The bullpen hasn't skipped a beat while Casey Fien has recovered from a right shoulder strain. Now set to return, Fien will assume a different role for at least a little while.
Fien entered the season as the eighth-inning setup man, but Blaine Boyer has been superlative in that role since Fien went on the 15-day disabled list April 30, to the point that Twins manager Paul Molitor prefers keeping Boyer there.
"I like what Boyer has done," Molitor said, "and I think everyone has confidence when he's in the game right now. Not to say that it can't change, but I guess if I have to say it right now in the short term, most likely Fien would precede Boyer in a ballgame."
Fien, 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA, pitched an inning Wednesday for Class AAA Rochester during a rehabilitation outing. Molitor will confer with General Manager Terry Ryan about Fien's return, and the righthander could be available Friday when the Twins open a three-game series against Toronto at Target Field.
Boyer was awful in his first four outings as a Twin, but has a 0.44 ERA over his past 19 outings. With Fien coming back, the bullpen will be at full strength, giving Molitor options in building the bridge from starter to closer.
"You want guys who can do right-left [matchups] but if our starters continue to go deep, it gives you more flexibility of not having to go with one guy for one inning, too, because you're deeper in the game and you have more flexibility with [Aaron] Thompson, [Brian] Duensing, Fien and Boyer potentially."
Lucky with 13
The Twins have gone with 13 pitchers on the active roster for nearly a week. Molitor has stated it would be a temporary arrangement.
A 13-man staff means a three-man bench, which can tie a manager's hands, but Molitor hasn't felt constrained in making moves.
"You're always cognizant of when you start to use one of those three players, and you don't want to get caught in a situation where somebody gets hurt and you've used a couple guys or have issues with catching or whatever the situation might be," Molitor said. "The good thing is we have interchangeable parts with the guys we have, with [Eduardo] Escobar, [Eduardo] Nunez and [Chris] Herrmann, people who can do different things."
Molitor pointed out he hasn't pinch hit for players much this season. The Twins' 16 pitch-hit at-bats are 29th in baseball. Most of Molitor's moves have been late-inning defensive substitutions.
"Some of it has been the way games have gone," Molitor said. "Some is that when guys are in the game, I like the feel of them having been in the game rather than bringing someone up, a young guy just trying to get a hit."
Twins closer Glen Perkins had an 11-pitch war with Mike Napoli before he flew out to start the ninth inning Wednesday. Xander Bogaerts grounded out, then Brock Holt flied to center.
That locked down the 6-4 victory and made Perkins 18-for-18 in save situations this season. The closer with the most saves in baseball saved the final two games of the Red Sox series, including a test Tuesday in which he came in with two runners on base in the eighth, gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval, but got Hanley Ramirez to line out to end the threat. He then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve a 2-1 victory.
Eventually, a closer is going blow a save. Wednesday was not that day.
"It's been huge for us," Molitor said. "You don't expect perfect seasons from your closer in terms of games he's going to save. I know there have been a couple guys who have put together some incredible streaks in terms of saves and save opportunities.
"There's only been a couple times when we've had him come in and try to get those four outs. It was tough [Tuesday] with the hitter he was facing and the situation, inherited baserunners, which he's not normally accustomed to."