The trade deadline came and went Friday with the Twins making one move to bolster their bullpen. Righthander Kevin Jepsen, a 31-year-old setup man, was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for a pair of minor-league pitching prospects.
“He’s pitched in the back of the bullpen on contending teams. He’ll help us, no question,” general manager Terry Ryan said. “He’s a hard thrower, he’s a durable guy, he’s got good depth on his breaking ball. I would say he’s an effectively wild guy.”
The Twins will send the Rays starting pitching prospect Chih-Wei Hu and starter Alexis Tapia.
Jepsen is 2-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 46 games with the Rays. In 41.2 innings, Jepsen has walked 20 and struck out 34. He pitched in parts of seven seasons with the Angels, and even appeared in eight postseason games with them.
“He has a nice arm, a plus arm, 95-96 [mph]. I definitely think that arm is going to help us out,” said outfielder Torii Hunter, a former teammate of Jepsen’s in Anaheim. “I’ve seen him grow. I’ve seen him have some hardship and bounce back. I can tell you, he’s a quality guy in the clubhouse and he’s going to pump these guys up.”
Jepsen is making $3.025 million this season, and he's not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2016 season, a factor that Ryan said made Jepsen especially attractive.
He's striking out 7.34 batters per nine innings this season, but walking a career-high 4.32 per nine. His fastball has averaged 94.4 miles an hour this season, so that will boost a bullpen that lack velocity.
Still, he'll be a credible upgrade to a Twins bullpen that basically is a shambles right now.
“I have memories of him coming up and being a big contributor to some very successful Angels teams,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “His average against right-handed hitters is very good, [against] left-handed hitters is good enough. We got really good reports on makeup, wanting the ball, clubhouse personality. I’m glad we were able to do something. It’s a nice piece for us to have to lengthen the backside of our bullpen, and we’ll look forward to having him tomorrow.”
To make room for Jepsen on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated Caleb Thielbar, a left-handed reliever from Randolph, Minn., for assignment. Thielbar had a 5.40 ERA in six games with the Twins this season, and a 2.81 ERA in 29 appearances at Class AAA Rochester.
Hu, a 21-year-old native of Taiwan, rose quickly through the Twins system. He was 5-3 with a 2.44 ERA for Class A Fort Myers, and made one spot start at Rochester when they were out of options. In three seasons Hu is 16-5 with a 2.31 ERA.
Tapia, a 19-year-old Venezuelan, was 1-2, 3.60 between Elizabethton and Fort Myers.
The Twins will make a move on Saturday to clear space on the 25-man roster for Jepsen.