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Twins Bullpen: Ready When Needed

taylor rogers tyler duffey cody stashak sergio romo tyler clippard
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 01 August 2020 - 10:27 PM

It took until the fifth game of the season for Twins closer Taylor Rogers to get into a game. In the team’s first eight games, he has now pitched three times and recorded three saves for the Twins. He has a pretty well defined role on this team, but the roles of the rest of the bullpen appear to be ever-changing.Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save.

It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning.

Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far.

Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3)
Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1),
Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1),
Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2),
Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1),
Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1)
Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1),
Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1),
Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)
Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)

Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers.

As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings.

Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’”

Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.”

And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable!

We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB.

There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year.

Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.”

Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury.

Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ”

That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity.

Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.”

So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched.

With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon?

In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such.
He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.”

Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.”

Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.”

While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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#2 RaoulDuke


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Posted 01 August 2020 - 11:18 PM

I think talent wise I would rank it








That is a dominate closer, 2 up and coming setup guys, and 2 established setup vets that all come at you in vastly different ways


Stashak is looking impressive

Wisler has looked good

Alcala has very intriguing stuff

Littel is promising when back

Thorpe has good stuff that hopefully doesn't belong in the pen long term

Smeltzer can eat innings

Chalmers is waiting in the wings


I think come playoffs they need a setup level lefty but the whole pen is super stocked in everything else. 

#3 Otwins


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Posted 01 August 2020 - 11:39 PM

It is so nice having a deep pen. I remember the years with a 7th inning guy an 8th inning set up man and the 9th inning closer. About a 3 game winning streak is about all you could get to and then your bullpen was tapped out.Today the only bullpen guy that pitched yesterday was Rogers and he only threw 5 pitches. I bet he is off tommorrow but Duffey, Romo, Clippard did not throw today so would be available. 

#4 rdehring


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 08:12 AM

Gotta love this bullpen, Seth.


Looking at the 10 you listed above, five were drafted and developed by the Twins. The other five include one free agent and four acquired via trades with most in the minors when they arrived. Great job by the new guys in the FO.

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#5 Darius


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 08:20 AM

This bullpen, especially this year, is a massive weapon.

I think it’s approaching the level of Kansas City’s the year the won the World Series. Rogers might be the best reliever in baseball right now. He looks phenomenal. Duffey is elite, and looks phenomenal. Stashak very, very good right now. Romo, Clippard, and May are all very good, and can be used comfortably. Baldelli can shorten these games significantly.

#6 USAFChief


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 08:48 AM

Among the many things Twins management deserves credit for, turning the pen into a legit strength comes in at the top for me.

I'm a big believer in the importance of relievers to winning and losing. And both the FO and the field manager seem to me to have made it a priority.

I want to give Rocco special credit for another thing...he's really good at not only using relievers by situations rather than innings, he's also way more proactive in getting his pen into a game than previous managers.

I strongly believe in the old "lose a game early, its on the starter, lose a game late, its on the manager" saying.

Rocco doesn't often lose games due to waiting until his starter has blown a lead and THEN trudging forlornly out to the mound to summon a reliever--AKA a "Molitor". No manager is perfect, but Rocco is light years better at taking his starter out before that happens.
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#7 mikelink45


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 09:33 AM

I love the pen, but I also love starters to go seven and I hate openers.What a joke - is this just to continue to make BP ready for any inning?I just cannot imagine how this is an advantage - and I know I am really old - but put a good pitcher out there, let them pitch until you need a reliever.Is Clippard going to go 7?No - you will need someone after him to stretch out the game by going multiple innings - so start that person.Yes the top of the order is the toughest - guess what if the next pitcher is going to stretch out the game they are still going to face the top of the lineup once or twice.So that is my rant.We currently have a good rotation to go with at good pen - I like that. 

#8 Seth Stohs

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Posted 02 August 2020 - 11:54 AM


I love the pen, but I also love starters to go seven and I hate openers.What a joke - is this just to continue to make BP ready for any inning?I just cannot imagine how this is an advantage - and I know I am really old - but put a good pitcher out there, let them pitch until you need a reliever.Is Clippard going to go 7?No - you will need someone after him to stretch out the game by going multiple innings - so start that person.Yes the top of the order is the toughest - guess what if the next pitcher is going to stretch out the game they are still going to face the top of the lineup once or twice.So that is my rant.We currently have a good rotation to go with at good pen - I like that. 


Lots here... 


Starters that go 7 are terrific... but for most starters, that third time through the lineup doesn't go well. 


That said, with all the pitcher injuries early this season around the league, the Twins are wise to continue to treat it like an extended spring training. They'll get extended over time.


That may coincide with the likelihood of losing one reliever in about a week and probably another one in 3 weeks when rosters (may) go back to 26. Why not take advantage of the expanded roster.


And, the Opener just makes so much sense when you push a guy back like the Twins did. Let CLippard start and work an inning, then bring in Smeltzer or whoever and let him go 4-5 and then see where you are. Like keeping a catcher's legs strong, be smart with your top arms too. 

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#9 joefish


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Posted 02 August 2020 - 12:02 PM

The pen looks solid. The juggling if our starters is more of a worry for me. When the starters are all healthy we will take a big step forward. I believe that.

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