Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Contemplating the bullpen

Two pronouncments Monday out of Fort Myers by manager Rocco Baldelli about the Minnesota bullpen:

  • He is indeed not naming a closer, or designating specific roles for his relief crew. (This matches the thesis of the Monday print column.) 
  • Non-roster invitee Ryne Harper will be on the opening day roster.

Harper, as you can see by clicking the above link, has a rather extensive minor-league resume, heavier on Double A innings than Triple A. While he has had a (very) brief major league callup, he never appeared in a game, so when he takes the mound it will be his major league debut. Expect lots of curve balls from him.

Contemporary bullpens are always a work in progress. This will be no exception. The Twins are to open the season with an 11-man pitching staff. The number will rise from there.

Three of last year's bullpen appear likely to be on the injured list by Thursday's opener (righties Matt Magill and Addison Reed and lefy Gabriel Moya), and it sounds as if the Twins expect Magill and Moya to be ready relatively soon. Presumably at least one of them will be ready when the Twins need to shift Martin Perez to the rotation.

Perez, the fifth starter, is going to begin the season in the bullpen because of a cluster of April off days. So this 11-man staff breaks down for now as:

Starters: Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson (that's the announced order).

Late-inning relievers: Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers

Not-so-late: Perez, Harper, Aldaberto Mejia

One thing to watch in these first couple of weeks is how Baldelli uses Perez. One major goal is going to be keeping the lefty stretched out so that when he's inserted into the starting rotation he's ready to give them at least five to six innings. I suspect that's part of why Gibson's going last, so that Perez can "piggy back" with either Odorizzi (who seldom pitches deep into games) or Pineda (who will probably be handled with some care early on in his second year back from Tommy John surgery).

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