Better relief a must for success

  • Updated: March 31, 2012 - 9:05 AM
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Matt Capps

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Terry Ryan identified a strong bullpen as one of the main reasons the Twins had so much success over the past decade. From 2002 to 2010, the Twins bullpen ERA ranked among the 12 best in the majors each year.

Now, there is nowhere to go but up for the Twins, who posted a majors-worst bullpen ERA last year of 4.51. Joe Nathan signed with the Rangers, and the Twins parted with lefthander Jose Mijares, who latched on with the Royals.

The Twins signed several minor league free agents to compete for bullpen spots, but strangely, Ryan didn't invest more in the bullpen beyond re-signing closer Matt Capps and taking a flier on Joel Zumaya.

So the bullpen looks just as uncertain as it did last year, when the Twins were trying to replace Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch.

"It's not a sure thing; I'm not going to pretend that," Ryan said. "We've got a lot of question marks out there. We've got to get Capps back. He's going to be the secret to anything that bullpen does."

Capps quietly posted a 3.24 ERA in his final 30 games last year, and the Twins hope he reverts to his All-Star form of 2010. Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing give the Twins two lefthanded setup men, but righthanded relief remains a question mark.

"We've built bullpens like this before," Ryan said. "Hopefully it'll work out this time as well."

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