After trading All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, the Minnesota Twins look to fill his place with a stable bullpen arm.
The 2017 Minnesota Twins bullpen has been a sore subject for fans thus far, with a 4.83 ERA that ranks third to last in the league. Other than Brandon Kintzler and the Taylor Rogers we saw before the most recent west coast road trip, production has been dismal. With Kintzler packing his bags for Washington, D.C., a decision must be made for his replacement.
Before a decision can be made to replace Kintzler, the most pressing replacement is the open spot he leaves on the 25-man roster. As of 7/31 the Twins are needing to fill two spots on the roster following the departure of Jaime Garcia as well. Kyle Gibson will likely be recalled as the fifth starter, and a bullpen arm or an outfielder will take Kintzler’s spot.
Should a reliever be selected to fill the roster spot, he likely will not be thrust into the closing role, as manager Paul Molitor will be looking for someone with recent MLB experience. In addition, the only desirable names in Triple-A Rochester are Jake Reed and J.T. Chargois, the latter of which is on the 7-day DL and has pitched in two games this year.
This leaves the speculation for the newest closer to fall into the hands of someone currently in the current bullpen. Taylor Rogers has been solid for the majority of the season, save for recent appearances against the Dodgers and A’s. Trevor Hildenberger has surprised many with his 3.12 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17-plus innings. He is a younger pitcher, but his resilience and grit is obvious in his several appearances this year.
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Should the Twins go with Rogers, he will need to buckle down and find the same stuff that propelled him to a sub-2.00 ERA just a few short weeks ago. With the abnormity of hits he has surrendered as of late, he may be tipping pitches, which would be a simple fix per the help of pitching coach Neil Allen.
If Hildenberger gets the nod, it will be revealed whether he can pitch in high-pressure situations. As of yet he has been seen in blowout games for the most part where he has proved his worth, thus leading to his transition to more closely scoring games. Should he succeed in a closing role, his youth would work to the advantage of the Twins, who can hold onto him for several years at low cost.
Outside of the two previously mentioned pitchers, the potential for a successful closer from the current bullpen is limited. Tyler Duffey has experienced a catastrophic meltdown from his early-season success. Matt Belisle and Buddy Boshers have been unreliable and unsteady in their outings, either pitching solidly, or giving up a slew of runs.
Whoever is chosen as Brandon Kintzler’s successor will have high expectations and demands by both the management and fans. The bullpen as a whole will also need to step up if the team has any desire to remain in contention. Otherwise 2017 will be chalked up as another rebuilding year full of potential and high hopes for upcoming prospects.