The regression begins for the Minnesota Twins

The regression begins for the Minnesota Twins

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Monday, 29 May 2017
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The regression that everyone expected of the Minnesota Twins was finally witnessed over 15 innings at Target Field on Sunday in a loss to the strikeout-prone Tampa Bay Rays (10.47 K/9) and then again in the eighth inning on Monday against baseball’s best, the Houston Astros.

Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows the Twins performance thus far has been an anomaly (much like that of 2015). There are glaring weaknesses throughout the roster. The performance of the pitching staff was not sustainable. Even the much improved defense can’t save pitchers who can’t miss bats (unless that person is Ervin Santana apparently). Ryan Pressly can miss bats, but that’s because he hardly finds the strike zone and no one has to swing the bat. Of all the players in the Twins bullpen, there are two MLB-caliber pitchers — Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers — and even saying that’s a stretch.

That overworked bullpen squandered a six-run lead to the Astros, and many Tweeters took issue with Paul Molitor not using the two fresh arms called up from Rochester with that six-run lead. Why didn’t he? Well, because they stink, too. One of those arms, Drew Rucinski, showed why he wasn’t an option by allowing five hits, a walk and three earned runs in one inning.

President of baseball operations Derek Falvey can’t afford to wait until the trade deadline to make some moves for pitching. Frankly, if he or Thad Levine don’t find some relief pitching immediately, the Twins might not be able to finish games. Teams will just keep scoring runs at will, and the Twins will never get off the field. They need to make a move — any move — for pitching — any pitching. Almost everyone in the Twins bullpen right now should either be at AAA or a retirement home. When you’re looking forward to the return of Glen Perkins, you know you’re desperate.

The starting pitching isn’t going to make it easy on the bullpen, either. Hector Santiago turned back into a pumpkin in a relief appearance on Sunday, and even when he’s serviceable he only gives you six innings. Despite Kyle Gibson rebounding somewhat (his slider still stinks), and Adalberto Mejia battling (but struggling with command nonetheless), there’s no denying the Twins’ rotation is thin.

If I were Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, I wouldn’t wait to fall out of first place in the AL Central to move some of the pieces that have value. Brandon Kintzler won’t be back and won’t be the closer much longer. He couldn’t get any of his pitches around Corey Dickerson’s bat to finish off the Rays on Sunday. His value will never be higher, either. Some playoff-bound team would bury him in their bullpen to avoid throwing some kid from AAA on the mound when their starter fails to get out of the fifth inning.

Ervin Santana is a tough one for me because he’s my favorite player on the team, but if Falvey and Levine get an offer that includes two nearly-MLB-ready pitchers with plus stuff and high upside, I think they have to make that move — even if the Twins are in first place. I don’t expect that offer to come across their desk, though. I imagine MLB GMs are well aware of the regression coming for Santana given his unsustainable BABIP (.138) and 2.29 difference between his FIP (4.09) and ERA (1.80). But they’re still waiting to see a glimpse of that regression. He was fantastic again on Monday against baseball’s best and likely raised his trade value by getting his exhausted bullpen another inning despite already tossing more than 100 pitches. He would have had to go nine to get his team the win, though.

Jose Berrios is the ace of this staff now, and Ervin Santana is a fine number two, but when three-fifths of your starters can’t work six innings it makes your already less-than-mediocre bullpen worse. Falvey and Levine should be doing everything they can to convince fans they’re trying to win this season, but that wasn’t the indication this offseason. When Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow are the guys you add to a very thin bullpen, that’s not offering fans a lot of hope. They need to right that wrong and bring in some relievers who can get outs in the majors, because what the Twins have right now is not only bad — it’s embarrassing. And believe it or not, it’s going to get worse.

Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano is a news director for GCNLive.com, editor of GoGonzoJournal.com, and founder and editor of FoulPlaybyPlay.com. He has been writing about Minnesota Twins baseball since 2009 and has hosted a live, uncensored, commercial-free broadcast during select Twins games.

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