Twins BullpenPublished 1:06pm Thursday, March 24, 2011
One of the more worrisome areas for most people this year about the Twins is the bullpen. Although it still hasn’t been decided who is going to make up the 2011 opening pen, it’s getting pretty close. Close enough to look at it today anyway.
The Twins more than likely will have a 12 man pitching staff with 5 of those going to the starting pitchers and the remaining 7 for the bullpen. The 5 starters have been named already by Gardy and his staff and they are; Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker.
The major concern in the bullpen has been the fact that there are a lot of guys missing from last year and some of the missing has been around for some time. Matt Guiererr has been a steady guy out of the bullpen for a number of years and Jesse Crain has also been around for awhile and now they are gone. John Rauch and late season addition last year, Brian Fuentes, are also gone. These guys are all veterans and did a good job for the Twins and you usually knew what you were getting when they did play.
Because of this loss in the pen, many have been a little concerned in how the Twins were going to fill it and have called the pen the team’s weakest link. I held some concern early on but I also knew the Twins would take whatever measures to fix the situation and I am optimistic, yes I know I’m being positive about something quick mark that on the calendar, that the pen could be very good.
A lot of reason for optimism is in Joe Nathan coming back. So far in Spring Training he is doing great and has been having a normal training camp for him. He is the key to this whole thing because if he can get back to his All Star form the pen will be in fantastic shape. Coming off Tommy John surgery we should not expect too much but so far indications are that he is ok. Even if he isn’t 100% old Joe Nathan but is even 80% Joe Nathan he will make a difference.
The new set up man is Matt Capps who has been a closer for the past few years and is a very capable reliever. He is also a team guy who has embraced his new role and has the experience to close if Nathan either fails or just needs a break.
Jose Mijares is the main lefty in the pen for now and when he has his head on straight can be very effective not only to lefties but righties as well. Kevin Slowey lost out to Scott Baker in the starting rotation and has been sent to the pen. More on him later.
If you have been counting you see that is four relievers already set and there will be seven of them so that leaves three places left.
According to the experts, and I am not talking about the Twins coaching staff, Dusty Hughes and solidified his spot on the pen. Hughes was picked up from Kansas City and is a left hander who has pitched well in Spring Training. I remember him from last year and he was tougher than nails against the Twins especially our left handed hitters. Hughes will definatly be better than Randy Flores and should fill in for the missing Fuentes who really didn’t play that much for the Twins anyway.
So that leaves two spots open and the candidates, it seems, is lefties Glen Perkins and Scot Diamond and right-handers Jeff Manship and Jim Hoey. Perkins is out of options and has pitched pretty well in the spring so he seems to be a logical choice to make the team if he doesn’t get traded. But for now I think he will be on the roster. So that leaves one spot for the other three. I don’t think Diamond will make it. He is a Rule 5 guy so he has to make the roster or the Twins will have to trade for him. The Twins like him and he is more a starter as of now than a reliever so I see the Twins swinging a deal and Diamond will be in AAA Rochester.
Manship may be the guy as he has pitched with the Twins before but Hoey has something the Twins have coveted but yet never really had and that’s a guy with a 95+ fastball. Hoey came to the Twins from Baltimore in the Hardy trade and this will be his second season from arm surgery and he has reached the high ends of 90 in Spring Training. The big problem with Hoey like a lot of flamethrowers is control. He showed that lack of control early in camp but lately has gotten better. I think Rick Anderson can straighten this guy out enough to be an effective reliever for the Twins.
All said and done that is not a bad bullpen but I said I would get back to Slowey and now I will. I think Slowey was headed to the bullpen the moment Carl Pavano was signed again. The only thing that would have changed that is if one of the other starters came up with some injury problem. Pavano and Liriano were givens and the way Duensing has pitched he was a given too. Blackburn has the big salary and apparently pitched with a sore arm last year so it is no surprise he made the rotation. I don’t think Baker would ever be able to be a good reliever. By his own admission he takes a long time to warm up and beyond that I don’t think he has reliever stuff or mentality and that is why I think Slowey was destined to be in the pen from the start.
Slowey has the potential to be the glue that holds this bullpen together and the guy who will potentially make this a very good bullpen. Slowey has the pitches to work from the pen, he is a fast worker, he is always around the plate, and I think he has the mentality to be a very good reliever. I think all he really needs to learn is how to warm up quickly and I don’t think that will take him long at all, like I think he already has figured that out. As a starter Slowey has always done well out of the shoot. It is usually the 5th and 6th inning that does him in, now he will have to throw maybe 3 innings at the most.
I predict Slowey may be the long man in the pen at first but he will completely grab hold of this reliever thing and will used like Matt Guierrer and then will eventually be the set up guy. Whether he will be the set up guy this season or not I’m not sure but I know he will and then I predict that someday he will be the Twins closer when Nathan finally hangs it up. Yes, I am that exited for Slowey in the bullpen and just remember you heard it here first.
So to wrap up, if the Twins bullpen is suppose to be their weak spot, then I don’t know how they are going to lose. Baring any injuries and we all know that happens, this could be a better bullpen than last year.