The Minnesota Twins have a bullpen logjam, and while it seems to be a problem waiting to be solved, it isn’t a bad issue to have. With pitchers returning from injuries this upcoming spring, pitchers being exiled into the bullpen, and even an addition, the bullpen is already full.
There are some locks: Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares and Clay Condrey all seem to be locked into the bullpen. Jesse Crain isn’t far behind, but Pat Neshek needs a spot too, and the team also has starters Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano who could potential be up for a spot.
With the current roster, one of the three starters, Perkins, Duensing, or Liriano, will be in the rotation. Another is likely to become an extra left-handed option in the ‘pen.
Most seasons, the Twins go with a 12-man pitching staff, and with six spots seemingly locked up, the Twins will need to solve the current logjam. There will be an extra starter to deal with, and Perkins has already been well-connected in trade talks. Meanwhile, the Twins will need to decide if Neshek is ready from day one or if they want him to wait out the cold Minnesota days and begin in sunny Florida.
If the trade rumors involving Perkins are accurate, and the lefty is eventually moved prior to the season, the situation could play itself out. Either Liriano or Duensing, whoever misses out on the fifth spot in the rotation, would enter the bullpen, and Neshek would takeover a spot after some extra innings down south or when needed due to injury.
The Twins don’t have a problem, but more so a minor issue. They have plenty of pitchers to fill out the staff, now they just need to figure out which ones fit the best and figure out what to do with the extras.
Off-Season Outlook: Bullpen
Last off-season one of the biggest questions regarding the roster was the bullpen. The Twins would have no Pat Neshek or Boof Bonser, and Matt Guerrier was coming off a poor season by his standards.
A year later the only question that remains is who will win the three current openings. The Twins have often went with twelve pitchers on their pitching staff, and the assumption is that they’ll do the same in their first season at Target Field.
Closer Joe Nathan will be one of four locks for the bullpen as the Twins begin spring training action four months from now. He’ll be joined by Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Jose Mijares.
With four spots determined, the Twins have three to fill and an abundance of options from within the organization. It’s likely that as many as six players will complete for three sports with the losers potentially out of options in Minnesota.
Jesse Crain is one option, and the Twins will have a decision to make on him in the coming months. A poor start to the season saw him demoted to Triple-A, but Crain rebounded and played a key role down the stretch. The powerful right-hander is arbitration eligible and the Twins will need to determine what he’s worth.
Outside of Crain the Twins will have several other options. Ron Mahay is a free agent left-handed specialist whom the Twins acquired down the stretch, and Bobby Keppel saw a lot of time in 2009 out of the bullpen. The Twins also have at least one minor league option in Anthony Slama. The youngster pitched well in the organization this past year and may be given a close look.
Injuries kept both Neshek and Bonser off the field last season, and while it’s hard to know what they might be able to provide in 2010, they’ll both be given the shot to show the organization this spring.
Free agency doesn’t seem to be needed this off-season in regards to the bullpen as the Twins have several options to compete for three openings. Decisions will need to be made, but it’ll come down to performance and health in March.