Archived Story

Twins Bullpen

Published 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.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Agreed that Slowey is a fascinating addition to the pen. A career .650 starting pitcher, his effectiveness tends to tank at the 45-55 pitch range as his pitches/batter spikes. He’s definitely well suited to the reliever’s role, as he tends to work fast and attack the hitters. He shows good control of some quality pitches and has a solid career 4.75 strikeout / walk ratio. His 2.08 ERA this spring in 13 innings of work indicates that he hasn’t lost any of his control. It may take him some time to figure out what he needs to do to be able to pitch 2x every 3 days. Once he does that, I think he’ll be well suited for the Matt Guerrier role – 1-3 inning stints around the 7th in close games. By mid-June I think he’ll be doing that job better than Guerrier himself. As to eventually being the closer, well, we’ll have to wait and see on that one. This, of course, is all contingent on him not being recalled to the rotation.

  • BaseballWiz32

    I agree, the pen has been the biggest question going into the season thus far. I’m not sure about Slowey being a closer in the future but I am optimistic he will be a great reliever! I never thought he was much of a starter, just couldn’t get past that 5-6th inning. I’m also not to worried about the guys who have left. They were good but nothing spectacular. The new crop of guys mixed in with some old blood should do us some good! Let’s get this season started!!

  • Randy Larson

    I don’t see Nathan being the obvious closer. He has an era over 10.00 for the spring and Capps is 0.00. Nathan will probably be the closer by the end of the year but for now I think they better look at using Nathan a little more cautiously. Slowey will be a good reliever I think. I like the way he goes at hitters and has attitude. Diamond doesn’t seem to be on Gardy’s good list yet. Slama’s been hurt, anybody know what the deal is? He just seems to be forgotten.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Holy Crap! I just looked up the spring training pitching stats. Randy, you have a point — Nathan’s numbers are stunningly hideous, while Capps’ are eyepoppingly great.

  • Randy Larson

    I was taken aback by the numbers myself. Nathan’s velocity has been fine but he’s having a tough time with location I guess. I think Gardy is going to have to work him in safe situations (4-5 run lead games, etc) to get him back in condition. As of now, I don’t see trusting him as a closer. It would be just setting him up to fail I’m afraid.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    AS I understand it, Gardy’s initial plan is to have both Nathan & Capps finishing games, his concern being Nathan pitching 2 days in a row. They say that in returning from surgery / layoff velocity is the second to the last thing to return is velocity. The only reason I haven’t been concerned about Nathan’s speed is the fact that he usually adds 3-5 mph as the season wears on. Historically his 95 mph heater hits 90-92 in the spring, which is about where he is now. The last thing to come back, usually, is control. Nathan has added another pitch and maybe he’s he’s not worried about Grapefruit League numbers. Smith & Gardy don’t seem to be. But then, maybe that’s just what they’re tell us peons.

    I know I don’t trust spring training numbers enough to conclude that Capps is going to be lights-out this season.

    • Tracy Mitchell

      Geez, I should have proof-read that last posting before hitting the button. Sorry.

  • Tom Grout

    I didn’t mention Nathan’s poor spring much because I am no quite sure what to make of it. Nathan has never been a very good spring training pitcher so I’m not sure if we should panic too much. I don’t think he will be the Nathan of old right away or this season for that matter. But I think he will help the bullpen none the less. You all know my opinions about closers and I think they have a few guys who could handle it. The Twins got by last year with Rauch and Capps. I am surprised you people don’t thing Slowey could close because I really think when he gets used to the pen and embrasses it he would be a good closer.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Lead Twins article in the Trib this morning is Nathan. Nothing real new. He’s not locating the slider. They want him to throw his curve more. His new pitch is a changeup that he’s working on. Tom, he’s never going to be the the Nathan of old — blowing people away throwing only fastball/slider. We need to get use to the fact that he’s now a finesse guy.

    Slowey as closer? — I NEVER said that Slowey can’t close. I think he’s a Super-Guerrier in the making — pitching the 7th inning when the game is on the line. Tom, I recall you saying that’s more important than whoever gets the 3 outs in the ninth with nobody on base. I’m projecting Slowey to be the heart of the pen — isn’t that enough for now?

  • Tom Grout

    Yes having Slowey be the Guierrer right now is enough and I stand by what I have said about the tough 7th inning. It’ just the world and Gardenhire are infatuated by closers and Nathan may be at the end of his career so I’m just saying with some success this season in the pen, Slowey may be a good choice for Gardy to be the closer in the future. To answer another thought if a Twins starter goes down to injury or hasn’t pitched well, my thought would be that Kyle Gibson may be the first choice and Slowey would remain in the pen.

  • Randy Larson

    How about Carlos Silva now that he’s been released? The most overpaid and over-rated pitcher in major league baseball has finally been released by the Cubs and he will make $11 million this year. What a piece of work he is. He is a living testimony to owner stupidity when they signed his salary. Does anyone know of a bigger waste of money? Tracy, surely you keep track of those things.

  • Tracy Mitchell

    Randy — I was astounded when Seattle signed Silva to that outrageous contract. In 2 years with the Mariners he went 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA. The Cubs putting themselves in the position of having to eat 11.5 million is even more astounding. Here’s this snippet:

    “Silva was scheduled to start against the Cleveland Indians Monday, March 28, in order to be showcased for a possible trade, but the team felt it was better to keep him away from the other players.”

    WTF? How goofie can things get in Silva-land?

    About bigger wastes of money? The only ones in baseball that come to mind involve big contracts and big injuries, or big drug addictions, as apposed to shear stupidity.
    In football, however, how about Demitrius Underwood — $5.3 million for ONE DAY of practice? Or number one picks Leo Hayden and DJ Dozier. And the granddaddy of them all . . . drum roll please . . . Hershell Walker!

  • Randy Larson

    I had almost forgotten about Dimitrius Underwood, or maybe I had subconciously blocked him out so I went to Wikipedia and read up on him. I had wondered what became of him. It’s quite a sad story of mental illness, bipolar disorder, and attempted suicide. It’s recommended reading. He is probably the poster child for all the psychological tests that are required before teams draft someone anymore.

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