Bullpen Update

The bullpen picture for 2012 has changed for the better this week as Joel Zumaya signed a one-year, very affordable contract. He is reported to be guaranteed $400,000 and will make a minimum of $850,000 if he makes the opening day roster. In addition he can make up to $1.7 million total based on incentives.

I like this acquisition because if he is healthy, he will be a major improvement over what other options the Twins have, and even if he does not make the roster, the cost is negligible in the grand scheme of things, a risk definitely worth taking.

So, with Zumaya added, the Twins’ revamped bullpen for 2012 is closer to being settled.

Matt Capps is the closer going into spring training and Glen Perkins is returning as the left-handed set-up man. As of today, they appear to be the only two guys from the 2011 opening day bullpen who will be back this year.

Let’s do a quick review. 2011 began with the following seven pitchers in the bullpen.

  • Joe Nathan, closer
  • Matt Capps, set-up man
  • Jose Mijares, LHP
  • Glen Perkins, LHP
  • Kevin Slowey, RHP
  • Dusty Hughes, LHP
  • Jeff Manship, RHP long man

As the 2011 season progressed, many others were used due to injuries and ineffectiveness, but for comparison purposes I will use the opening day bullpen.

The 2012 bullpen seems to be taking shape as follows:

  • Matt Capps, closer
  • Glen Perkins, LH set-up man
  • Joel Zumaya, RH set-up man
  • Anthony Swarzak, RHP, long relief, spot starter
  • Brian Duensing, LHP, middle innings and left specialist
  • Alex Burnett, RHP, middle innings
  • Lester Oliveros, RHP, middle innings

I would prefer that Burnett and Oliveros compete for one spot because I think the Twins really need to pick up at least one more experienced right-handed reliever to solidify the bullpen before spring training opens. Actually, both Burnett and Oliveros would benefit from some time at Rochester to hone their skills and gain experience before being expected to produce at a high level.

Ideally, the Twins would sign one more reliever and one more starter. That would allow Nick Blackburn to move to the bullpen giving Burnett and Oliveros the time they need at AAA. With now a little less than a month to the date for pitchers and catchers to report, there is still time to find the bargain pitchers needed.

Even if the bullpen ends up being as I’ve outlined above, I believe it is much more solid than last year’s. A healthy Capps should be better than he was last year and adequate if he returns to 2010 form. Hopefully Perkins will build upon his good year to become truly elite and stand ready to step in as closer if needed. The others are all steps up from the group a year ago. Overall, I am now cautiously optimistic that this group will perform well enough to compete.

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