And without a specific transaction to comment on today, here goes.

Against the Twins

I don't see the Rays trotting Romo out for the first inning when they come to Minnesota in July. Romo, who throws about 60 percent sliders, is a right-handed specialist, and the Twins are heavy with left-handed hitters and switch hitters. It's a rare lineup from Paul Molitor that doesn't have at least one left-handed hitter in the top two lineup spots.

Remember, a big part of what Kevin Cash is doing here is getting a favorable matchup at the start of the game. He's not eager to have Romo face Joe Mauer, Eddie Rosario or Max Kepler at any time that matters.

By the Twins

Unlike the Rays, the Twins don't have any lefties in their rotation, marginal or otherwise, and won't even after Ervin Santana returns from his surgery rehab. And there's really nobody in the current rotation Molitor would necessarily want to protect.

But last year was another matter. Adlaberto Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins and threw all of 98 innings -- less than five innings per start. The hefty lefty was their fourth-used starter but didn't provide the bulk innings one wants from a middle of the rotation piece.

It might have helped to use somebody like Alan Busenitz or Ryan Pressly against a righty-heavy top of a lineup to open Mejia's outings and then turn to Mejia. One or two more wins out of those games would have been valued.

Mejia not only didn't make the team this year, he isn't giving the Twins reason to bring him up. If the opener concept is going to spread out of Tampa Bay, it won't do so in Minnesota.

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