The Rochester Firemen To The Rescue
Image courtesy of © Jon Durr-USA TODAY SportsRight now, the Red Wings have the third worst ERA in the International League, with 5.34. They are also among the five pitching staffs who have allowed the most hits (900 in 840 2/3 innings) and have the fifth worst WHIP of the league, at 1.49. Most importantly, in several moments of the season in which the Twins needed to call somebody up to maybe put out a fire, the on call pitcher would kind of pour a bit more of gasoline in it, instead.
During the first weeks of April, a couple of relief pitchers were called up to make their season debut in the majors and they were absolutely awful. I’m talking about Chase De Jong and Andrew Vasquez, who joined the team in New York for the Mets two-game series. They combined for only one inning pitched, with seven earned runs on three hits, five walks and one hit batter. That was a terrible first impression and none of them got called up again. De Jong is not even part of the organization anymore.
From there, not many pitchers coming up from Rochester actually accomplished a very effective contribution to the Twins. The only exceptions that come to mind are Tyler Duffey, who’s a major presence in the current bullpen, and Matt Magill, who also helped a lot during his 28 games for the team, before allowing six unearned runs on four two-out hits against the Mets July 17. He was designated for assignment and then traded after that outing. Other than these two, the Rochester-to-Minnesota bullpen shuttle has been going back and forth.
Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart and Zack Littell are examples of pitchers who have come and gone after some disappointing outings in the majors. Romero, who made the transition between the rotation and the bullpen this year, has been called up three times, but didn’t manage to bring his ERA to lower than 5.63, currently parked at 7.88. Down in Rochester, it’s not looking phenomenal either, as it stands at 4.23 in 21 games.
Stewart got called up four times and has done a decent job since migrating to the bullpen, holding a 2.45 ERA as a reliever, but he got sent back this week after allowing two earned runs on three hits against the Yankees on Tuesday. Littell also got called up three times and even though he had a great stretch of ten consecutive scoreless outings, he was optioned a couple of days after he blew a lead in the 5-4 loss against Oakland last Saturday.
After that list of negative examples, one would think that there’s no way the Twins could rely on the arms coming from their New York affiliate. Then, four players came up and had their big chances to pitch out of the Twins bullpen this week, performing brilliantly. After Minnesota got rid of four relief pitchers in less than 10 days (Adalberto Mejía, Mike Morin, Matt Magill and Blake Parker), they saw no other option but to try and find the solution in Rochester. Even though virtually all fans hated that choice, wanting them to actually make trades to reinforce the bullpen, it actually worked.
Before and during the Yankees series in Target Field, the Twins recalled Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Cody Stashak, the last one making his MLB debut. Sean Poppen got the call to pitch in the opener of the White Sox series on Thursday. The four young bloods performed incredibly, combining for 11 2/3 innings of work, allowing only two earned runs, one walk and striking out twelve batters. More importantly, they helped to take the burden off the seven remaining pitchers on the Twins bullpen, who were being overused in the days before. Other than Smeltzer and Poppen, no other reliever has pitched in the last two games.
Which makes me wonder. Can the Twins realistically count on one of these arms for this year? Of course, all of us want the Twins front office to go out and acquire at least two new relievers via trade, but even if they did so, there would be two other spots to fill. Can one of those four aforementioned pitchers make the cut? Only four bullpen arms have been there for a long time now: Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey. It’s reasonable to assume the Twins won’t trade for four relievers, but, instead, will consider giving someone in the house a chance.
If they acquire a starting pitcher via trade, then you could count one among Michael Pineda and Martín Pérez to transition to the pen, most likely Pérez, who has already done that in the beginning of the season. Still, who gets the last spot? Everything points out to former Indians great Cody Allen, who had an awful stint with the Angels early this year, got designated for assignment, and signed with the Twins on a minor league deal. So far in the minors for the Twins (Fort Myers and Rochester), he’s pitched nine innings and has a 2.00 ERA, with a .226 batting average against and striking out eight batters per nine. He has at least earned himself the right to be looked at before the deadline. If he can go back to his old self (and, so far, Wes Johnson and the coaching staff have done wonders on recovering pitchers), he could be a major lift for the bullpen.
Last year the Twins pulled five trades after July 27, so we can expect a lot of action this year. But maybe someone from within could be a surprising help. What do you think? Is there anyone in Rochester who would make your team? Comment and let us know.
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