Monday, April 18, 2011

The Revolving Twins Bullpen

The weekend in Tampa Bay was a rough one for the Twins. Multiple come from behind wins for the Rays, Mauer's placement on the DL, and a new look to the bullpen. In the end, the Twins were able to squeak out a win on Sunday. But one win in a four game series is hardly anything to get excited about.

One of the biggest news items coming out of the Twins win on Sunday was the new look bullpen that Ron Gardenhire announced before the game. Joe Nathan had blown two consecutive save chances and he looked ugly in getting some of his other saves. It was great of the Twins to try and give Nathan a chance to be the closer coming out of Spring Training. The ovation he got at Target Field for the Home Opener left everyone with goose-bumps and it might have been one of the loudest moments in Target Field history. Nathan had worked his tail off to get ready for the season and it was his job to lose.

The problem is that Nathan did lose his closing job over the course of the first two weeks of the season. About a week ago, I wrote about how Nathan is trying to re-invent himself as a pitcher. The velocity of his fastball is down and that means a couple of things. First of all, he needs to be able to locate his fastball. Secondly, he needs to rely more on his off-speed pitches. Nathan met with the manager and pitching coach on Sunday and decided it was best for the team to have a different closer.

Matt Capps will now be the Twins full-time closer for the foreseeable future. At the trade deadline in 2010, the Twins traded away a great prospect in Wilson Ramos to get Matt Capps. One of the reasons the Twins were willing to part with a top tier prospect was the fact that they would have Capps under team control for multiple seasons. The Twins knew that there would be some veteran arms leaving the bullpen and Capps could be a savior for a questionable bullpen situation.

Some of the other roles in the bullpen will also be changing now as the bullpen picture continues to revolve. Glen Perkins will be getting more late-inning work to try and bridge the gap to Capps in the 9th inning. After the game on Sunday the Twins sent down Jeff Manship and called up Jim Hoey from Rochester. Hoey is a hard throwing pitcher that could be moving from the minors to grab the Twins set-up role in the big leagues. Manship beat Hoey out for the final bullpen spot but Hoey looked good in AAA and earned the call-up.

The bullpen may have been one of the most interesting story-lines for the Twins as the season began and that plot has carried over to the first few weeks of the season. The Twins needs some stability at the end of games and all of these bullpen moves could be the shot in the arm a struggling ball club needs to turn the corner.

Here is the bullpen picture as of yesterday, but as always it is subject to change in the days to come:

Closer: Matt Capps
Left Handed Set-Up: Glen Perkins
Right Handed Set-Up B: Jim Hoey
Left-Handed Specialist: Jose Mijares
Middle Relief: Joe Nathan
Middle/Long Relief: Dusty Hughes
Middle/Long Relief: Alex Burnett

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