Thursday, August 9, 2018

Trevor Hildenberger and a too-thin bullpen

Forty-some years ago whoever The Sporting News had as its correspondent for the then-California Angels referred constantly to that team's bullpen as "the Arson Squad." It's rare today to see a relief ace called a "fireman," but you get the idea.

Trevor Hildenberger today is more an arsonist than a fireman. Wednesday marked three straight appearances for him with a home run allowed. I won't pretend to know what the problem is; I know there's a problem.

Underlying the Hildenberger-specific problem that's leading to all the long balls is one of roster construction. The Twins have too many bullpen guys Paul Molitor doesn't want to use in game situations -- like the ninth inning of a tied game, which was the situation Wednesday when Hildenberger served up his most recent tater.

Fernando Rodney and Taylor Rogers, yes. Beyond that, with the trades of Zach Duke and Ryan Pressly ... the abyss.

Hildenberger is the favored arm of the rest of the pen partly because he has had some success, partly because he's (presumably) sound and partly because he's right handed.

Gabriel Moya is getting some work as a second lefty; essentially Rogers has moved into Duke's role as the favored lefty and Moya has moved into Rogers' old role. Fine.

Trevor May -- who did pitch Wednesday -- is in a rehab season after his Tommy John surgery. I assume Molitor wants to avoid using May on consecutive days.

Addison Reed is supposed to be a bullpen factor, but he has pitched just twice since coming off the disabled list, on July 31 and Aug 4. If he needs that much rest between outings, he probably shouldn't be active.

Matt Magill -- another guy who did pitch Wednesday -- has been pigeonholed as a long man for much of the season. Molitor has been reluctant to use him late in games, and nine of his first 25 appearances came with leads or deficits of more than four runs.

And Oliver Drake -- I haven't the slightest notion what he and his 7.31 ERA (compiled on a major league record five teams, including the Twins) is doing on this roster. I do know what he isn't doing, and that's pitching.

At least the overmatched Matt Belisle is off the active roster -- not DFA'd, but on the disabled list. This means we will probably get another dose of him next month at the latest. Oh joy.

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