Brock Stewart and Cole Sands have been unsung heroes for the Twins bullpen

As Jhoan Duran prepares to make his return to the bullpen, he'll be joining a pair of absolute studs.
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Minnesota Twins v Baltimore Orioles / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

When Jhoan Duran returns to the Minnesota Twins' bullpen this week, which is expected as soon as Tuesday, he'll be joining a unit that ranked near the top of the league in his absence.

While mostly everything else was going horribly wrong for the Twins, the bullpen was a lone bright spot and helped keep the team in games it otherwise had no business being in. The offense stunk, players were dropping like flies with injuries, and everything the relievers were doing felt like they didn't know what team they were on.

Even as the bullpen has normalized a bit -- although the unit still ranks second in strikeout rate and fourth in FIP -- two pitchers in particular have stood out as absolute studs.

Brock Stewart and Cole Sands are having breakout seasons so far

Last year when the Twins didn't make any trades at the deadline, the line that was fed to fans was that there was enough talent returning from injury to make up the difference. Brock Stewart was one of those players mentioned but he suffered a setback almost immediately.

While the optics weren't great for the front office at the time, we're starting to see what they were getting at.

Stewart has worked 12.1 innings so far this season and has allowed zero runs on just seven hits. It's still a small sample size but he has already racked up 17 strikeouts, which is almost half as many as he totaled all of last season.

Perhaps even more impressive, and encouraging, is the work that Sands has been doing so far this year. He entered the season with a 4.99 ERA in just over 50 innings of work but has lowered that all the way down to a 1.35 ERA in nine appearances. Last year he finished 12 games for the Twins but didn't earn a decision in any of them, but already this year has a save.

Both of those guys were massively important to the plan working, and so far they've been able to not only live up to expectations but exceed them. Sands has a 0.750 WHIP against 52 batters faced while Stewart has looked absolutely filthy over the last 40 innings with a 0.45 ERA and 56 strikeouts.

That's the bullpen that Duran is returning to. It's insane to think that the unit was already doing this well and is only going to get better one its best pitcher returns.

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