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Inexperienced Bullpen Gaining Valuable Experience

For a moment, let’s just forget the job of the bullpen on Monday night, particularly starting in the seventh inning. From the trade deadline at the end of July, when the team traded All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, the Twins bullpen has been very good. It’s been interesting to see how roles have changed throughout the last month, and a couple of less experienced pitchers are playing a huge role in that.
Image courtesy of Daniel Mick (photo of Alan Busenitz)
Trevor Hildenberger was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year in both 2015 and 2016. He was called up to the big leagues and debuted on June 23rd in Cleveland. That was just six days after another 26-year-old reliever, Alan Busenitz, made his debut for the Twins at Target Field against Cleveland.

Hildenberger has stayed with the Twins since that debut and has gradually earned higher leverage opportunities.

"It's great to pitch in high-pressure situations but it's confidence you have to earn every outing. You gotta keep building on good outings and keep improving."


Posted Image
photo by Daniel Mick (of Trevor Hildenberger)

In his first 13 outings, he pitched in six games when there was a four (or more) run differential, and he pitched before the seventh inning six times. In his next 13 appearances, Hildenberger has been terrific. Three times he has pitched in a blowout situation, but only when things started getting a bit hairy, and he has not pitched before the seventh inning in a game.

Overall, he has posted a 2.59 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over 31.1 innings. He’s shown the skills that he showed throughout his minor league career. He walks very few (1.1 BB/9), and despite not being overpowering, he misses bats often (9.8 K/9).

Since August 2nd, he has worked 14 innings over 14 games. He’s got a 1.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in that time frame. In one stretch, he worked in six out of seven Twins games. He has become a trusted, reliable member of Molitor’s bullpen.

As Molitor said after a recent Twins game, “Of course, Hildenberger has been invaluable to us.”

And Busenitz? “Busenitz has been very good.”

Alan Busenitz has been up and back to AAA Rochester a couple of time since his debut, but since returning on August 2nd, he has been fantastic. In 10 games and 13 innings, he has a 0.69 ERA (one earned run in his most recent game), and has a 0.46 WHIP. Opponents have hit just .077 against him in that time.

In 18 games overall for the Twins, Busenitz has worked 23.2 innings and can boast an ERA of 1.90 and a WHIP of 0.93.

The hard-throwing Busenitz generally sits between 95 and 96 and has touched 97 and even 98. He’s also gained much more confidence in his breaking ball since he’s been back, and that’s been a big pitch for him.

For Busenitz, it’s been great to earn the respect and trust of his manager. Like Hildenberger, Busenitz has been used in higher leverage situations. Of his first 11 outings in the big leagues, they all came with the Twins having a very large lead or a large deficit, or before the seventh inning.

He told Twins Daily recently, “It’s a great feeling. I try not to look at the innings any differently. They’re all important. They’re all important to me, and they’re all important to the team. I’m just glad to help out wherever I can.”

Busenitz was kind of a throw-in in the trade (at least for many on the outside) last August 1st between the Twins and the Angels. The Twins sent right-handers Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer to the Angels in exchange for left-hander Hector Santiago along with Busenitz.

For the manager, it has obviously been important to ease the relievers into the big leagues with lower-leverage situations. However, he says that it’s been very important to get this kind of production from these youngsters.

Molitor said, “Absolutely, as a whole, the guys we have out there, there’s not a ton of experience. We have to roll the dice a little bit with the fact that these guys are learning on the fly here. But the results instill a lot of confidence in Neil (Allen), Eddie (Guardado) and myself, and the guys playing behind them. These guys are coming in there and pitching effectively, and sometimes in big spots. We’re still mixing it up fairly well, but roles are kind of changing. It’s fluid.”

A week ago, the Twins called up another hard-throwing reliever from Rochester’s roster, John Curtiss. Curtiss has dominated minor league ball season, both at AA And AAA. He has now appeared in four games, and three of them have been in low-leverage situations. While we like to think that it’s OK to throw these young, talented guys into those tougher situations, that isn’t always what is best. It’s more ideal to bring them along more slowly, in lower leverage spots, and (as Hildenberger and Busenitz have done) start giving him more high leverage spots when it is earned. While Busenitz and Hildenberger are already 26, Curtiss is still just 24.

This time in the big leagues has to be invaluable for these inexperienced pitchers, and the young hitters too. They are gaining valuable service time and opportunities when they play, and they should learn from it. The same can be said for the Twins young hitters as well, from Byron Buxton to Mitch Garver. The experience will be great for this season, but equally important, for years to come.

Busenitz’s added in a discussion with Twins Daily. “It’s unbelievable (being in the big leagues). Being on a winning team, I’m sure, makes it all that much better. My only experience has been this one, and it’s been fantastic.”

According to Hildenberger, the playoff race has been fun. "Being in a playoff race has been eye opening so far and been so much fun playing meaningful games this late in the year. We're all pulling in the same direction and that's a wonderful thing to be a part of."


It’s been a pretty fantastic ride for the Twins, and their fans, as well. As Hildenberger said, "Now we enter a September playoff race, which is amazing, and I can't wait."

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24 Comments

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biggentleben
Sep 05 2017 06:39 PM

Seth, sometimes I wonder if you guys are either in my head or reading my Slack channel as I toss out story ideas to my crew!

Great piece! It'd be even better to see a few more of those arms up, like a Jake Reed or Randy Rosario or Michael Tonkin to add length to the team, none of which would even require a 40-man move.

    • glunn and DocBauer like this

 

Seth, sometimes I wonder if you guys are either in my head or reading my Slack channel as I toss out story ideas to my crew!

Great piece! It'd be even better to see a few more of those arms up, like a Jake Reed or Randy Rosario or Michael Tonkin to add length to the team, none of which would even require a 40-man move.

 

Well, Michael Tonkin is up. I would have liked to have seen Jake Reed up too, but at some point enough is enough... And Rosario has been pretty non-good since getting optioned in June. 

    • glunn, Danchat and DocBauer like this
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biggentleben
Sep 05 2017 08:49 PM

 

Well, Michael Tonkin is up. I would have liked to have seen Jake Reed up too, but at some point enough is enough... And Rosario has been pretty non-good since getting optioned in June. 

 

Rosario has been definitely struggling. Hard to watch level of struggle, no less.

So what is the skinny on J.T. Chargois? And what gives with Zachary Jones?

 

First of all, I have to pay respect to Molitor for playing these young guys and putting them in the situation they are in now. Wasn't it just a couple months ago many we complaining he wouldn't do exactly what he's doing now? (Lea we forget, Rogers wasn't exactly a proven high leverage guy when the season began, or even Duffey for that matter, but to a lesser degree).

What's become fascinating to me is that when I was a kid, a "fireman " out of the bullpen was Mike Marshall, Doug Corbett, Pete Redfern and others. They came in for high leverage situations and actually got a ton of wins, and far fewer saves than what became a measuring stick. Somewhere along the line, and I think this has to due with agents playing with numbers, as well as the late 80's and 90's scoring explosion in the game, a guy who could "close" the game became all important. Top set-up men were still valuable, and some graduated to closer status. The Twins have a long list of this taking place. And the past few seasons...and this not meant to diminish the career or performance of anyone, or the need for a guy you can count on to finish the game necessarily...but it seems the game has reverted more back to what a "fireman " used to be.

There are battles to be won, victories to be had, improvement and reliance to be proven, but I like the groundwork taking place. Setup man or closer, Pressly has the stuff, and has largely been good the past couple of months. Also, largely, in his first full year in the BP Duffey has been pretty good to good. Rogers had a bad streak, but has also looked very bright. Then you add Hildenberger and Busentiz and valuable "get your feet wet" time for Curtiss, and I'm feeling very positive.

Much like Santana, and even Colon, has brought stability and experience to the rotation, I think a high quality veteran added to this mix could be invaluable. But I think something good is building here.
    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Alan Busenitz looks like a future closer to me. Spots his high 90's heat low inside and out. Hard breaking ball that gets whiffs. That's getting close to Joe Nathan stuff. 

 

Like Seth, I would like to have seen Jake Reed up by now. But I would settle for seeing Slegers again, or Jorge. 

    • cmoss84 likes this

 

Alan Busenitz looks like a future closer to me. Spots his high 90's heat low inside and out. Hard breaking ball that gets whiffs. That's getting close to Joe Nathan stuff. 

 

Like Seth, I would like to have seen Jake Reed up by now. But I would settle for seeing Slegers again, or Jorge. 

 

Well, you get to see Slegers start again tomorrow, so there's that... Jorge won't be up again this year.  Reed won't either, but I would have been on board with that. 

 

So what is the skinny on J.T. Chargois? And what gives with Zachary Jones?

 

I don't think there is anything new on the injury front on either of them.

 

Chargois still has the elbow issue. He's making a bunch more money for the final 25-28 days because he was called up to be placed on the 60 Day DL, allowing them to add back Tonkin.

 

Jones, nothing new since his surgery 4-6 weeks ago for the blood clot in his shoulder. Should be fine, but obviously not a good situation for him. 

I mentioned in another thread that I've seen all I care to from Perkins at this point. I would much rather see what these youngsters are about. Not only that, but as Seth mentions, guys like Hildenberger & Busenitz have emerged as guys who have earned shots in high-leverage situations. I'd much rather see someone who has a chance to be a critical part of the Twins' future than see a guy trying to get back to near what he used to be, & should be doing it elsewhere aside from the major league club chasing a playoff berth.
    • Thrylos and jud6312 like this

I mentioned in another thread that I've seen all I care to from Perkins at this point. I would much rather see what these youngsters are about. Not only that, but as Seth mentions, guys like Hildenberger & Busenitz have emerged as guys who have earned shots in high-leverage situations. I'd much rather see someone who has a chance to be a critical part of the Twins' future than see a guy trying to get back to near what he used to be, & should be doing it elsewhere aside from the major league club chasing a playoff berth.


I don't mind keeping Perk on the active 40 man roster the remainder of the season as a veteran presence as long as he is not called upon in key spots unless and until he shows he's all the way back (which I just don't foresee happening)
    • DJSim22, DocBauer and Bill Brown69 like this

I'm glad to see all that clamoring I did for Busenitz and Hildenberger back in May-June is paying off. Both are pitching spectacularly and they've been a huge boon to this bullpen. They're two names you can jot down on 2018's bullpen and hopefully not have to worry about those spots.

 

I do wish Duffey and Pressly could get things figured out, as they've both had stretches of dominance followed by stretches of ineptitude.  

    • Mike Sixel, DocBauer and Original Whizzinator like this

 

I mentioned in another thread that I've seen all I care to from Perkins at this point. I would much rather see what these youngsters are about. Not only that, but as Seth mentions, guys like Hildenberger & Busenitz have emerged as guys who have earned shots in high-leverage situations. I'd much rather see someone who has a chance to be a critical part of the Twins' future than see a guy trying to get back to near what he used to be, & should be doing it elsewhere aside from the major league club chasing a playoff berth.

 

Agreed.And after today, I have seen enough of Buddy Bo, as well. 

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diehardtwinsfan
Sep 06 2017 04:54 PM

 

Alan Busenitz looks like a future closer to me. Spots his high 90's heat low inside and out. Hard breaking ball that gets whiffs. That's getting close to Joe Nathan stuff. 

 

Like Seth, I would like to have seen Jake Reed up by now. But I would settle for seeing Slegers again, or Jorge. 

 

Last night, I was sitting by the Twins pen. Busenitz was warming up with Rodgers. His speed was noticeably faster (Rodgers hit 94 on the gun in his appearance for the record).So much so, I'd add that a couple fans that were sitting near by were drooling over his speed. You could hear and see the difference when Busenitz let it go.

    • jimbo92107 likes this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 06 2017 05:02 PM

Last night, I was sitting by the Twins pen. Busenitz was warming up with Rodgers. His speed was noticeably faster (Rodgers hit 94 on the gun in his appearance for the record). So much so, I'd add that a couple fans that were sitting near by were drooling over his speed. You could hear and see the difference when Busenitz let it go.


Wait, you were near the Twins pen last night AND near other people?
    • ashburyjohn, Mike Sixel and Vanimal46 like this

 

Last night, I was sitting by the Twins pen. Busenitz was warming up with Rodgers. His speed was noticeably faster (Rodgers hit 94 on the gun in his appearance for the record).So much so, I'd add that a couple fans that were sitting near by were drooling over his speed. You could hear and see the difference when Busenitz let it go.

Speed makes me drool, too.

 

Were we talking about baseball..?

    • snepp and Vanimal46 like this

 

I mentioned in another thread that I've seen all I care to from Perkins at this point. I would much rather see what these youngsters are about. Not only that, but as Seth mentions, guys like Hildenberger & Busenitz have emerged as guys who have earned shots in high-leverage situations. I'd much rather see someone who has a chance to be a critical part of the Twins' future than see a guy trying to get back to near what he used to be, & should be doing it elsewhere aside from the major league club chasing a playoff berth.

 

I'm right there with you on Perkins. But, I believe it was spycake in another thread that said Perkins is very close to reaching 10 years service time in the MLB, which is why he's up. Once he reaches that milestone, he's fully vested in the MLB pension plan. 

He seems like a good guy, so I'd like for him to reach the 10 year milestone. I just don't want to see him pitch anymore, frankly. 

Unless he has a Chet Steadman like performance left in that shoulder, of course. 

chet-stedman.png

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yarnivek1972
Sep 07 2017 12:34 PM
Perkins is left handed and breathing. All he has to do to get a job next year somewhere is say he wants one.

 

I'm glad to see all that clamoring I did for Busenitz and Hildenberger back in May-June is paying off. Both are pitching spectacularly and they've been a huge boon to this bullpen. They're two names you can jot down on 2018's bullpen and hopefully not have to worry about those spots.

 

I do wish Duffey and Pressly could get things figured out, as they've both had stretches of dominance followed by stretches of ineptitude.  

 

agreed. 

Well, lot's of em got some experience tonight.  In one inning.

 

 

    • Mike Sixel and snepp like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Sep 09 2017 08:08 PM

 

Well, lot's of em got some experience tonight.  In one inning.

Yeah, but those were the experienced ones already

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yarnivek1972
Sep 09 2017 08:31 PM

Well, lot's of em got some experience tonight. In one inning.


Not the inexperienced ones. Well, Busenitz. But the problem was the 3 relative veterans that pitched prior to Rogers got no one out. At what point does Moltor realize that those guys aren't getting the job done and that maybe he should try one of the other 5 guys down there?
I actually don't hold it against Molitor that Pressley, Boshers et al didn't get the job done. He has precious few good options.

There's tons I dislike about Molitor, but the bullpen construction is on Falvine.
    • Mike Sixel likes this

I actually don't hold it against Molitor that Pressley, Boshers et al didn't get the job done. He has precious few good options.

There's tons I dislike about Molitor, but the bullpen construction is on Falvine.


Yeah. We talked about how the players reacted, but I am pretty sure Molitor opposed the Kintzler trade too.

But don't we now have a closer who (as of yesterday) had a 50-50 close probability?Yes, he closed a 3 run lead Friday.


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