Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision
Image courtesy of Scott Rovak-USA TODAY SportsMiami left Kinley unprotected this offseason following an up and down minor league season. He posted a 1.98 ERA at High-A but struggled to a 5.19 ERA after being bumped up to Double-A. There were some control issues as he averaged 3.7 walks per nine innings but his 12.7 strikeouts per nine was tough to ignore.
Over the winter, Kinley pitched in the Dominican Winter League. In 14 appearances, he posted a 0.47 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP and a 32 to 11 strikeout to walk ratio. During one stretch, he had an 18-inning scoreless streak. It’s hard not to be impressed with those numbers even if it is a limited sample size.
Kinley knows his time with Minnesota could be fleeting. “I really try not to think about it. I try to just think about preparing myself the best I can and trying to go out and execute the plan,” he told the Associated Press. “Just to establish myself as a reliable bullpen arm, not only to the coaching staff and front office’s eyes, but to the players as well.”
Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado likens Kinley to a former Rule 5 pick. “Johan [Santana] was willing to work and get better. Kinley reminds me of that. I’m not saying starting-wise, but he wants to learn, works hard, [a] very good person.”
Control issues have continued to follow Kinley this spring. In the 10 innings pitched, he has six walks and a hit-by-pitch. According to the Star Tribune, Kinley’s fastball was clocked at 99 miles per hour earlier in the spring. Pair that with his 91 mile per hour slider and he could provide a power arm the Twins need in the bullpen.
Minnesota’s addition of Lance Lynn added another wrinkle to fitting Kinley on the roster. The Twins were expected to start the season with a four-man rotation because of additional off-days worked into the schedule. This could allow for an eight man bullpen. Phil Hughes might be pushed to the bullpen to make way for Lynn in the rotation.
As far as starters go, the Twins are looking at Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn. Hughes could serve as a fifth starter or a long-man out of the bullpen. Some of the locks in the bullpen are Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Tayler Rogers, Zach Duke and Ryan Pressly.
Trevor Hildenberger has struggled this spring so he could be sent down to start the year. He was critical to the Twins in the second half of last season so this might be enough to keep him on the roster. Players like Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey and Gabriel Moya all have at least one option remaining. Things might have been made clear on Thursday with multiple bullpen pieces being optioned to Rochester.This could make Kinley the last player to fit into the bullpen.
For the Twins and Kinley, the clock is ticking. One way or another a decision needs to be made.
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