Spring Training Competition: Bullpen
By Ben Noble
Mar 8, 2012; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Tyler Robertson (64) and catcher Eric Fryer (77) celebrate the win over the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. The Twins shut out the Red Sox 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Going into camp…
Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Brian Duensing were locks as the closer, top setup man and top lefty, respectively. Assuming a 12-man pitching staff, that left four spots open for competition, and Casey Fien came into camp in good standing after a solid 2012.
Alex Burnett and Anthony Swarzak were returning veterans that the team was comfortable with, but had done little to guarantee themselves of a roster spot. Rich Harden and Rafael Perez were intriguing veteran, free agent options coming off of injuries. Ryan Pressly and Josh Roenicke were left unprotected by their clubs and picked up by the Twins in the Rule 5 and off waivers, respectively. Tim Wood signed as a minor league free agent after dominating AAA, and lefty Tyler Robertson spent time between Rochester and the Twins last season. There were a number of long shots in camp, as well.
How the competition has played out thus far:
Neither Perkins, Burton, Duensing nor Fien have done anything to jeopardize their positions, and all will be in the bullpen to begin the year. Wood and Swarzak will both likely begin the season on the DL, and Harden and Perez have yet to pitch in a game this spring. Outside of low strikeout numbers, Pressly has pitched exceptionally well and will most likely make the roster.
Following cuts over the past couple of weeks, the bullpen competition basically comes down to four players for two spots: Robertson, Roenicke and Burnett. It is conceivable that the Twins could keep 13 pitchers and all three would make the roster.
None of the three has pitched well this spring, so the decision could come down to issues other than performance: Robertson is a lefty, Roenicke is out of options, and Burnett has spent the most time with the team.
There are still a few days left for the Twins to make this call, so one or more of the three pitchers left in the mix could step up and separate himself from the competition. If not, I at least expect Roenicke to make the team based purely on his lack of options.
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