DETROIT — There are plenty of things going for the Twins already, considering they haven’t yet scored a run, the defense has been shaky, and Ricky Nolasco couldn’t record 10 outs on Wednesday. The Twins desperately need Nolasco to fill Ervin Santana’s role while he serves his steroids suspension, and the first results were not particularly promising.
But add one more below-the-surface worry to Paul Molitor’s issues: The bullpen depth.
Tim Stauffer, Aaron Thompson and Blaine Boyer each made their 2015 debut on Wednesday by pitching at least an inning apiece, and all three gave up runs. It didn’t get noticed as much as Nolasco’s troubles, and it didn’t matter much, given how quickly the game got out of hand. But the bullpen has been a relative strength even during the 90-loss seasons. It’s going to be a lot harder to end them if that trend is over.
Stauffer, a $2.2 million free-agent acquisition last December, was hit the hardest, giving up four hits and recording five outs. He walked two batters, one intentionally. After giving up a run-scoring single to the first batter he faced in relief of Nolasco in the fourth inning, he threw a wild pitch to allow another run to score. Then he got into trouble right away in the fifth, allowing a walk and two singles. J.R. Graham, who pitched two scoreless innings Monday, had to get the final out of the inning for him, the lone bullpen bright spot.
Aaron Thompson pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, but then opened the seventh with three straight hits, including a run-scoring double. And Boyer, who made the team with a brilliant spring, gave up a double to the first hitter he faced as a Twin, J.D. Martinez, who eventually scored on a single by pinch-hitter James McCann.
Sure, Nolasco gave up six runs, but the bullpen added five more. Molitor has to hope that, like his missing hitters, that’s a problem that will correct itself in a hurry.