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Searching For Relief

'The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.'--- Bob Lemon, Hall of Fame Pitcher

The Twins bullpen would hardly be called strong this season. In fact, Minnesota's relief core has been somewhat of a revolving door with a well-worn path between Rochester and Target Field. As Nick wrote about on Monday, Brandon Kintzler might be the bullpen's unlikely hero but the team is going to need some second-half help to stay in contention.

Are there internal options that could be added to the mix? Could any injured players be making a comeback? Who is out there on the trade market? Let's take a look at how the bullpen could be bolstered.
Image courtesy of Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Injured
Phil Hughes has been making rehab appearances for Rochester and it sounds like he could be joining the Twins as soon as the end of the this week. He will make one more appearance on Wednesday before being activated by the club. In three Triple-A appearances (3 IP), Hughes has allowed one run on three hits with one strikeout and two walks. He wants to contribute this season and the bullpen is his best option since he has some lingering symptoms of the shoulder weakness that caused him to have surgery last season.

While Hughes is close to impacting the Twins, former closer Glen Perkins seems much further away from making a return. Manager Paul Molitor told reporters on Monday that Perkins could resume throwing after he receives a cortisone shot. This could come as early as Tuesday but there are no guarantees for Perkins. At this point, it seems like a long-shot for him to make an appearance this season.

The Minors
Ryan Pressly has struggled in his big league time this season, posting an 8.18 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP. In five Triple-A appearances (eight IP), he has yet to allow a run while converting all three save opportunities. He has given up more walks (three) than hits (two) to go along with 12 strikeouts and a .080 opponents' batting average. Those numbers might be tough for the front office to ignore.

Michael Tonkin and John Curtiss are two other names to watch in the second-half. Like Pressly, Tonkin has struggled during his big league action this season. He has a 6.55 ERA and a 13 to 10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 11 innings. With Rochester, he's posted a 2.81 ERA and a 23 to 9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Curtiss was dominating as Chattanooga's closer before being promoted to Triple-A. For the season, he has allowed two earned runs (0.99 ERA) with 38 strikeouts over 27.1 innings.

The Reunion Possibilities
Former fan favorite Pat Neshek is currently on a bad Philadelphia team and his name has already been surfacing in trade rumors. The side-winding hurler has a 0.59 ERA to go along with a 0.783 WHIP that would be attractive to any team in contention. He is in the final year of a three-year contract so he will be a free agent at season's end. This makes it hard for a team to surrender multiple prospects for a player who will make only a handful of appearances during the stretch run.

Another former Twin, Anthony Swarzak has been performing very well out of the White Sox bullpen. His 2.94 ERA is his best mark since 2013 with the Twins. Swarzak has also been posting a SO/9 rate higher than his career average and a career-best 1.10 WHIP. Like Neshek, he will be a free agent at the end of the season so trading multiple prospects probably doesn't make sense. He also currently plays on a division rival so that can make a trade less likely.

Other options are available and it still remains to be seen how the new front office regime will handle the trade deadline. Do they want to go all-in on a club that is surprisingly in the playoff hunt?

How do you think the front office should sort through the second-half bullpen options? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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130 Comments

Bullpen arms in trades are not too expensive in terms of prospects. If we can acquire o e with a 25th team ranked prospect or so we should bee willing to do that for a strong rental. Its ok to give up more with years more control. But we shouldnt give up too much either.
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Rhino and Compass
Jun 26 2017 10:14 PM

If the rotation doesn't remain intact, it won't matter how good the new additions are. They would still be overworked and ultimately fatigue, just like the arms in the pen now. I would prefer Minor League arms to bridge the gap through July. Ifthe Twins are still in contention then, go ahead and grab someone in trade right by the deadline, to make sure they are fresh.

    • mikelink45, DocBauer and d-mac like this
Its also possible that some of the help has already arrived in the forms of Busenitz and Hildenberg. These rookie bullpen arms may have some ups and downs but they may show long term success with some good coaching, managerial usage, and some patience.
    • birdwatcher, spanman2, spycake and 4 others like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jun 26 2017 10:52 PM
Given the waiver wire carousel, it's quite stunning how Breslow and Belisle have survived this long when they provide essentially nothing better than anyone else who has come and gone. Any idea why that is?
    • USAFChief, Danchat, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
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The Wise One
Jun 27 2017 12:39 AM

Joe Smith cost the Cubs a single prospect that was on not any a prospect list

Will Smith cost the Giants a backup catcher and a low A prospect but highly rated

Abad brought back Light

Zach Duke cost a low ranked prospect

Tyler Clippard cost a low level prospect

 

Short term fixes for relievers can be cheap for decent ones. The Giants were the only ones last year that bought high. 

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The Wise One
Jun 27 2017 12:48 AM

 

Given the waiver wire carousel, it's quite stunning how Breslow and Belisle have survived this long when they provide essentially nothing better than anyone else who has come and gone. Any idea why that is?

It must be the 22 games  Belisle did not allow a run and the 12 times he was credited with a hold. In high leverage situations batters are hitting .118. Numbers that the fans do not seem to pay much attention to.

 

Breslow because LH bats are hitting .129 against him. Management likes his brain. 

    • ThejacKmp, h2oface, Rhino and Compass and 3 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Jun 27 2017 02:30 AM

Reports I've read say that Pat Neshek can be had for a low-level prospect.  I'm assuming that's mostly based on his age [36].  But he is a side-winder, so there's significantly less stress on the arm.  

 

Also, whomever makes the trade will only be responsible for $3m of a $6m contract.  I'm just not seeing a downside here:  Keep Matt Belisle or take a "gamble" on Neshek.  This, to me, is a no-brainer.  

 

Of course, I'm also the dreamer that remembers the mediocre 1st half of 1987 and 1991, and how things ended up in the 2nd.

    • USAFChief, h2oface and goulik like this

Excited for Curtiss eventual call up, Busenitz stuff looks playable, haven't seen Hildenberger yet but his minors resume is promising.  

 

Its crazy how deep they are having to reach.The pen was still going to be a major issue even if everything went right but nothing has.May was a huge loss, of their "steady vet pickups" Belisle has been terrible and Breslow has been forced into way to big a roll.on top of that Chargois/ Burdi/ Jay were supposed to be the high end depth.Thats 5/6 of the best pen arms, in an already weak pen, either failing or hurt.

    • ThejacKmp likes this

It looks like Hughes will get a shot this week and Pressly should get another shot next month. We don't know about Hughes, but when not over used Pressly was very good  last year. By August maybe Curtiss and Reed can join the shuttle. Haley has also thrown an inning at Rookie Ball and will have to be dealt with. Besides Busenitz (who threw a no hit no walk inning last night) and Hildenbgerer still working in, we have 5 possible internal options for bullpen help. There are a couple of posibilities at Double A. The team has improved this year by giving internal options opportunities, I prefer this path as it still provides the most long term benefits.  Hopefully by sometime next year we will add Jay, May, Chargois and Burdi to this group.

    • 70charger and DocBauer like this

 

It must be the 22 games  Belisle did not allow a run and the 12 times he was credited with a hold. In high leverage situations batters are hitting .118. Numbers that the fans do not seem to pay much attention to.

 

Breslow because LH bats are hitting .129 against him. Management likes his brain. 

I don't think most fans are ignoring the numbers on Belisle that you state, they're looking at other other 10 outings in which he's gotten shelled.  When a guy gets lit up like that 1/3 of the time, that's a bit disconcerting to be thrown into high leverage situations as much as he does.  I get that this pen sucks, but I think usage is a reasonable knock.

 

My bigger beef with Breslow is how Molitor uses him.  Too often he's brought in to face nothing but righties with predictable results.

    • Mike Sixel, ThejacKmp, rghrbek and 1 other like this

Go young.  We are building a team and all the dumpster grabs we have made this year have not been the reason we are having a good year.  It must be something in the Minnesota air that has us continually looking out to find old Twins to bring back. 

    • Mike Sixel, LA VIkes Fan, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this

Busenitz and The Hildenberger Principle got off to good starts.  I feel like the situation is stabilizing.  Taken in isolation, what happened to Belisle last night is a normal deal on every team--I know that isn't fair to do, but I think he and Breslow have long leashes.  True or not, along with Gimenez and Castro, they constitute the veteran leadership intangible quotient that seems to be having a positive effect.  I.e, Belisle has shown the young guys how to have an absolutely crappy game and still show up the next day.

    • DocBauer and gheggs42 like this

It must be the 22 games Belisle did not allow a run

"Yes, your honor, I ran over a few kids with my car -- but think of all the kids I didn't run over! Far from a problem -- I am an asset to this community!"

And is last night another tally in Belisle's "no runs allowed" counter?
    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, h2oface and 7 others like this

Breslow because LH bats are hitting .129 against him.


Platoon splits are meaningless in Breslow's strict mop-up role.
I worry that Hughes might offer the same "help" as Breslow -- low leverage mop-up work, and generally limited to an inning or two per appearance, with ample rest in between. In any case, I would hesitate to trust him with more than that.
    • USAFChief likes this

Twins standard 8 man bullpen choices (no particular order)

 

Preferred (uh)- Kinzler, Rogers, Duffy, Boshers, Busenitz, Hildenberger

 

Others (uhg) - Breslow, Belisle, Hughes, ?, ?,  ?, Pressly, Tonkin

 

Future (YEA) (2018 hopefully)- Rogers, Duffy, Busenitz, Hildenberger, May, Jay, Chargois, Burdi, Reed, Bard, Curtiss, 

 

More future than present. With our starters I don't see how Moliter won't burn out the reliable pen members this year. I don't see A trade for A relief pitcher making a sizable difference over the remaining 85 games this year. More likely a pickup of non injured arms.

 

Busenitz and The Hildenberger Principle got off to good starts.  I feel like the situation is stabilizing. 

I wonder how much of this is because of the scenario when they made their first appearances. Most of the other emergency call-ups have been thrown into the fire because arms where needed NOW. Similar cases for these two, but apperance #1 was in a much calmer time of the game, not being called mid-inning to stop a rally before a game gets out of control.

 

I think that for the Twins to content, this pen needs:

 

a. Two arms better than Kintzler, hopefully one from each side who can strike out about a hitter an inning (only Duffey has that K/9 in the pen, btw)

b. The Killer Bees (Belisle, Breslow, Boshers) to go away so Molitor cannot use them in high leverage situations like yesterday.

 

Unfortunately I don't think that anyone listed, maybe with the exception of Neshek, might fit the bit. If Busenitz and/or Hildenberger get there this season, it will be a nice surprise, but the Twins need more.Who else might be available:

 

The duo of rentals righty Addison Reed (2.82 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 1.148 WHIP) and lefty Jerry Blevins (2.45 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 13 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.169 WHIP) from the Mets, would definitely fit the bill.

 

Braves' 34 y.o. RHP Jim Johnson (3.86 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.041 WHIP) is signed through 2018 for $5M/yr

 

Similar situation with the A's 36 year old righty Ryan Madson (2.45 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 0.989 WHIP) who is signed thought 2018 for $7.7M/yr

 

Speaking of the A's, 30 year old lefty Sean Doolittle (1.98 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 14.5 K/9, 0.7 BB/9, 0.512 WHIP) might be a nice little acqusition. The video game like numbers are only in 15 games and came back from the DL (shoulder issues) recently.He is signed through 2018 for $4.3M and he has 2 options for 2019 and 2020 for $6M and $6.5M

 

Lefty Brad Hand has 2 years of arbitration left, is 27 and has put good numbers with the Padres (2.59 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 11 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.008 WHIP), but will be more expensive than the others.On the other hand he could be a building block for the future.

 

30 y.o. righty journeyman Kirby Yates (2.28 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 13.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.268 WHIP), also of the Padres who is under team control for 3 years might be another addition.

 

If I were the Twins, I'd go hard after Hand (other than Jay really the LHRP pipeline is dry; well R.Rosario, but...) and Reed, because I really think that at least one of Burdi, Chargois, Curtiss and Bard, and likely more than one, will be good long term, and the last 2 should get opportunities in 2017.

 

This is how I see it.I just don't want to see them doing it half-rear ended again, like they did in 2015 and rather see them go for it, but being cautious of the future.

 

 

 

 

    • Kevin, h2oface and JustinCB like this

Breslow has been fine, but he's limited at this point and shouldn't be counted as one of your top 4-5 guys. Belisle is starting to look cooked and if he can't pull it together and start yanking that WHIP down, he should be a candidate to move on from.

 

The injuries to May, Burdi, and Chargois really hurt the bullpen depth. A key guy gone and two of the better prospects for high-end reinforcements wiped out sets you back, there's no question.

 

But if Hughes and Hildenberger can provide quality outings in high leverage situations it could settle things down without the need to for outside help. I'm not saying they shouldn't consider it, but it's still not an area I want to invest much in. There's a lot of help on the way if people can get healthy or stay on the development path: May, Jay, Chargois, Burdi, Bard, and Curtiss would all be good options to pair with Kintzler, Rogers, and Duffy.

 

The bigger issue remains in the rotation. The bullpen gets better/stronger when we have starters getting deeper into the game and right now we have too many guys who are sitting at 90+ pitches in the 5th. this team badly needs a 3rd starter to step up with Santana and Berrios, who are the only guys right now I feel confident about getting to the 7th on a fairly consistent basis.

    • 70charger likes this

I just want them to give the inexperienced players a chance to succeed and fail. They'll never be ready next year, if the rule is you can't put them in tough situations as rookies. I just don't buy it, that inexperience in and of itself is reason not to give them a shot. Talent might be....but that's not what I feel is always happening here.

    • beckmt, LA VIkes Fan, Hosken Bombo Disco and 4 others like this

I wonder how much of this is because of the scenario when they made their first appearances. Most of the other emergency call-ups have been thrown into the fire because arms where needed NOW. Similar cases for these two, but apperance #1 was in a much calmer time of the game, not being called mid-inning to stop a rally before a game gets out of control.


The previous call ups (save perhaps Rosario jumping up after only 30 career innings at AA) were all obviously worse pitchers too. Seriously, I don't think game situation is what was holding Wimmers back in 2017.

30 y.o. righty journeyman Kirby Yates (2.28 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 13.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.268 WHIP), also of the Padres who is under team control for 3 years might be another addition.


Yates looks very Tonkin-esque, right down to being available on waivers 2 months ago and his current low-leverage assignment. I probably wouldn't bother with him, except perhaps if he was a throw-in with Brad Hand or something.
We've been reading since at least 2015 that the Twins don't need to find bullpen help, because it's right around the corner. Just be patient, and by next year Reed/Burdi/Chargois/Bard/etc/etc/etc will be here and be teh awesome. Maybe even sooner!

It's folly, just as depending on minor leaguers always is. Never depend on minor leaguers to succeed. If one or two or ten even, force their way onto the big league team, great. Too much talent has never been a problem.
    • HitInAPinch, Vanimal46 and VirginSturgeon like this

 

Go young.  We are building a team and all the dumpster grabs we have made this year have not been the reason we are having a good year.  It must be something in the Minnesota air that has us continually looking out to find old Twins to bring back. 

I really agree with this as far as the bullpen goes, use the young guys see what they have.  a Neshek can always be picked up for cheap at the deadline if still in contention.  The rotation is a different matter, there aren't any internal options that are really close to being ready, so might as well see what Gee and a few guys like that can do to hold crap together at the backend of the rotation when we need them at least for this year?  Next year hopefully there will be a better plan in place for the rotation.  But as far as the bullpen goes, keep rolling out some young guys and see what they got?

Generally I am against myopic responses and solutions, but there is too much to fix with the pitching and there are no extraneous players on this team apart from Dozier. They had better not be trading Dozier for bullpen arms, and they had better not be making holes elsewhere to get a deal done either.

 

I'm not worried about it, I'm taking a leap of faith and hoping Twins management knows they have no one to spare. Fixing the pitching with this team has to be a process, not an event. It's going to take time. There are simply no trades possible that would fix every pitching problem this team has, nor are there any trades possible that would bring the team's pitching up to average. It's sink or swim with what they have or trade with cash, and cash only deals make the Twins a last resort trading partner. No one wants the Twins 6.00 ERA guns.


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