Relievers have been key to Twins' early-season winning ways

The bullpen has been among the best in baseball, with pitchers embracing their roles.

hide

Jared Burton has followed his impressive 2012 season with the Twins with a 0.00 ERA in eight games this season.

Photo: Gail Burton , Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– Righthander Jared Burton pitched in back-to-back games against the White Sox over the weekend, striking out two batters in each scoreless appearance. It was his first game action in four days, because of postponements and scheduled days off.

“It’s been kind of tough for guys all year,” Burton said. “We haven’t gotten in that regular-season groove yet.”

The results suggest otherwise.

The Twins bullpen has been in lockdown mode in the early season, as roles have been established and newcomers have made a seamless transition into the group. The relievers are coming off two games against the White Sox during which they gave up one run over five innings — a solo homer by Adam Dunn off Josh Roenicke on Sunday.

As the Twins enter a doubleheader against the Marlins on Tuesday — the result of Monday’s game being postponed because of inclement weather, the Twins’ fourth postponement since April 14 — the relievers have posted a 2.15 ERA that was fifth-best in baseball entering Monday. Atlanta led with a 1.22 ERA and was trailed by Texas (1.96), Pittsburgh (2.03), Arizona (2.09) and the Twins. All five teams have records over .500, suggesting the importance of strong relief.

The first few weeks of the season have increased the team’s confidence that if the starters can get through at least six innings and the offense produces as expected, the bullpen will take care of leads. And that will distance the Twins from the past two seasons of 195-loss baseball.

“There are some pretty defined roles down there,” first baseman Justin Morneau said. “You know who is closing [Glen Perkins]. You know who is going to set up [Jared Burton]. You know what lefty is coming in late in situations [Brian Duensing]. Everyone knows what you are doing and when you are doing it. It helps you prepare mentally.”

The Twins entered the season feeling secure about the final two innings. Burton, who battled injuries before last season, posted a 2.18 ERA over 64 games last season and is the main eighth-inning reliever. Perkins saved 16 games last season after taking over the closer’s role for Matt Capps. Perkins, a member of Team USA at the World Baseball Classic last month, is 5-for-5 in save opportunities.

The challenge was building a bridge to the final innings.

The Twins claimed Roenicke off waivers from Colorado, where he posted a 3.25 ERA over 88⅔ innings. Roenicke won’t be asked to pitch as much as he did with the Rockies, sticking to the seventh inning with occasional eighth-inning duties.

Righthander Casey Fien has picked right up from last season, when he posted a 2.06 ERA after being called up from Class AAA Rochester. He entered Sunday’s game in the eighth and got a big strikeout of Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez with a nice breaking ball that was down and on the outside corner.

Duensing will focus on relieving, where he entered the season with a career 3.39 ERA. He can match up with the Prince Fielders and Adam Dunns of the league — but he’s more than a situational lefty.

“He’s not one of those guys you bring in just to get lefties out,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He can get lefties and righties out. He has the pitches.”

Righthander Anthony Swarzark is the innings-eater, almost getting a rare four-inning save last Tuesday when he shut down the Angels for 3⅓ innings before giving way to Perkins.

And Rule 5 draft pickup Ryan Pressly — selected from the Red Sox when he was left off Boston’s 40-man roster — is working his way into regular duty. He will likely pitch in the sixth and seventh innings or when the team is trailing, but he can reach around 95 miles per hour with his fastball and the Twins like his breaking pitches, too.

“With Pressly, we can go a lot of different ways,” Gardenhire said. “He’s shown that he can come in those big situations, and he can stretch out.

“I like the fact that we have a lot of options. We have innings out there.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close