Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Make more hitters available to MLB rosters

Posted by: Updated: August 23, 2014 - 10:55 PM

There was a light schedule of eight games in the major leagues on Thursday, plus the conclusion of a protested game between San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

There were five shutouts among the eight regularly scheduled games. There were two 1-0 games, a 2-0 game, a 3-0 game and a 2-1 game.

The decline of hitting and scoring has been alarming over the past several years. Some would link this to steroids testing, even though pitchers weren’t any more allergic to being juiced than hitters.

One underrated aspect in the dearth of hitting is roster makeup. It still was common to carry 10 pitchers in the ’80s and 11 pitchers into the 2000s, and now the number of pitchers is always 12 and routinely 13.

When a team gets to 13, a manager has a three-man bench and perhaps one decent platoon or pinch-hitting option. With the current Twins, that means a journeyman such as Jordan Schafer — with a .165 big-league average against lefties — probably gets a chance to lead off the eighth in a close game even against a lefty.

Today’s seven- or eight-man bullpens make life miserable for the hitters. And the short benches also make it impossible for a manager to protect a hitter (such as the now-demoted Aaron Hicks) against pitchers likely to expose his greatest weakness. In Hicks’ case, it was a lousy left-handed swing.

It was not always thus. On the Twins’ hitting machine of 1977, Glenn Adams batted .338 with six home runs and 49 RBI. Manager Gene Mauch sent the left-handed-hitting Adams to the plate 283 times vs. righthanders and seven vs. lefties.

The platoon option doesn’t really exist with a roster that’s 52 percent pitchers. If it did, Oswaldo Arcia could be weaned in against big-league lefties, rather than to be forced to flail away at .186 against them.

My suggestion to get more bats on the bench would be expansion of the pre-Sept. 1 roster to 26, with the caveat only 12 can be pitchers. If you carry 13 pitchers, you don’t get the extra player.

As hitting declines, baseball could help itself by making more hitters available.

Plus Three from Patrick

Top contenders to manage the Twins in 2015 (if there’s an opening):

• Dave Martinez, 50 next month. He has been Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa Bay. He’ll get a manager’s job this winter.

• Tony Pena, 57. Noted as relentless worker as Yankees’ coach; time for second chance as manager after being fired by Royals in 2005.

• Paul Molitor, 58. Smart baseball man and has the hometown advantage.

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