SARASOTA, FLA. – Rocco Baldelli, the Twins’ rookie manager, was giving his perfunctory answers to sports writers’ questions before Saturday night’s exhibition vs. the Orioles and was asked about a bullpen that has gone through a volatile spring.
To the surprise of no one in his small audience, Baldelli said:
“I would say that I feel really good about where we sit. We have some very good arms that we can choose from at this point to fill out our bullpen, but I think we also know the bullpen, in general, it’s a volatile type of spot with limited innings and opportunities.
“Sometimes you can’t anticipate all you want how things are going to go … you have to play things by ear and make the absolute best of the circumstances. I think that as we look at the guys that we’re talking about, that we have good arms to choose from, for sure.’’
This occurred one day after the best arm in that bullpen, the right one belonging to 24-year-old Fernando Romero, was sent across the parking lot with the rest of Fernando’s large frame to open the season at Class AAA Rochester.
Romero was optioned after he ruined a strong spring by having consecutive dreadful appearances, allowing 10 straight hitters to reach at one point. There were nine runs scored and two outs recorded in those two abominations.
Wes Johnson, the pitching coach recruited from the University of Arkansas, followed the lead of Baldelli when asked about the demotion being tied to back-to-back clunkers for Romero.
“No, no, no; Fernando is progressing the way we need him to,” Johnson said. “If a hitter goes 0-for-4 today, do we stop playing him? It’s not about his last two games.’’
I don’t believe Johnson on Romero. I don’t believe Baldelli on what he said about feeling “really good’’ about where the Twins are sitting with their bullpen three days before they head north to Minnesota for the March 28 opener.
The plan for this bullpen from Feb. 13, the day that pitchers and catchers reported, was to have Romero among the relievers to open the season. That plan became more solid when Romero came out of the bullpen for a total of seven innings with one run scored.
And then came a game here in Sarasota when he couldn’t throw a strike, followed by a game with the Pirates when he mixed in walks, wild pitches and base hits.
Romero's demotion followed, but it was all part of Fernando progressing as the Twins wanted. Sure, Wes, we’re going to buy that.
Two other righthanders, Addison Reed and Matt Magill, have showed little this spring and seem to be candidates to be placed on what baseball now calls the “injured list.’’ (Note: Goodbye, DL, it was nice knowing you all these decades.)
The righthanded Reed has an injury to his left hand, Magill came up with a vague injury to his right arm. At least, it was vague until Baldelli clarified things with these remarks on Friday:
"As far as getting into the details of the injury, I'll let Matty get involved in that. It's something where he was essentially -- he went through testing, and it came back good. It was a positive result. It was probably more of a scare than anything else.
“He's working his way back, and he's in -- I judge a lot of guys' injuries, and this is not very objective -- but I judge by how they're interacting during the course of the day. Normally what I find is when guys are not really feeling good at all, you can feel it and you can sense it in their interactions. He seems like he is in very good spirits and feeling good about what he's gotten back, result-wise.’’
There was a little more, but who would need it after that authentic frontier gibberish?
Gabriel Moya, the little lefty and ace “opener’’ from last September, also has an injury and hasn’t pitched since the first exhibition. With Magill, Reed and Moya absent, the Twins have these five relievers:
Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Blake Parker and Adalberto Mejia.
Martin Perez, the fifth starter, also will be in the bullpen initially, what with the Twins having five scheduled days off in the first 15 days of the season. And then with Romero gone, the seventh member of the bullpen will be either journeyman Mike Morin or career minor leaguer Ryne Harper, neither a hardthrower.
Another possibility would be a last-minute trade for a reliever who hits the waiver wire, but with Rocco sitting “pretty good,” why would the Twins want to bother with that?