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  • Twins' Bullpen Banter

    One of the Twins biggest issues in 2011 was the bullpen. It was really ugly most of the year.

    In the offseason, the Twins lost Joe Nathan to free agency. They brought back Matt Capps, hoping that the toughness he exhibited by wanting to come back after a brutal 2011 will translate into improved performance in 2012. Glen Perkins went from the guy most fans wanted released last spring training to one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball. The Twins locked him up through the 2015 season with his recent contract extension. Anthony Swarzak is out of options this year and showed in 2011 that he can and will pitch in long relief, as a spot starter or whatever role he is asked. Brian Duensing moves back to the bullpen where his ability to get left-handed hitters out should again thrive.

    Those four (Capps, Perkins, Swarzak and Duensing) went into spring training as givens to make the Twins Opening Day roster. After that, there are three remaining spots in the bullpen to fill, and three question marks.

    I’m the first one to say that spring training statistics mean very little. However, that is only true for the “givens.” When there are potentially three open positions in a bullpen, spring statistics tend to be pretty important. The vast multitude of bullpen arms that the Twins brought in to camp are trying to make a good impression.

    Just twelve games into spring training, it is far too early to generate any certainties. However, for the most part, the Twins relief pitching has been pretty solid. There are a couple of guys whose position may have dropped a little bit in the eyes of the Twins decision-makers, but even they will likely get another two weeks to turn things around. There have been a lot of pitchers who have made an early impression for the Twins in camp.

    Kyle Waldrop – Something that fellow TwinsCentrician Parker Hageman tweeted last night jumped out at me. He wrote that Waldrop releases the ball at 6’8” and it hits the plate at just 2’2”. That is some incredible sink, and that is why he has had a 60% ground ball rate. So far in camp, he has given up no runs on two hits in three innings. He has walked none and struck out three.

    Matt Maloney – When Bill Smith claimed the lefty after the Reds had released him, he was roundly criticized. Most who criticized the move now believe that he should be the Twins third left-hander in the bullpen. And they’re probably right. In 5.1 innings, he has not given up a run. He has given up three hits, walked one and struck out eight.

    Jared Burton – The Twins quickly signed Burton to a minor league contract. He was hurt most of the last two years, but he was a very good setup man many for a couple of years before that thanks to a terrific cutter. In four innings this spring, he is yet to give up a hit. He’s walked one and struck out four.

    Jeff Manship – Many forget that Manship made the opening day roster a year ago, but just five outings into the season, it was clear that he wasn’t right. He was sent to Rochester and went on the disabled list for most of the season with a couple of separate injuries. He has made an adjustment to his slider which should mean more strikeouts. He gave up a home run to David Ortiz in his first inning, but that is the only run he has given up in 4.1 innings. In fact, he’s given up just one other hit, walked none and struck out six.

    Casey Fien – Another minor league free agent signed by the Twins with big league experience (2009-2010 with Tigers), Fien has been good this spring. In 3.1 innings, he is yet to give up a hit or a run. He’s walked one and struck out three.

    Brendan Wise – Another minor league free agent from the Tigers, Wise has ERAs of 1.87 and 2.83 in AAA. The Australian gets a ton of movement by throwing from a three-quarter arm slot. In three innings, he has given up one hit, walked none and struck out none.

    Carlos Gutierrez – The former first round pick had a bad outing in the team’s very first scrimmage. The manager called him out. Since then, he has been terrific, aggressively going after opposing hitters. In three innings, he’s given up only an unearned run on two hits and a walk. He has struck out four.

    Those seven pitchers are off to a good start and are making strong impressions. However, if any of them have a game in which they give up three runs in one inning (something relievers tend to do a time or three a year), their spring ERAs jump up to around 5.00. That’s why any time you’re looking at such a small sample size, you have to take it for what it is worth.

    Those seven pitchers are not the only pitchers in the equation:

    Terry Doyle - The Twins Rule 5 draft pick has certainly had ups and downs in his few spring outings. He has been good, and he had a start last week in which he got hit very hard. The 26-year-old must be offered back to the White Sox. It’s far too early to tell which direction the Twins are leaning with him.

    Jeff Gray – He is on the 40-man roster, and yet he has only pitched in two innings over two games so far. He has given up two unearned runs on two hits and two walks without striking anyone out.

    Alex Burnett – Gardy and Rick Anderson really believe in Burnett, and for good reason. There is no questioning his stuff. Simply, he was not given time to develop in Rochester, and I think it would be great for Burnett (and Lester Oliveros who has given up one run on four hits in three innings while striking out four and walking none) to spend a couple of months improving themselves in Rochester. Burnett has thrown 2.2 innings this spring and given up five runs on eight hits and two walks. It isn’t as if it is just one bad outing; he has struggled each time he has taken the mound.

    Jason Bulger – It’s been a rough spring for Bulger. In his first outing, he walked four before throwing a strike that Lars Anderson hit for a grand slam. He struggled again in his second outing but had a good third outing. The 33-year-old has spent parts of the last six seasons with the Angels, so it isn’t as it he has just completely forgotten to pitch. But nine runs on six hits and five walks in just two innings is cause for alarm.

    There are three open spots, it appears, in the Twins bullpen. There is one spot (Joel Zumaya’s) on the 40-man roster. Fortunately Ron Gardenhire, Rick Anderson and Terry Ryan have two more weeks to determine who will head north to start the season. A lot can change. Some of these pitchers may start getting into game situations against starters rather than against hitters wearing numbers set aside for wide receivers or offensive tackles.

    The bullpen remains the most intriguing part of Twins spring training. How will it play out?

    ~~~~

    At
    Twins Daily, there is a lot going on. John wrote his thoughts on some of the bullpen pitchers making an impression. Nick continued his Twins position analysis by looking at Jamey Carroll and the shortstops. Left-hander Ryan O’Rourke writes about the first week at minor league camp. Parker asked what Alexi Casilla can do in 2012. Seth asked if there is any way that Brian Dozier can make the opening day roster.

    Troy Larson asked when fans get excited about the upcoming season. Shanewahl wrote about the rise and ‘fall’ of Aaron Hicks. Twins Fan from Afar asked if the Twins need to hire a sports psychologist.

    In the Forums, there are a lot of great discussions being generated. Be sure to
    vote for and discuss the preseason AL Central third basemen. On the Farm includes discussion about the two Twins minor leaguers suspended 50 games each for testing positive for a banned substance.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins' Bullpen Banter started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      The Twins made their first cuts Thursday morning, sending pitcher Scott Diamond and eight others to their minor-league camp. Diamond was with the Twins for a part of last season and was seen as having a chance to make the team.Others sent down were right-handed pitchers Deolis Guerra and Lester Oliveros, left-handed pitcher Tyler Robertson and outfielders Darin Mastroianni and Oswaldo Arcia.
      Nonrostered pitcher Aaron Thompson, infielder Steve Pearce and catcher Danny Rams were also sent to the minor-league complex
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      At this point the last 3 bullpen spots should be Burton, Maloney, and Manship or Waldrop. Still a few weeks of spring left to decide.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      If Baker's elbow is troublesome, and he winds up on the DL, do the Twins move Swarzak to the rotation? Duensing? Would open another 'pen spot.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Seth,

      Your banter about Alex Burnett being talented has really grown old. I could careless the guy is 24 years old and did spend much time in Rochester, he clearly can't make the adjustments at the M.L. level. Your not Gardy, so please stop protecting this guy. He has been given more chances than Waldrop, Slama, Delaney, and many others ever will. Here is all you need to know.

      2010. He had a 5.29 ERA in 47.2 IP. (7.0 K/9 ratio).

      2011. He had a 5.51 ERA in 50.2 IP. (5.9 K/9 ratio).

      2012. He has a 16.87 ERA in 2.2 IP. (By guys who will be unemployed in two weeks).

      The guy has not improved at all, in fact he has got much worse. I would straight up release him and give his 40-man roster spot to someone who deserves it. I thought you were all about giving opportunities to guys who deserve it. This guy had his chance and his 15 minutes of fame are up.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      One of my favorite things is when Jack says guys should be immediately released because generally speaking that means that the player will play quite well in the near future.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Give me another example besides Jesse Crain????? "Generally speaking" I get tired of every prospect in the system being thought of as the next Willie Mays. Some guys just are not very good, but according to you they are all superstars. Why not just talk about how they are in fantastic shape and brush their teeth well. Sorry to burst your bubble but 85-90% of all prospects never make it at the M.L. level. However, you still believe Cole Nelson, Alex Burnett, and Lester Oliveros are great prospects. I actually disagree with you. You are entitled to you rosey outlook on everything but more people agree with me, even if they are not willing to say it. In fact your site would not be successful if everyone did.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I don't recall ever saying the Cole Nelson was even a good prospect, and you know I don't think that I've ever called a reliever a great prospect. I had Burnett ranked as high as #10-12 when he was a starting pitcher in the minor leagues. I had him (and have Oliveros) in the 30s of my rankings.

      Secondly, I'm not sure where my rosey analysis on Burnett was from this article. Here's what I wrote:

      Alex Burnett – Gardy and Rick Anderson really believe in Burnett, and for good reason. There is no questioning his stuff. Simply, he was not given time to develop in Rochester, and I think it would be great for Burnett (and Lester Oliveros who has given up one run on four hits in three innings while striking out four and walking none) to spend a couple of months improving themselves in Rochester. Burnett has thrown 2.2 innings this spring and given up five runs on eight hits and two walks. It isn’t as if it is just one bad outing; he has struggled each time he has taken the mound.
      I don't think it's unfair or rosey to stay that he has 'good stuff' while at the same time acknowledging that, to this point, it hasn't proven successful yet. And yes, my style would be to say that he should go to Rochester and work this season on some things since he's still just 24, and your style is to just completely give up on him despite having the option year, the roster spot and time.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Seth,

      You said on your show several different times "I really believe Alex Burnett could be the future closer for the Twins." This has been your analysis for the last two years. Pretty optimistic for a guy who has been absolutely throttled by other teams and is not improving.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post
      Seth,

      You said on your show several different times "I really believe Alex Burnett could be the future closer for the Twins." This has been your analysis for the last two years. Pretty optimistic for a guy who has been absolutely throttled by other teams and is not improving.
      Burnett was 23 last season. For comparison's sake here are some numbers of some other Twins' pitcher (in the majors) his first 2 seasons:

      age 22 season: 4-10, 5.21 ERA, 1.508 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.2 K/BB
      age 23 season: 7-15, 5.49 ERA, 1.590 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 1.4 K/BB

      Should the Twins had released him?

      Any idea who that pitcher is?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post
      Seth,

      You said on your show several different times "I really believe Alex Burnett could be the future closer for the Twins." This has been your analysis for the last two years. Pretty optimistic for a guy who has been absolutely throttled by other teams and is not improving.
      I did say that during his rookie year and probably last offseason. I haven't said that, I'm pretty sure, for a year. I still believe he can be a quality relief pitcher in time.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      FJ sucks me in again . . .

      While it is understandable to be frustrated with Burnett, it is true that he was up for too long in 2010 and really had no business being up in 2011 instead of working on stuff (literally) at Rochester. Once up in the Show, it is not always easy to continue to work on stuff. Rochester is the place to do and develop. The "free Chuck James" movement really was aka "the help Alex Burnett" develop movement. It was fairly uncharacteristic of the Twins to push Burnett like they did.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Burnett was 23 last season. For comparison's sake here are some numbers of some other Twins' pitcher (in the majors) his first 2 seasons:

      age 22 season: 4-10, 5.21 ERA, 1.508 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.2 K/BB
      age 23 season: 7-15, 5.49 ERA, 1.590 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 1.4 K/BB

      Should the Twins had released him?

      Any idea who that pitcher is?
      You really have me stumped with this one. Some hint is needed . . .
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      You really have me stumped with this one. Some hint is needed . . .
      Sweet music
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Sweet music
      Frankie. Nice.
    1. ben's Avatar
      ben -
      Give me another example besides Jesse Crain?????
      If I recall correctly, heading into 2010 spring training several twins were better suited to a career pumping gas at the Super America - Liriano among them.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Player Comps are always cool because you can always find guys who have struggled and turned it around. But you also have to be careful in assuming that a player will suddenly meet that comp. it's like with Burnett. yes, two years ago, or even last offseason, I was thinking he had the potential to be a big-time closer. Right now, it certainly doesn't look good for that happening, but there are plenty of players throughout history that have struggled as much or more than Burnett at a young age who have turned into very productive big league pitchers. Does it mean he will for sure? Of course not, but I think it's silly to think that a guy who throws that hard and has that much movement coudln't turn it around.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Ben,

      What did Liriano do again last year? Oh that's right!!!
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Thrylos98,

      So you are comparing Frank Viola to Alex Burnett? What's next, your trading in a Chevrolet Corvette for a Ford Pinto. Come on the comparison is a joke and you know it. Viola had talent with a great change up, slider, fastball, and curve. Burnett has limited talent, unless you count a straight fastball right down the middle of the plate. Everyone can jump on me that is fine. However, I was right about Terry Doyle as he was shelled again today, Liriano (1 good season), and most likely about Burnett. Maybe somebody can find some stats and compare Doyle to Dwight Gooden.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fanatic Jack View Post
      Thrylos98,

      So you are comparing Frank Viola to Alex Burnett? What's next, your trading in a Chevrolet Corvette for a Ford Pinto. Come on the comparison is a joke and you know it. .
      No comparison.

      I just noted the fact that Viola, like Burnett, also underperformed at the same age. I am using Viola's turn-around as an example why one should not give up on young players before they reach their prime. That's all.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Thrylos98,

      I will agree with you and Seth that maybe "Released" was a bit over the top even for me. He should go to New Britain or Rochester and allowed to develop slowly. However, he might be wounded beyond reapir at this point.
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