Blake Parker was the Twins’ most expensive free agent signing for the bullpen last winter, and he looked like a bargain at $1.8 million when he saved eight games and posted a 1.04 ERA in his first 18 appearances. But a 7.11 ERA over the past two months, with nine walks and six home runs in his past 19 innings made him the latest victim of the Twins’ midseason bullpen remodel.
Parker became the fourth reliever to be designated for assignment in the past 11 days Wednesday, one night after surrendering three doubles and a walk in a five-batter outing against the Yankees. The Twins have a week to waive, release or trade the 34-year-old righthander.
“It was a very challenging situation. He is certainly a loved figure in the locker room,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, just minutes after giving Parker the news. “He’s a guy who holds the respect of every person here.”
But the Twins bullpen has been worn thin by a difficult homestand, and they needed fresh arms. Kohl Stewart, who took Tuesday’s loss by allowing two 10th-inning runs, was optioned back to Class AAA Rochester for the fifth time this year, allowing the Twins to recall lefthander Devin Smeltzer — a starter who temporarily will work out of the bullpen — and Carlos Torres, a 36-year-old righthander who has pitched for six different MLB teams, including the Tigers, who released him in May. They bring to 20 the number of pitchers to work out of the bullpen this year.
“He’s a good, experienced arm, a guy that we’re going to be able to put in different roles,” Baldelli said of Torres, who has pitched 362 career games and owns a 4.09 ERA. “We don’t have to worry about the experience factor. We don’t have to worry about putting him in a position he hasn’t been in before.”
Parker’s teammates, who have seen Adalberto Mejia, Mike Morin and Matt Magill leave the organization this month, are sorry to see the friendly Arkansan go, too.
“He was awesome. He took me under his wing from the moment I got here,” said rookie reliever Ryne Harper. “He offered all kinds of help: Mind-set, preparation. He’s like a brother to me.”
One day closer
Byron Buxton probably won’t need a rehab assignment, Baldelli said, but the Twins decided to wait another day to activate him from the concussion list. Buxton will travel with the team in Chicago, and the Twins will decide in the next day or two when to add him to the lineup.
The condition of Max Kepler, who was shaken up in a collision with the outfield wall Tuesday, could affect the decision.
“Running around playing center field is different than playing any other position,” Baldelli said of Kepler, who was out of the lineup Wednesday. “When you start putting guys in different spots, it can be taxing.”
• Brusdar Graterol, the top-rated pitching prospect in the Twins’ system, threw a live bullpen session Monday “and felt great, so that was a huge positive for us,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. Graterol, shut down because of a shoulder impingement after posting a 1.89 ERA over two months at Class AA Pensacola, will begin a rehab assignment soon in the Gulf Coast (rookie) League.
• Former Indians closer Cody Allen, trying to work his way back to the major leagues, has left Rochester to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Allen has allowed two runs over five innings with five walks and four strikeouts at Class AAA.