Monday, February 27, 2012
Zumaya's injury leaves right-handed hole to fill
The team had only been in spring training for a handful of days before Zumaya left the mound on Saturday with right elbow discomfort. An MRI on Sunday revealed the hard throwing righty has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and this type of injury usually results in Tommy John surgery. The recovery time from this injury is usually around 12-months so Zumaya's time with the Twins was over before it even really started.
Before his injury, Zumaya offered hope to a bullpen that struggled to produce on the field last season. The thought of a healthy Zumaya in a seventh inning role leading up to Glen Perkins and Matt Capps was something fans could look forward to at Target Field. Now the Twins will be looking for a variety of right-handed options with little experience at the big league level to step up and produce on the big stage.
There are a handful of familiar names that will now be fighting for a late inning role with the club. Anthony Swarzak and Alex Burnett saw time out of the bullpen last season with Swarzak also filling in as a started on 11 occasions. Burnett found some struggles in his 50.2 innings as he posted a 5.51 ERA with a 1.401 WHIP. Swarzak had some up and down moments but showed he could handle a long relief role and making the occasional spot start. There is a good chance that the organization will be looking to these players to prove they can handle some of the pressure of late inning situations.
Lester Oliveros was one of the key pieces brought to the Twins as part of the Delmon Young trade and the rookie showed some positive signs in his limited action with the club. After dominating in the lower levels of the minor leagues, Oliveros found some sticking points in his travels to the MLB level. His marginal experience at the big league level is a strike against him and the club will surely take this into account when making a final decision on the bullpen.
For the second year in a row, the Twins have a bunch of pitchers in camp in hopes of finding a few options that will be serviceable as bullpen arms. The team had to add Danny Rams, another catcher, to the big league camp in order to have enough men to catch the 32-pitchers with the club. Names like Jason Bulger, Casey Fien, Jeff Gray, and Esmerling Vasquez will be given every opportunity to show they belong as right-handed options for the 2012 Twins.
Most of the available free-agent right-handed relief pitchers have been scooped up by this time of year as clubs were making their final additions before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. MLB Trade Rumor lists five right-handed relief pitchers who are still on the market. This list includes Dany Baez, Sergio Miltre, Tony Pena, and Michael Wuertz. All of these options are bottom of the barrel relief arms but the Twins could take a flyer on Wuertz who is a Minnesota native and only a couple seasons removed from a career year in 2009.
Overall, the Zumaya signing was a good move but luck didn't fall on the Twins side. Luckily for the Twins they are left with a big chunk of the rest of spring training to find out who will be able to fit into a right-handed relief role with the team. To some of the players mentioned above, this should be seen as a major opportunity to be part of the bullpen turnaround for the Twins. Let's hope some of them take the opportunity and run with it.