FORT MYERS, FLA. – As Opening Day nears, teams are focusing on what their final rosters might look like. And the Twins are not liking what they see when they peek into their bullpen.
The Twins are on the lookout for at least one, and possibly two, relievers, according to two people with knowledge of the Twins’ intentions. Their goal is to boost a bullpen that, for now, lacks power arms and could be inexperienced in a couple places when it’s time to face the Detroit Tigers on April 6 in Comerica Park.
They likely will inquire about potential deals, but General Manager Terry Ryan and his staff will also scour the transaction wire as teams clear space to make room for players with which they want to open the season.
“This time of spring, [Ryan’s staff] are always combing the waiver wires to see if there are areas we can improve,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “[Ryan] doesn’t like to make lateral moves, obviously. I’m sure that’s ongoing as the transactions have picked up here the last few days.”
It could be a way for the Twins to solve their battle for the fifth starter’s spot, by dealing one or two arms who don’t land in the rotation.
“I would imagine that there would be interest in some of the people we have here,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if that leads to any potential things happening.”
Lefthander Tommy Milone left the door open in the race for the last spot in the rotation by giving up three runs over five innings on Thursday in a 5-4, 10-inning loss to Boston.
It sets up a big start by righthander Trevor May, who could win the job with another strong outing. Remember, the Twins want to have most of their roster sorted out by early next week, so these starts are crucial.
The state of the bullpen might force the Twins to consider starting the season with May in the rotation and putting both Milone and righthander Mike Pelfrey in the bullpen. Milone said on Thursday that he’s in the “same boat” as Pelfrey in that he doesn’t have much experience working out of the bullpen and getting ready on short notice.
“If that’s the path they want me to take, the season is coming up pretty soon,” Milone said. “Gotta scramble to get comfortable. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”
The Twins’ intentions became known on a day they watched Tim Stauffer work his way into a bases-loaded jam in the seventh before giving up a run and needing to be bailed out by righthander Mark Hamburger.
Stauffer is getting stronger, as he threw several pitches at 88 miles an hour (his career average is 90.5), but still got into trouble.
He gave up three consecutive singles before walking Allen Craig to force in a run.
“He battled there with the bases loaded,” Molitor said. “He couldn’t put that guy away. He had enough pitches then so we got him out.”
Hamburger struck out Rusney Castillo with a slider to end the inning, then added two more scoreless innings in a bounce-back outing to help his cause. Righthander J.R. Graham, with his 96-mph fastball, has been impressive, too.
But indications are that the Twins are not comfortable starting the season with rookies Graham and Hamburger and a struggling Stauffer all in the bullpen. Closer Glen Perkins, who threw a scoreless inning in a minor league game Thursday, is a lock. So is Stauffer, who is signed for a $2.2 million deal, lefthander Brian Duensing and righthander Casey Fien. Caleb Thielbar has struggled. Aaron Thompson has been effective at times, but he would be another rookie in the bullpen.
Molitor met with his coaching staff Thursday morning to go over the roster. And Molitor will try to meet with Ryan on Friday to see how they want to shape the roster. With just over a week to go, the Twins have a long way to go before finalizing their bullpen.
“We are going to have to collaborate to put this thing together,” Molitor said.