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Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - April

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Each month here at Twins Daily, we will be posting choices for Twins minor league relief pitcher, starting pitcher and hitter of the month. First, I want to share with you some of the top relief pitchers in the Twins minor league system in the month of April. I'll follow up over the next 24 hours with the starting pitcher and hitter of the month.

However, let's start with the Top 6 Relief Pitchers in April:

Number 6 – Ft. Myers – Ricky Bowen - 8 G, 1.96 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 18.1 IP, 18 H, 2 BB, 17 K, .269 BAA

The Twins signed the veteran Bowen last May and he pitched in several roles. Those close to the Miracle say that his stuff profiles well to the bullpen as he has two very good pitches, including a sharp slider which is his strikeout pitch. He’s off to a great start in April.

Number 5 - Beloit – Michael Tonkin - 8 G, 0.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 14.0 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 14 K, .216 BAA

In 2010, due to injury, Tonkin was pushed up to Beloit where he made several starts before going back down to Elizabethton. Last year, he pitched in the Snappers bullpen, and he’s back there again. If his April numbers were the lone indicator, he shouldn’t remain in the Midwest League much longer.

Number 4 - Rochester – Anthony Slama - 8 G, 0.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 6 H, 8 BB, 18 K, .158 BAA

Slama is healthy again after an injury-plagued 2011 season. He is back to pitching like he always has. He walks a few too many, but unlike most of the hard-throwers the Twins have signed in recent years, he has the ability to get a lot of strikeouts. Unlike most pitchers in the organization, Slama actually has the ability to miss bats.

Number 3 – Beloit – AJ Achter - 7 G, 0.56 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 19 K

Achter was the Twins 49th round pick in 2009 out of Michigan State. Instead of signing right away, he went to the Cape Cod League, improved his status and signed late. He was brought up to Beloit last year and made 19 starts for the Snappers. He was sent back to Wisconsin to start this season and moved to the bullpen. So far, so good. He has a three-pitch mix and could potentially make starts later in the season.

Number 2 – Ft. Myers/New Britain – Caleb Thielbar - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 16 K, .098 BAA

Thielbar has yet to allow a run, and he has already been promoted to New Britain (where he came in and got the final out of a 1-0, 12 inning win on Monday night), so how is he not #1 on this list? Well, the Twins have had quite a few strong bullpen performances this first month and the lefty is no different. The former St. Paul Saint has definitely made himself into a prospect to watch.

And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:

New Britain/Rochester –
Deolis Guerra - 8 G, 0.57 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 15.2 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 17 K

Ever since being moved to the bullpen halfway through last season, Guerra has been a different pitcher, a great pitcher. Although he doesn’t throw hard, his changeup is the best in the organization. One phrase that annoys me more than most is that Guerra is “the last player remaining from the Johan Santana trade.” That isn’t his fault and yet too many fans seem to hold it almost against him. Guerra impressed the Twins coaches in spring training. He was great in seven games with AA New Britain before being promoted to Rochester where he pitched three shutout innings over the weekend.

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So what do you think? I’ve listed six players here and there are a few bullpen guys in the Twins farm system that could (should?) be recognized for their great start to their 2012 season. Who would your choice be? How would you rank these guys (and feel free to include others)?

Be sure to check back later for the April Starting Pitcher and Hitter of April.
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