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TwinsCentric: Rounding out the bullpen

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: January 8, 2013 - 9:52 PM

The past two seasons have been filled with disappointment and negative outcomes, but one of the few resoundingly encouraging developments has been the emergence of Glen Perkins at the back end of the bullpen. After fizzling as a starter, Perkins made a supremely successful transition to relief duty and, after signing a contract extension last year, he's in position to provide the Twins with stability at the closer spot for years to come, as long as he can stay healthy.

The Twins value continuity in the closer role as much as any team in baseball, as evidenced by the hefty four-year extension they handed Joe Nathan back in 2008 and the considerable resources they invested into acquiring and retaining Matt Capps. Perkins has given us every reason to believe he can be relied upon to close out games for the foreseeable future, allowing the Twins to concentrate on building a bullpen around him and his reasonable contract.

Early in the offseason, Terry Ryan cited the bullpen as his second-highest priority behind the rotation. In a way that makes sense, since being able to take a lead means nothing if you can't hold it, but there is clearly a lot less work to be done when it comes to the relief corps. Perkins is entrenched at closer and Jared Burton, who also inked an extension following a sensational Minnesota debut, is locked in as his top setup man.

Beyond those two, you've got Brian Duensing, who has established himself as one of the league's better situational left-handed specialists. There's also Anthony Swarzak, a solid fit as the team's long reliever who is out of options and nearly assured a place on the roster.

That's four slots in the bullpen that are as good as spoken for, barring injuries in spring training. So even if the Twins characteristically go with a 12-man pitching staff out of the gates, they'll have only three spots left to fill. With a number of candidates vying for jobs, competition figures to be brisk.

The picture is already a bit crowded, so it seems rather unlikely that Ryan will be seeking out anymore external help, even though contracts like the one Jason Frasor signed last week with the Rangers suggest that reasonable deals can be had.

Here are some of the internal candidates with defensible cases for claiming one of the remaining gigs:

Casey Fien, RHP: Fien was something of a journeyman when the Twins acquired him on a minor-league deal last year, but he quietly posted excellent numbers in the second half after an early July call-up. The 29-year-old allowed runs in only two of his first 21 appearances as a Twin and finished with a 2.06 ERA and 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings. He'll have a hard time repeating that performance but it'd be tough to deprive him of a spot based on merit.

Alex Burnett, RHP: Like Fien, Burnett finished with a good ERA last year (3.52) but his overall production was far less impressive, as it included an ugly 36-to-26 K/BB ratio and 1.35 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings. Oddly, despite a mid-90s fastball and a sharp slider, Burnett's ability to strike out major-league hitters has waned over time, and last year his K-rate ranked as the second-worst among qualifying MLB relievers (ahead of only Jeff Gray). If he maintains those peripherals he's a poor bet for continued success, but considering his heavy usage and adequate results last year, it's hard to see him being left out.

Rich Harden, RHP: The Twins haven't stated their intentions with Harden, who has mostly been a starter over the course of his career, but it stands to reason that they could give him a shot in the bullpen, where his outstanding raw stuff could make an impact and his workload could be better managed. If it works out, Harden could be a great asset in the late innings.

Ryan Pressly, RHP: Selected from Boston in the Rule 5 draft, Pressly had success after converting from starter to reliever last year and his high-velocity stuff clearly caught the Twins' attention. He's nowhere near ready for the majors based on his track record, but if the Twins roster him they'll either have to send him back to the Red Sox or work out a trade.

Tyler Robertson, LHP: He struggled with walks and homers in his first taste of the majors last year, but Robertson also showed some positive signs, averaging over a strikeout per inning and shutting down lefties. If the Twins desire a secondary lefty specialist in the bullpen behind Duensing (since Perkins doesn't really count) Robertson is a logical choice.

Anthony Slama, RHP: The Twins seemingly have very little interest in giving him a chance, but Slama's ridiculous numbers in Triple-A last year make him a necessary inclusion on this list. It sure would be nice to see what he could do against major-league hitters with an extended chance.

Tim Wood, RHP: Wood was acquired on a minor-league deal earlier this winter after he proved very effective as the closer for Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate last year. He's 29 and his overall career numbers aren't particularly impressive, but he'll be in the mix by virtue of having a 40-man roster spot. The same goes for Josh Roenicke, a rubber-armed right-hander brought over from the Colorado organization.

Who would you like to see rounding out the last two bullpen spots? Who else would you like to see in the mix?

~~~

Fresh on Twins Daily:

* Seth compares the offenses and pitching staffs for Twins' minor-league affiliates compared to their league averages.

* John looks at potential positive and negative outcomes for Joe Mauer this year.

* Cody Christie ranks the team's leadoff hitter options.

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Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
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Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
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Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
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Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
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Anaheim 3
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Fla Atlantic 45
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(22) West Virginia 41
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(17) Oklahoma 30
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Tulsa 30
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UCF 20
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Duke 20
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Ohio U 23
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Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
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Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
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Kent State 39
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Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
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(13) Ohio State 56
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Indiana 17
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Central Mich 29
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(10) TCU 42
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Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
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(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
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Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
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