The Curious Case of Anthony Slama
Also, all of the losing and injuries to pitchers have allowed the team to get an in-depth look at pitchers in their own organization and to bring in arms from other organizations for a test run. But one player that hasn't been given much of a chance just finished his fourth year at the Triple-A, all for the Twins, and he has been dominant at every stop along the way.
Anthony Slama joined the Twins as a 39th round draft pick out of the University of San Diego in the 2006 Draft. As a 23-year old in his first professional season, he split time between Elizabethton and Beloit by posting a combined 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched with 49 strikeouts and only 10 walks. He would move to Fort Myers for all of 2008 where he lowered his ERA to 1.01 in 71.0 innings with 110 strikeouts and 24 walks. His next year, Slama spent time with New Britain and Rochester but most of his innings were at the Double-A level. He ended the year with a 2.67 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 81.0 innings pitched.
Every year since that point, Slama has made a return trip to Rochester to play out another minor league season. From 2010-2011, he has posted an ERA under 3.00 with more walks than strikeouts. He isn't going to blow batters away but he gets the job done and his coaches have had enough confidence in him to let him be the closer at multiple levels in the minors.
This season was one of his best as a professional with a ridiculously low 1.24 ERA at the Triple-A level with 56 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. He got his 100th career minor save in Rochester's last game of the season, which seems like a very dubious distinction to earn. No player wants to stay in the minor leagues long enough to rack up 100 saves because it would be much better to be earning a big league paycheck.
Slama has gotten a very brief taste of the big leagues in 2010 and an even shorter stay in 2011. In his first trip to Target Field, the rookie didn't inspire. He threw in five games and he allowed a run or more in three of those appearances. One of the outings in Baltimore was especially rough as he allowed two earned runs and a home run over the course of his inning. This lead to his only decision as a big leaguer, a loss and a blown lead in the late innings. Last year, there were plenty of opportunities for the Twins to test out different arms from the minor leagues but Slama only appeared in two games. He hasn't seen the big leagues since that point and it doesn't look like the 28-year old relief pitcher will be making it back with the Twins in 2012.
On Monday, word came out of the Twins organization that the team would only be making two September call-ups. Right-hander Luis Perdomo and Eduardo Escobar will be the lone men making the trip from Rochester to the Chicago as the Twins take on the White Sox. There was plenty of speculation around Brian Dozier, Anthony Slama, Oswaldo Arcia, or Aaron Hicks making appearances for the Twins in the last month of the year but this wasn't the case.
It sounds like the team wants to focus on the players currently comprising the roster while getting an extended look at some of the players that could earn a spot for 2013. Terry Ryan told reporters, "We only have so many innings or so many at-bats to give people." This left Slama with an early end to his season after what he deemed "a tough year" for himself.
The Twins refusal to give Slama a legitimate shot at the big league level is perplexing to say the least. He has shown the ability to have very good success at the minor league level and it seems that the natural progression would be to give him more of an extended look with the major league squad. Over the last two seasons, there have been plenty of questionable arms that were used out of the bullpen so it seems curious to not give Slama a chance. He is getting close to turning 30, so his chance at being a regular at the big league level might have already passed him by.
In some updated quotes from Ryan last night, it sounds like the Twins already know what Slama brings to the table and a pitcher like Perdomo is more of a question mark. He would go on to state that Slama will get his chance but it's hard to imagine that it will be with the Twins. He can't be a free agent until after next season but he will be subject to the Rule 5 Draft this December since he is not on the 40-man roster. His best option at this point in his career might be to turn to another organization and hope they need bullpen help at some point in 2013 because it doesn't seem like the Twins will give him a shot. The Rule 5 Draft could give him this opportunity if another team sees something in the right-handed relief pitcher.
Yesterday, a petition was started at Twins Daily to try and get some answers from the front office of the Twins organization. If you feel that Anthony Slama deserves more of a chance with the Twins, go to the link and lend your name to the petition. The Twins have plenty of holes to fill for next season but it would be nice for Slama to get a longer look at the big league level.