SEATTLE – The Twins currently have eight pitchers in their bullpen, five of whom were let go by their previous team, four of whom signed a minor league contract with the Twins. The three homegrown relievers were drafted and developed as starters by the Twins but eventually converted to shorter roles.
Heck of a way to build a bullpen.
Wait, did that sound sarcastic? It shouldn’t. The Twins’ bullpen is an unconventional bunch, but it’s partly by design. And most important: It seems to be working.
“The reality of bullpen guys across baseball is that they come in all shapes and sizes, they have all kinds of different backgrounds in terms of successful paths, failed paths, starters that finally found a way to figure out a pitch or something,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer and architect of their relief corps.
Since the calendar turned to May (not including Saturday’s game), the Twins’ bullpen has posted a 3.59 ERA, already a huge step forward from the collective 4.45 ERA of a year ago. And of its 17 runs allowed this month, 11 of them were given up by Trevor Hildenberger, who is now at Class AAA Rochester.
The group of relievers who remain? They’ve given up six runs in a combined 38 innings in May, a sparkling 1.42 ERA.
“The way [manager Rocco Baldelli] has used the pen, we’ve been able to navigate some difficult situations,” Falvey said. “The guys at the back end who have pitched when we’ve been [ahead] have really pitched well. We need some other guys to continue to step up. But the stuff is there, there is some ability there and now you have to give them the opportunity.”
That’s been the case for Ryne Harper, a minor league find who has allowed three runs all season. And for Mike Morin, who is playing for his fourth team and has allowed one run in his first six appearances. And Blake Parker, 7-for-7 in save situations, who has allowed two runs in 15 ⅓ innings.
“There’s opportunity sometimes to be found in those players, guys who have been released or six-year free agents or something like that, who can come in and help you,” Falvey said. “We’re always looking for guys who just need a chance.”