Today’s signing of Ron Mahay adds some spice to the bullpen situation. With Joe Nathan being out for the year and a couple of interesting ‘pen possibilities struggling, it was a good idea to bring in a veteran reinforcement. But where does that leave us? In lieu of a full roster update, here are my thoughts on the bullpen.
First, let me say that while the Twins may be considering having Francisco Liriano move into the closer’s role, I think that there are two reasons that won’t happen — he’s pitched too well this Spring as a starter, and no one else amongst the possible alternative fifth starters has stepped up to grab the ring. For now at least, Liriano should be the fifth starter. The Twins can always re-evaluate if he consistently runs into problems in the fourth and fifth innings as he starts to get tired.
As for the bullpen:
Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares
Pat Neshek – Neshek has had an excellent spring, allowing just 1 run and giving up 3 hits in 6 innings, with a 7-3 K-BB rate. He is also getting back into shape to be able to pitch regularly. The only reason he isn’t on my ‘lock’ list is that I’m not 100% convinced he’s ready for prime time. I fully expect, however, that the next 10 days will show that Neshek is able to pitch frequently enough and well enough to justify placing him on the roster. He’s very close to a lock in my mind.
FIGHTING FOR A SPOT
Clay Condrey – Unlike Neshek, Condrey has had a horrid spring. In just 7 innings he’s allowed 8 earned runs, given up 4 homers, and has walked two without a single strikeout. If Condrey was just a young guy with no big league experience fighting for a spot, he’d have been cut already. Of course, he does have big league experience — pretty effective big league experience. In 2009, Condrey had a 3.00 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP over 42 innings and 45 games. In 2008, he had a 3.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 69 innings. Those numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away, but I’d take a guy like that in the Twins bullpen. This is why I list Condrey as a probable — more than likely, if there is any way to justify keeping Condrey around, the Twins will probably do so.
Ron Mahay – Mahay obviously hasn’t pitched at all this spring, but he’s a veteran who is known to the Twins staff because of his brief stint with the team last year. Can he get into playing shape in time for the season? Yes, if he’s been getting his work in regularly (and he’d have been insane not to have done so). Mahay would add a useful second lefty to the bullpen if added to the roster, which I think gives him another pretty significant boost in his favor.
Mike Maroth – Maroth has struggled in 2 of his 5 games this spring, but has been better than I expected him to be. With the struggles of Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing along with Joe Nathan’s injury, Maroth may even have had the inside track on a roster spot because he’s a lefty — until Ron Mahay was signed. Mahay is more likely to get the second lefty role in the ‘pen that Maroth would otherwise have been in line for, so while it is fair to say that Maroth is still fighting for a spot, he’s now once again distinctly an underdog in that fight.
Glen Perkins – Speaking of Perkins, he’s been horrid this spring (7 ER and 14 hits in 7 innings) and is now also dealing with an injury. The odds on his breaking camp with the Twins are becoming pretty long.
Brian Duensing – Yet another lefty who has had a disappointing spring, Duensing has allowed 7 ER and 12 hits in 7 innings of work. In contention, maybe, but just.
Anthony Slama – We’ve been talking seriously about Slama getting a shot at the major league level for awhile now, and this spring is certainly just going to continue that talk. In 4 innings, Slama has not allowed a hit or a run, with the only blemish on his record being a single walk. He’s also struck out 8 batters — in other words, he’s K’d 8 of the 13 guys he’s faced. Those are impressive numbers and undoubtedly have turned heads. Nonetheless, I’m still predicting a trip to the minors for Slama, with a likely callup upon the first injury or release when the season starts.
Given all this, I’d expect a bullpen of: Rauch, Guerrier, Crain, Mijares, Neshek, Condrey, Mahay