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  • How Will the Twins Cover Innings in 2021?

    Cody Christie

    Teams are going to have to get creative throughout the 2021 campaign as pitching staffs are tasked with throwing more than twice as many innings than during the 2020 season. What strategies will the Twins use to cover those innings in the current campaign?

    Image courtesy of © David Berding and Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today

    Traditional Five-Man Rotation

    Minnesota is going with a traditional five-man pitching staff to start the 2021 season and they are expected to stick with a five-man rotation for the majority of the season. That doesn’t mean the same five pitchers will occupy the rotation as the innings start to add up. Minnesota signed Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to add rotational depth, and this is only going to help in a season like the current one.


    The Twins can use multiple strategies throughout the season to keep the starting staff rested. One option is to have a player skip a start. In this situation, the team can call-up a starter from St. Paul or the team can go with a bullpen game, which has become more common in recent years. There’s also a good chance a starter will need some time on the injured list at some point, so this allows the team to utilize some of their pitching depth.


    Rotating Relievers

    After signing an extension this spring, Randy Dobnak has struggled to start the 2021 season by allowing five earned runs in three innings. Obviously, this is a very small sample size, and the Twins are confident in Dobnak finding success this season. He is the natural choice to be the team’s sixth starter if needed, but he isn’t the only reliever that will eat innings this season.


    Last year, only two Twins relievers threw more than 25 innings and both of those players, Matt Wisler and Tyler Clippard, are no longer with the team. Minnesota has used Alex Colomé for multiple innings this year and that might hint at some of Rocco Baldelli’s strategy this season. The team has also switched to a 14-man pitching staff with the addition of Brandon Waddell, who will help cover more innings. He can also occupy a spot that is sent back and forth between Triple-A and the big-leagues.


    Options Outside the 26-Man Roster

    Outside the names mentioned above, there is certainly other options not currently on the 26-man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer are stretched out to be starters and they can be called on to take over a starting role. Top pitching prospects like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are also expected to make their debuts in 2021. Hopefully, they aren’t needed for extended innings, but they are waiting in the wings.


    Other names on the 40-man roster include Shaun Anderson, Dakota Chalmers and Bailey Ober. Each of these arms can fit into the bullpen picture at some point this season. There are also other options outside the 40-man roster including this year’s Sire of Fort Myers, Derek Law. The Twins have liked to use a steady stream of players from the minors to supplement the big-league relief core in recent years and that trend will likely continue in 2021.


    Other Teams’ Strategies

    Last week, MLB.com ran through the different strategies teams will utilize in 2021. Teams like the Angels, Mariners, and Pirates are all planning on using six-man rotations, but none of these clubs are expected to be fighting for a World Series title. Some teams, like the Dodgers, Rangers, and Tigers are going to use a piggybacking strategy where some starters are used in a traditional manner and other appearances they use multiple starters that follow one another.


    The Rays utilize openers and bullpen games quite often and that expects to be the case again, especially with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton no longer part of the rotation. A lot of teams will be using a revolving five-man rotation which will include skipped starts and other pitchers filling into the rotation’s fifth spot. Minnesota is penciled into another large group of 10 teams that will use a traditional five-man rotation for as long as it will last, but it’s clear the team will be open to using multiple pitching strategies this year.


    What strategies will the Twins use to cover 1,458 innings this year? Leave COMMENT and start the discussion.



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    I definitely wouldn't go to a BP game, we have enough problems with them. In 2019 they over used some of their key relievers that they heavily dependent on. It went well until they folded and fell apart. That put a lot of pressure on the rotation, especially Gibson and Perez, to extend beyond what they were capable of. Gibson was battling colitis and Perez was transitioning from the BP, although they were terrific before this BP melt down, they tanked afterwards.

    I see this happening already this year. This year they need transition from the short season. Starters need to be limited, especially Happ and Shoemaker in which they have extended them too long too soon.

    Solution is what I'd advocated from the beginning. Bridge this gap with long relievers like Dobnak and Thorpe (at least until the minors start). IMO this is very important so the rotation and short relievers are not over taxed and falter.

    I think Thorpe can be used as such to get extra MLB innings in and rotate AAA with others MLB ready prospects and still get stretched out in the minors.

    Dobnak should have been used in this compacity from the beginning not the way they did. Dobnak was coming off a hot ST if used as suggested he'd continue to be hot. Instead he was thrown under the bus in situations where he should not have pitched, thus destroying his rythym and confidence. It was sad to see him finally pitch in a situation where he could thrive but didn't. My hope is they don't lose confidence in Dobnak and he'll quickly snap out of it and use a second long relief schedule as long as needed.

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    They are not tasked with throwing twice as many innings as last year.   They are tasked with throwing the same number of innings as two years ago and every year before that.    They also have twice as long a time to do it.     Build up to 6 or 7 innings for the starters.   7 or 8 relievers should then be able to handle 2-3 innings most days.

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