Cody Christie Twins Daily Contributor Posted February 27 Share Posted February 27 The Twins have added depth to the starting rotation, pushing some players down the organizational depth chart. Today we start a series looking at young pitchers that might need to shift to a bullpen role to impact the big-league roster in 2023. Image courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports Entering last season, Jhoan Duran had been a starting pitcher for his entire career. A lengthy injury history made the Twins reconsider his long-term role with the club. He was shifted to the bullpen and became one of the team's most valuable assets. Only some players can be as successful in transitioning to the bullpen, but there are multiple players the Twins may consider shifting to a bullpen role during the upcoming season. The Twins acquired Ronny Henriquez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa last March from the Rangers for Mitch Garver. Texas had initially signed Henriquez as a teenager from the Dominican Republic. He pitched well in his professional debut with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP with 12.3 K/9. In 2019, he made his stateside debut and saw his ERA rise to 4.50, but he struck out 99 batters in 82 innings. The Rangers were aggressive with Henriquez coming out of the pandemic. He pitched at High-A and Double-A in 2021 and posted an impressive 105-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 2/3 innings. He was over two years younger than the average age of the competition at each level and only faced younger batters in 10 plate appearances. Most of the damage against him came via the long ball, but he held opponents to hitting .220/.277/.421 (.697) in 21 appearances (16 starts). Season in Review: 2022 Last season marked Henriquez's first in the Twins organization, and they followed the Rangers' aggressive development plan. Henriquez started in extended spring training before being assigned to St. Paul. He split time between the rotation and bullpen with the Saints while posting a 5.66 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP across 95 1/3 innings. He made 14 starts and 10 relief appearances with a 106-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For his minor league career, he has posted a 10.6 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9 while being used primarily as a starter. He made three brief appearances for the Twins last season, all in a long-relief role. He pitched well in a small sample size with a 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and a 9-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 2/3 innings. Henriquez pitched three innings or more in every appearance. All three earned runs came in his big-league debut at Cleveland in four innings. There were positives to build off of as he headed toward the 2023 campaign. Projections for 2023 Henriquez is dealing with right posterior elbow soreness this spring. The right-hander underwent an MRI, and the plan is to reevaluate him a week after receiving an injection. This likely means he won't have an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, but he was likely scheduled to start the year in St. Paul. He's the second youngest pitcher on the 40-man roster, so the Twins may want him to continue to get opportunities to start. Those starting opportunities might be tough to find with the Triple-A starting rotation scheduled to be packed with higher-profile pitching prospects. However, a bullpen role might be his best path to the big leagues in 2023. Depending on the severity of his elbow injury, it seems likely for the Twins to continue to use the 22 year old as a starter. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with a high spin rate that can be deceptive in the upper part of the zone. His slider and changeup already have shown flashes of being plus pitches. His age and pitch mix make it hard to give up this early on him as a starter. Summary For 2023, expect Henriquez to continue to make starts in St. Paul and be ready for either role with the Twins when needed. Long-term, the assumption should be that he will pitch out of the bullpen. Much will depend on his third-pitch consistency. However, with his small frame, and some history of minor injuries, it probably makes sense. There are plenty of examples in MLB history where a player who stands under 6-0 and under 170 pounds being great starters. Pedro Martinez wasn't any bigger. It can work, and Henriquez's whip-like arm action is intriguing. Either way, expect Henriquez to be a multi-inning pitcher. The Twins will likely need every pitcher on the 40-man roster during the 2023 season. Does Henriquez need a longer look as a starter or is it time to shift him to a bullpen role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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