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  • Rounding Out the Bullpen

    Glen Perkins delivers for the TwinsThe past two seasons have been filled with disappointment and negative outcomes, but one of the few resoundingly encouraging developments has been the emergence of Glen Perkins at the back end of the bullpen. After fizzling as a starter, Perkins made a supremely successful transition to relief duty and, after signing a contract extension last year, he's in position to provide the Twins with stability at the closer spot for years to come, as long as he can stay healthy.

    The Twins value continuity in the closer role as much as any team in baseball, as evidenced by the hefty four-year extension they handed Joe Nathan back in 2008 and the considerable resources they invested into acquiring and retaining Matt Capps.Perkins has given us every reason to believe he can be relied upon to close out games for the foreseeable future, allowing the Twins to concentrate on building a bullpen around him and his reasonable contract.

    Early in the offseason, Terry Ryan cited the bullpen as his second-highest priority behind the rotation. In a way that makes sense, since being able to take a lead means nothing if you can't hold it, but there is clearly a lot less work to be done when it comes to the relief corps. Perkins is entrenched at closer and Jared Burton, who also inked an extension following a sensational Minnesota debut, is locked in as his top setup man.

    Beyond those two, you've got Brian Duensing, who has established himself as one of the league's better situational left-handed specialists. There's also Anthony Swarzak, a solid fit as the team's long reliever who is out of options and nearly assured a place on the roster.

    That's four slots in the bullpen that are as good as spoken for, barring injuries in spring training. So even if the Twins characteristically go with a 12-man pitching staff out of the gates, they'll have only three spots left to fill. With a number of candidates vying for jobs, competition figures to be brisk.

    The picture is already a bit crowded, so it seems rather unlikely that Ryan will be seeking out anymore external help, even though contracts like the one Jason Frasor signed last week with the Rangers suggest that reasonable deals can be had.

    Here are some of the internal candidates with defensible cases for claiming one of the remaining gigs:

    Casey Fien, RHP: Fien was something of a journeyman when the Twins acquired him on a minor-league deal last year, but he quietly posted excellent numbers in the second half after an early July call-up. The 29-year-old allowed runs in only two of his first 21 appearances as a Twin and finished with a 2.06 ERA and 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings. He'll have a hard time repeating that performance but it'd be tough to deprive him of a spot based on merit.

    Alex Burnett, RHP: Like Fien, Burnett finished with a good ERA last year (3.52) but his overall production was far less impressive, as it included an ugly 36-to-26 K/BB ratio and 1.35 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings. Oddly, despite a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider, Burnett's ability to strike out major-league hitters has waned over time, and last year his K-rate ranked as the second-worst among qualifying MLB relievers (ahead of only Jeff Gray). If he maintains those peripherals he's a poor bet for continued success, but considering his heavy usage and adequate results last year, it's hard to see him being left out.

    Rich Harden, RHP: The Twins haven't stated their intentions with Harden, who has mostly been a starter over the course of his career, but it stands to reason that they could give him a shot in the bullpen, where his outstanding raw stuff could make an impact and his workload could be better managed. If it works out, Harden could be a great asset in the late innings.

    Ryan Pressly, RHP: Selected from Boston in the Rule 5 draft, Pressly had success after converting from starter to reliever last year and his high-velocity stuff clearly caught the Twins' attention. He's nowhere near ready for the majors based on his track record, but if the Twins roster him they'll either have to send him back to the Red Sox or work out a trade.

    Tyler Robertson, LHP: He struggled with walks and homers in his first taste of the majors last year, but Robertson also showed some positive signs, averaging over a strikeout per inning and shutting down lefties. If the Twins desire a secondary lefty specialist in the bullpen behind Duensing (since Perkins doesn't really count) Robertson is a logical choice.

    Anthony Slama, RHP: The Twins seemingly have very little interest in giving him a chance, but Slama's ridiculous numbers in Triple-A last year make him a necessary inclusion on this list. It sure would be nice to see what he could do against major-league hitters with an extended chance.

    Tim Wood, RHP: Wood was acquired on a minor-league deal earlier this winter after he proved very effective as the closer for Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate last year. He's 29 and his overall career numbers aren't particularly impressive, but he'll be in the mix by virtue of having a 40-man roster spot. The same goes for Josh Roenicke, a rubber-armed right-hander brought over from the Colorado organization.

    Who would you like to see rounding out the last two bullpen spots? Who else would you like to see in the mix?
    This article was originally published in blog: Rounding Out the Bullpen started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Bit disappointing that Ryan called this his second highest priority and has done.....um....what exactly?

      That isn't to bash Ryan, just a bit strange considering there are and were options.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Yeah, I never gave much credibility to the notion that there was a great need to address this unit, but he's really failed to back up his rhetoric thus far.
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      I would take the unconventional approach and have a 13 man pitching staff. But they will probably start with 12.

      Perkins- closer
      burton- setup
      duensing- setup
      fien- middle relief
      pressly- long relief
      burnett- middle relief
      swarzak- long relief

      fairly soon after the opener
      roenicke- middle relief

      First, nothing about the Twins starts makes me believe that they will be able to throw more than 5-6 innings on a good day. I can't tell you how much I hope I'm wrong about that. The Twins bullpen could be relied on often so it would be best to have another arm out there.

      I left harden off the list because I feel that a starter will pull a marquis and he will have to join the rotation (if he is finally healthy). Fien pitched well enough and struck out enough batters that I feel he can contribute right away but with regress a bit. Pressly will get a chance with the club unless he is horrendous, but we will probably end up having to work out a trade later so we can send him to AAA. There is no way the Twins don't keep swarzak and Burnett.

      a month in the Twins might have an over-worked pen so I could see them adding another arm. Roenicke seem like he could put together a good camp and make an appearance early in the season.


      This is my theory...... It's probably wrong.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Yeah, I never gave much credibility to the notion that there was a great need to address this unit, but he's really failed to back up his rhetoric thus far.
      I'm starting to wonder if Harden/Pressly/Roenicke is what Ryan had in mind. And if the likes of Correia and Pelfrey were exactly what he meant by major changes to the starting rotation. Perhaps the problem is we interpreted the rhetoric the way an average mlb fan should and Ryan's version of that that entails is very, very different.

      Just a disconcerting notion I'm starting to buy into these days.
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      If it's three (and it probably is): Casey Fien, Ryan Pressly, and Tyler Robertson. If it's two: I'm afraid Pressly gets sent back.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Burnett is going to be wasting a spot for sure. Hopefully he doesn't have a long leash. Sometimes Ryan, Gardy and co. are too deep into the forest to see the trees, but surely even they know Burnett survived last year on black magic alone.

      Hopefully Ryan doesn't need his single SABR employee and his trusty intern to convince him.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      On WHAM 1180 tonight, TR was asked about Tim Wood. Ryan expects him to make the team out of ST. Surprising to me anyway.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Not sure why the Twins bothered with Tim Wood and Josh Roenicke. And Burnett has an option year. He was very good a few years ago in the minors and was pushed pretty quickly. Develop him as an actual setup man in Rochester, please. See if he improves, bring him up in September and make him contend in 2014. Meanwhile:

      -Ryan Pressly (not to say he is Scott Diamond, but he is young enough and is worth a spot, especially over Swarzak who is older and could be traded for some C level prospect in low-A ball to take a chance on).
      -Casey Fien (he can be a guy on a short leash in the majors in 2013, but if he repeats anything close to 2012 and that 8.2 K rate, keep him)
      -Tyler Robertson (will get better and does throw hard--gave up too many walks but can be very useful against lefties)
      -Anthony Slama (you know the story and what I think about the Twins stupidity regarding him)
      -Brian Duensing
      -Jared Burton
      -Glen Perkins

      Doesn't seem all that difficult.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      (And eventually Oliveros, Guerra, Watts, Pugh, Albers can get a chance)
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Not sure why the Twins bothered with Tim Wood and Josh Roenicke. And Burnett has an option year. He was very good a few years ago in the minors and was pushed pretty quickly. Develop him as an actual setup man in Rochester, please. See if he improves, bring him up in September and make him contend in 2014. Meanwhile:

      -Ryan Pressly (not to say he is Scott Diamond, but he is young enough and is worth a spot, especially over Swarzak who is older and could be traded for some C level prospect in low-A ball to take a chance on).
      -Casey Fien (he can be a guy on a short leash in the majors in 2013, but if he repeats anything close to 2012 and that 8.2 K rate, keep him)
      -Tyler Robertson (will get better and does throw hard--gave up too many walks but can be very useful against lefties)
      -Anthony Slama (you know the story and what I think about the Twins stupidity regarding him)
      -Brian Duensing
      -Jared Burton
      -Glen Perkins

      Doesn't seem all that difficult.
      So Harden is a starter in your scenario?

      Robertson, I believe has 3 options, there has to be KO-heavy lefty still available who would be more reliable.

      Gardy has put Duensing into the SP mix, too (not sure how much sway he has left, or where Ryan comes down on that possibility).

      I think Slama could have a 13.4 K/9 and a 0.52 WHIP in ST and they still wouldn't give him a shot.

      I liked the somewhat unexpected shot in the arm that Fien provided, kudos to Ryan on that get, hope he builds on 2012 and doesn't fall backwards.

      I would love to see lightining strike with Pressly, they eminently need the Twins vision of Swarzak that Swarzak, sadly, will never be.

      Don't you think an 8th RP is a possible likelihood with their uncertain SP situation?, their love affair with Burnett and to a lesser degree, Swarzak, almost guarantees that they both are going to be on the opening day roster. (I like your idea about changing Burnett's mindset in Roc., he seems a little lost as to his role.)
    1. grumpyrob's Avatar
      grumpyrob -
      Would really like to see Slama brought up. Does anyone know exactly why he has never been given a chance at the ML level?
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I think Burnett is a given and Fien is practically a given out the gate and I think the third spot is Harden's as long as he is capable of pitching and wins the competition in spring training. If Harden isnt ready yet or one of the other 2 drops the ball then I think Roeneckie wins out followed by Robertson then Wood, Pressly, and Slama are aat the back if all else fails. Though I would like to see what Slama can do as a majorleaguer.

      I think Terry Ryans goal for the bullpen was to make sure there was enough competition for spots as the bullpen was effective but doesnt appear to be strong. Harden has a chance to make a huge statement in the pen and be a huge upgrade.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Not sure why the Twins bothered with Tim Wood and Josh Roenicke. And Burnett has an option year. He was very good a few years ago in the minors and was pushed pretty quickly. Develop him as an actual setup man in Rochester, please. See if he improves, bring him up in September and make him contend in 2014. Meanwhile:

      -Ryan Pressly (not to say he is Scott Diamond, but he is young enough and is worth a spot, especially over Swarzak who is older and could be traded for some C level prospect in low-A ball to take a chance on).
      -Casey Fien (he can be a guy on a short leash in the majors in 2013, but if he repeats anything close to 2012 and that 8.2 K rate, keep him)
      -Tyler Robertson (will get better and does throw hard--gave up too many walks but can be very useful against lefties)
      -Anthony Slama (you know the story and what I think about the Twins stupidity regarding him)
      -Brian Duensing
      -Jared Burton
      -Glen Perkins

      Doesn't seem all that difficult.
      There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that Swarzak can be traded for anything remotely useful.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Over the years, Ryan and the Twins have picked up some nice cheap bullpen arms through waivers or minor league free agency. Reyes, Brewslow, Guierrier, Burton, Fein, heck even Brian Bass was helpful. Guys that we picked up this year, like Vasquez, Wood and Augenstein can hopefully be like that.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Why is everyone so down on Alex Burnett? I watched him all of last year, and it was only his inconsistency that bothered me. A stellar first half was backed up by a bad second half, but in the end, his stats are pretty good.

      Burnett 2012: 71.2 IP; 3.52 ERA; 116 ERA+.

      His strikeout numbers have been trending downwards, but so have his walks. I actually think there's room for improvement with Burnett. Am I the only one?
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Quote Originally Posted by edavis0308 View Post
      There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that Swarzak can be traded for anything remotely useful.
      A low A ball C level prospect would in 4 years become an Anthony Swarzak. Not an unreasonable proposal, nor impossible. Swarzak does have a 91-93 MPH fastball
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      If Pressly has a decent spring Swarzak is toast. The first sign of improvement will be if Swarzak and Burnett do not make the Twins out of spring training.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Why is everyone so down on Alex Burnett? I watched him all of last year, and it was only his inconsistency that bothered me. A stellar first half was backed up by a bad second half, but in the end, his stats are pretty good.

      Burnett 2012: 71.2 IP; 3.52 ERA; 116 ERA+.

      His strikeout numbers have been trending downwards, but so have his walks. I actually think there's room for improvement with Burnett. Am I the only one?
      Yeah, I've always like Burnett. He gets a ton of grounders and doesn't give up any homers and he ate a lot of innings. He'll be 25 next season. Still cheap and has options, if he struggles. He also seems to have a good mentality on the mound.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      A low A ball C level prospect would in 4 years become an Anthony Swarzak. Not an unreasonable proposal, nor impossible. Swarzak does have a 91-93 MPH fastball
      Why would anybody give up a player of value for him when they could just claim him when he ultimately gets DFA'ed? We can't trade him to ourselves. He has a career K/9 below 5.5. A career ERA of 5.03. ERA+ of 82. Only thing in his favor is that he is young and cheap.

      I'll admit that I would expect his stats to improve this year as he gets a little older, but I don't see him having any trade value.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by edavis0308 View Post
      Why would anybody give up a player of value for him when they could just claim him when he ultimately gets DFA'ed? We can't trade him to ourselves. He has a career K/9 below 5.5. A career ERA of 5.03. ERA+ of 82. Only thing in his favor is that he is young and cheap.

      I'll admit that I would expect his stats to improve this year as he gets a little older, but I don't see him having any trade value.
      Basically, slightly worse than Correia's career numbers in regards to ERA+ and K/9.
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