Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Anthony Swarzak could be key to the bullpen
Swarzak returned to the mound on Sunday and got four big outs for the Twins on their way to a second series win in a row to start the year. He entered in the sixth inning and allowed two hits and a walk along with one strikeout. He was forced to toss a lot of sliders because he didn't have a great feel for his fastball.
It would be his first victory of the year and he made the appearance without making any rehab starts in the minor leagues. Swarzak is back and he has a little something to prove.
One of the biggest surprises for the Twins in the first week of the season has been the performance of the pitching staff. There have been positive signs from almost every starting pitcher but only Kevin Correia has pitched seven innings. This leaves the bullpen in charge of getting a lot of outs.
The Twins could be relying heavily on Swarzak during the coming season. The long relief pitcher could be called on for some big outs when the starting staff doesn't make it into the late innings. In recent years, he has even been called on to make a start or two.
Players like Jared Burton, Glen Perkins, and Brian Duensing are going to have important late-inning roles out of the bullpen. It might take a bridge to get from the starting pitcher to those back of the bullpen arms.
That is where Swarzak can make his mark.
As one would expect, his numbers are much better as a relief pitcher versus his time as a starter. For his career, he ERA is 1.19 points lower out of the bullpen. His WHIP is .153 points lower and he has a higher strikeout per nine. Opponent's batting average against him is 60 points lower when he is used in relief.
Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson know the bullpen is one of the team's strengths in 2013. This could mean a lot of use out of some of the more consistent arms in the bullpen. The team has relied on the bullpen to keep their games close so far and that trend will likely continue in the coming weeks.
Swarzak wants the ball as much as possible. He said, "As long as they want me to pitch, I'll pitch. That's always been my attitude here, and that will always be my attitude anywhere. I'm a pitcher before anything else. As long as they want me to have the ball, I'll take the ball."
The Twins might need Swarzak to take the ball a lot this season. It looks like the bullpen is going to be one of the most important parts of the roster and Swarzak could be a key figure for the success of the 2013 Minnesota Twins.