Monday, June 26, 2017

Searching For Relief

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
"The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen."--- Bob Lemon, Hall of Fame Pitcher

The Twins bullpen would hardly be called strong this season. In fact, Minnesota's relief core has been somewhat of a revolving door with a well-worn path between Rochester and Target Field. As Nick wrote about on Monday, Brandon Kintzler might be the bullpen's unlikely hero but the team is going to need some second-half help to stay in contention.

Are there internal options that could be added to the mix? Could any injured players be making a comeback? Who is out there on the trade market? Let's take a look at how the bullpen could be bolstered.

The Injured 
Phil Hughes has been making rehab starts for Rochester and it sounds like he could be joining the Twins as soon as the end of the this week. He will make one more appearance on Wednesday before being activated by the club. In three Triple-A appearances (3 IP), Hughes has allowed one run on three hits with one strikeout and two walks. He wants to contribute this season and the bullpen is his best option since he has some lingering symptoms of the shoulder weakness that caused him to have surgery last season.

While Hughes is close to impacting the Twins, former closer Glen Perkins seems much further away from making a return. Manager Paul Molitor told reporters on Monday that Perkins could resume throwing after he receives a cortisone shot. This shot could come as early as Tuesday but there are no guarantees for Perkins. At this point, it seems like a long-shot for him to make an appearance this season.

The Minors
Ryan Pressly has struggled in his big league time this season by posting an 8.18 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP. In five Triple-A appearances (8 IP), he has yet to allow a run while converting all three save opportunities. He has given up more walks (3) than hits (2) to go along with 12 strikeouts and a .080 opponents' batting average. Those numbers might be tough for the front office to ignore.

Michael Tonkin and John Curtiss are two other names to watch in the second-half. Like Pressly, Tonkin has struggled during his big league action this season. He has a 6.55 ERA and a 13 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio over 11 innings. With Rochester, he's posted a 2.81 ERA and a 23 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio. Curtiss was dominating as Chattanooga's closer before being promoted to Triple-A. For the season, he has allowed two earned runs (0.99 ERA) with 38 strikeouts over 27.1 innings.

The Reunion Possibilities
Former fan favorite Pat Neshek is currently on a bad Philadelphia team and his name has already be surfacing in trade rumors. The side-winding hurler has a 0.59 ERA to go along with a 0.783 WHIP that would be attractive to any team in contention. He is in the final year of a three-year contract so he will be a free agent at season's end. This makes it hard for a team to surrender multiple prospects for player who will only make a handful of appearances during the stretch run.

Another former Twin, Anthony Swarzak has been performing very well out of the White Sox bullpen. His 2.94 ERA is his best mark since 2013 with the Twins. Swarzak has also been posting SO/9 rate higher than his career average with a career-best 1.10 WHIP. Like Neshek, he will be a free agent at the end of the season so trading multiple prospects probably doesn't make sense. He's also currently plays on a division rival so that can make a trade less likely.

Other options are available and it still remains to be seen how the new front office regime will handle the trade deadline. Do they want to go all-in on a club that is surprisingly in the playoff hunt? How do you think the front office should sort through the second-half bullpen options? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

No comments: