Monday, April 22, 2019

Fernando Romero and the search for bullpen depth

The Monday print column devoted about 475 words to pooh-poohing the notion that Craig Kimbrel is the solution to the Twins bullpen.

Which doesn't mean the Twins shouldn't be concerned about their bullpen depth. The Twins haven't blown leads with regularity, but they have certainly danced some uncomfortable tightropes. On Sunday both the eighth and ninth innings ended with Orioles on every base.

Blake Parker was reportedly ill and unavailable during the Baltimore sweep, so the Big Four was reduced to the Big Three. Trevor May, Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers all got the job done, if barely so. But even if Rogers can pitch today, I doubt he should after 45 pitches Saturday and Sunday.

The Twins could certainly use more stable outings from May. And they could certainly stand to have a fifth pitcher emerge as somebody manager Rocco Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson can turn to with some confidence.

Which brings us to Fernando Romero, the hard-thrower who graduated from the prospect list last year as a starter and has been converted to relief work. Romero was tabbed Saturday to be the 26th man for the second game of the doubleheader. He pitched two innings and allowed three runs in an unimpressive outing.

The wildly high upside to Romero in the bullpen is what Josh Hader provides the Brewers -- dominating stuff for multiple innings a couple days a week. Romero isn't close to that right now. Guys like Hader aren't mass produced, of course, and they're easy to burn out when they do turn up. And Romero isn't to be discarded because he isn't a right-handed version of Hader. But right now, he doesn't appear to be a good answer to the bullpen depth issue.

Romero, returned to Rochester, will doubtless get another chance down the road. For now, the Twins have to try some other possibilities.

Ryne Harper -- and Tyler Duffey -- are different kinds of answers. They are curve ball specialists, not power arms. We may in the next couple of weeks see one of them get some valuable innings. What I call the Greg McMichael Rule has eternal application: If you get outs, they'll find a role for you.

Harper and Duffey (to a more limited extent) have gotten outs. A role awaits.

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