Busenitz Looks To Provide Relief
Image courtesy of Joe Territo/Rochester Red WingsAlan Busenitz has been terrific since coming to the Twins organization at last year’s trade deadline. Everyone is familiar with the trade in which the Twins sent Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer to the Angels in exchange for Hector Santiago. Few recall that the Twins received hard-throwing right-hander Busenitz from the Angels as well.
While the Twins bullpen has been a mess, Busenitz has been a consistent contributor late in games for the Red Wings. On the season, he has worked 29.1 innings in 19 games. He has a 2.15 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 and just 2.8 BB/9. Opponents have hit just .165 off of him so far this year. While he’s just 6-1 and under 200 pounds, he is blessed with a strong arm. He’ll often reach into the upper-90s with a fastball. He also has a very good breaking ball.
It is the usage of the breaking ball, he says, that has really helped him take a step forward in 2017 and credits his Red Wings pitching coach. “I’ve been working with Stu (Cliburn) on throwing the curveball more for a strike. I used to throw it more for swings and misses, but then I would fall behind.”
Being able to get ahead with a secondary pitch was important for the 26-year-old from Georgia. And, as you can see from his 2017 stats, he is still able to miss enough bats.
While Twins fans are clamoring for bullpen help, Busenitz is just working hard down in Rochester, waiting for his turn. In fact, he says, he hasn’t really given the thought of being called up too much thought.
Asked what it would mean to receive that call to the big leagues, Busenitz said, “I don’t even know. It’d be a whole lot of emotion.” He continued, “Probably, first and foremost, my wife would be pumped because that would mean we could move forward even faster on building a house. That’s what she’s after. That would be the first thing on her list.”
It would be a day even bigger than the day that he got drafted. That was a busy day for Busenitz.
“It was a good day all the way around. My wife’s sister was getting married that day, and then I got drafted so everybody was all excited. As I remember, I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know if I was going to because I wasn’t really even a prospect or anything. Next thing I know, I get a call. I was half watching but it was during the wedding. My cousin called me, and I was like, “Who drafted me?” I didn’t see who it was. He was like, “The Angels.” So, it was pretty funny. A good time.
On August 1st last year, Busenitz was sitting in a hotel room in Sacramento when his phone rang. On the other end was the Angels minor league director. “He asked me how my day was, and then said, ‘Oh, you’ve been traded.’ A day later, I was in a different uniform.”
He spent a few weeks in Chattanooga, adjusting to the new organization. He ended last year in Rochester which is where his 2017 season began.
Busenitz did pitch in one game for the Twins in spring training this year, but maybe his time is coming soon to pitch for the Twins in the regular season.
But Busenitz isn’t the only relief pitcher working in Rochester, biding his time until he get that call.
Trevor Hildenberger has been our minor league relief pitcher of the year the last two seasons. His 2016 season ended about a month early with some elbow soreness. He began 2017 in Rochester. In 19 games, he has worked 27 innings. He is 2-1 with four saves. He has a 2.33 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and opponents have hit just .235 off of him.
Randy Rosario came up directly from AA, in part because he is on the 40-man roster, and in larger part because he pitched great throughout May. Lookouts closer John Curtiss did not allow an earned run all season until Tuesday night when he gave up two earned runs. He is 2-0 with 12 saves. He has a 0.75 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, 12.8 K/9 (but 4.5 BB/9). Opponents are hitting just .145 off of him so far this year.
Brandon Kintzler, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers have been mainstays of the Twins bullpen all season. Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow have been there all year, but it’s fair to say each has had their struggles. So has Rule 5 pick Justin Haley, who has also seen plenty of time on the disabled list. Adam Wilk and Chris Heston have been claimed and pitched in the Twins bullpen. Ryan Pressly, Alex Wimmers, Buddy Boshers, Drew Rucinski and Michael Tonkin have all split their seasons between AAA and the big leagues. Even Jason Wheeler made a couple of appearance.
The Twins front office is tossing darts, trying to find a successful combination, some guys who can be reliable. Several have had their opportunities, and it’s likely we will see more.
Hildenberger and Busenitz are both 26-years-old all ready, and their minor league numbers tell us that they are ready for an opportunity. Curtiss is 24, so a bump to AAA should be coming for him soon, and then potentially to the big leagues. Rosario will be back at some point, and Mason Melotakis is another guy who is in AA, probably needing a move up to AAA.
Moving deck chairs is a phrase that Jeremy Nygaard and others have used as it relates to working on the fringes of the big league bullpen (and the back of the 40-man roster). There are some guys whose AAA success should warrant an opportunity soon.
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