2014 Relief Pitchers

In this last segment of my five-part review of the Twins’ roster, I look at the bullpen. Last year it was the strength of the Twins. Going into spring training it looks like it will again be the strength with competition keen and enough quality pitchers to consider trading one or two to fill other needs before the season begins.

Glen Perkins is the leader of the pen. He has established himself as an effective closer and will continue in that role again in 2014.

Jared Burton has performed well the last couple of years even if wearing down by late season each year, and if he remains healthy, he will again be one of the set-up men.

Brian Duensing was less consistent last year, but still was effect in key spots. His salary, now over a million dollars, probably dictates that he will be on the roster opening day, but he may be used as trade bait.

Anthony Swarzak has established himself as a reliable long relief man, a position that can be important to help save the rest of the bullpen. At times he has been a spot starter, and if the circumstances are right, he could serve in that role again. He also may be a valuable piece in a trade, but I expect him to be the long man with the Twins when the season begins.

Casey Fien has also established himself as a valuable late inning reliever, so if he is not in a trade package, he will be a fixture again this year.

Ryan Pressly, Caleb Thielbar and Michael Tonkin were all in the bullpen the last month of the 2013 season and they will again be competing for a spot, but will have some other competition as well. Two other members of the 40-man roster, Kris Johnson and Edgar Ibarra, will make strong cases to be included when the team goes north to open the season. One other note on Pressly, who was a Rule V pick last year and therefore had to be on the active roster all year, may see a role shift. Although the Twins’ management have not said much about it, he might find himself at New Britain or Rochester in the starting rotation in hopes he would develop into a viable major league starter. The clue as to whether or not this is in the offing will be if he is stretched out during spring training.

Matt Guerrier, recently signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, is recovering from elbow surgery, but if he is healthy, he also could be a strong contender.

And, finally, one or more losers of the rotation competition may end up in the bullpen so as not to lose them completely.

Unless something goes greatly awry this year, the relief corps should be solid again. If they are not overworked, they should help the Twins win more games this year.

Series Two in the Books

This afternoon the Twins completed their weekend series in Baltimore, the second series of this young season. Now with a record of 4-2, the Twins are leading the division (tied with the White Sox) and have won their second consecutive series since who knows when. It is very good to see they have finally broken the spell the Orioles seemed to have on them in Baltimore.

During the weekend the Twins made their second roster adjustment of the season already. It’s hard to not see a connection between Tyler Robertson’s first pitch in relief Friday night resulting in a grand slam for Chris Davis, and Robertson’s being optioned to Rochester after the game Saturday. He was replaced Sunday by Anthony Swarzak, who was activated off the DL and pitched the same day, and picked up the win even though he was not particularly effect. He just happened to be the pitcher of record when the Twins took the lead.

Glen Perkins notched his second save of the series (and season) after backing into a “vulture” win in the Detroit series. Overall, a good first week for him.

Once again in this series, the Twins played every position player in at least one game and used the bullpen effectively to keep the Orioles from mounting comebacks after the colossal failure of the first game of the series Friday.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Roberto Hernandez after his decent stint as the starting pitcher Sunday filling in for Cole De Vries, whose forearm has still not loosened up enough to work and currently on the DL. Scott Diamond is due to come off the DL later in the week and probably will pitch in the series against the NY Mets beginning Friday, so one possibility is for Hernandez to be optioned out to clear room for him. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if he sticks a while longer with the Twins if Liam Hendriks has another terrible start Monday at Kansas City. It would be nice to have another lefthander (Hernandez) among the starters to complement Diamond when he returns.

Intriguing times for the fifth starter competitors. We shall see.

First Series Success

Surprise is always fun. Today, the Twins surprised me by winning their second game in a row and the first three-game series of the season. Compounding the surprise: it was against the prohibitive favorite of the AL Central Division and a pre-season favorite to win the World Series.

Today the bats broke out of their mini slumps and the Twins put 8 runs on the board. It was only a matter of time before the hits started coming in greater numbers than they produced in the first two games. It was particularly nice to see Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks come through in the eighth inning with run-producing hits, the first of the season for each of them. Every position player now has a hit, except Darin Mastroianni, who has played in two games, but has not yet made a plate appearance.

The most pleasant surprise has been the Twins’ starting pitching. Two quality starts in the first two games and 5 1/3 innings with no earned runs given up by Mike Pelfrey today. Two errors leading to runs extending the number of pitches enough that he was well into the 90’s in pitch count when he was relieved in the sixth. The bullpen managed to close out the game without giving up any runs, and that included the major league debut of Ryan Pressly in the 9th. Glen Perkins was warmed and ready but the Twins five-run spurt in the bottom of the eighth allowed him to be saved for appearance on the weekend.

Only Josh Roenicke was shaky out of the bullpen today, giving up a hit and walking two in 1/3 inning before being pulled for Robertson who got a strike out if Prince Fielder and Casey Fien who retired the final batter of the nerve-wracking seventh inning.

The pleasant surprise of this series demolished my prediction the Twins would start 0-3. I’ll take it! (And probably should refrain from too many bold predictions in the future.)

Core of 2013 Roster

As the month of August winds down when a team is out of playoff competition it is almost inevitable that fan focus shifts to the next year. In the case of the Twins, it is too late for there to be any hope for a miracle finish, as if that hope was not already dashed in April, and the way the team has played in recent weeks, waiting for September call-ups to bring new fan interest in watching the games is getting old.

As my first post about 2013, I am going to look at the current set of players and project which ones are most likely to be the core for the coming year. Two factors will be primary in my selecting these players – current/past performance and whether or not they are under contract already for next year. I’ll also consider Ron Gardenhire’s known predilections because, like it or not, they will influence Terry Ryan’s decisions.

Several weeks have passed since the Twins signed Ryan Doumit to an extension, but at the time I saw that as a key move for the 2013 roster. Obviously, Joe Mauer is a given. With his extension, so is Doumit. What may not be as obvious, but I think there is a good case to be made for it, is I believe that signing also all but assures a spot for Drew Butera. I can hear the boos and derision from Twins fans already, but here is the case. Both Mauer and Doumit in recent years have missed a good deal a time due to injuries. Both Mauer (1B and DH) and Doumit (DH and mostly LF) have been in this year’s lineup for many more games than they would have been had they been the number one C with just days off at DH. That has been good for the Twins’ offense. Having Butera as backup and occasionally catching full games has made Gardenhire (here is one of his predilections) feel good about using both of his hitting catchers regularly and not run the risk of giving up the DH in any given ballgame. Keeping only two of these catchers would make them both less productive and Butera is not exactly blocking any other catchers from making the roster. He is not going to get worse as a hitter sitting on the bench and playing rarely. He is a good defensive catcher who calls a good game. Having his weak bat taking up a spot on the bench limiting pinch-hitting options is not enough of a detriment to not keep Butera because of the production of Mauer and Doumit all year. It makes sense to go into 2013 with the same plan. In future years, if better hitting catchers in the system are ready for the major league level, this plan can be altered.

Among the pitchers, very few are what I consider to be core players now. Scott Diamond is the only starter who deserves a guaranteed spot in the rotation. In the bullpen, I see only Glen Perkins and Jared Burton as having spots locked up. That doesn’t mean other current roster members won’t make the team and contribute in positive ways, but it does mean no guarantees for them.

Other position players in the core for 2013 are Josh Willingham, Ben Revere and Jamey Carroll. I list only these three because I see Denard Span and Justin Morneau as important trade bait during the off-season. If they are not traded, they become members of the core group. Perhaps the most controversial choice is Carroll. I name him not because I see him in a starting role, but because he is under contract and serves as an excellent utility player whose veteran leadership/mentoring will be needed if the Twins go with young players as starters in the middle infield.

That is the core for 2013. If others want to become part of that core, they are going to have to earn the spot between now and the end of the season.

First Look At 2014

The game tonight (July 4) marks the midway point (game 81) in the season for the Twins. It also is the third game of the four-game series in Detroit to be followed by a three-game series in Texas to wind up the traditional first half of the season before the all-star break.

The Twins’ record is not good enough to realistically expect them to contend for the division title this year, but they remain close enough to the top (8 games back) to not rule them out completely. For many of the Twins fans who have consoled themselves by looking forward to a pre-trade deadline selling spree, this position is the worst one could hope for. Not close enough (not to mention too weak a rotation) to have real hope for a miracle finish, and not far enough out to trigger the full rebuild most of us believe is going to be necessary for the Twins to be competitive in the future.

Right now, 2013 looks like a bleak year mostly because the starting rotation is a disaster with little on the horizon in the upper minors to make one feel like there are reasonable options. We will know more in the next three to four weeks which direction the Twins are going to go the rest of this year. Most likely, it will be during the off-season that Terry Ryan gets serious about fixing the rotation for next year. That is of course assuming that Ryan remains the GM. All bets are off on that if the Twins collapse the way they did last year.

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to look ahead – beyond next year – and see what 2014 might look like, based on the players currently in the Twins organization who are either under contract extending through 2014 or likely to still be with the Twins. Where I see no close to worthy alternatives, I’ve indicated the need for acquisition via trade or free agency to fill the hole.

  • C Joe Mauer, Chris Hermann
  • 1B Chris Parmelee
  • 2B Brian Dozier
  • SS Pedro Florimon
  • 3B Trevor Plouffe
  • LF Josh Willingham
  • CF Ben Revere
  • RF Oswaldo Arcia
  • DH Ryan Doumit
  • Bench: Alexi Casilla, Darin Mastroianni, utility player
  • Starters: Scott  Diamond, Kyle Gibson, (Liam Hendriks), two or three via trade or free agency
  • Relievers: Glen Perkins (CL), Jared Burton, Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Lester Oliveros, several internal options (Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Deolis Guerra, Anthony Slama, Esmerling Vasquez, Jeff Manship, Matt Maloney)

Is There a Plan?

Over the last couple of weeks as the Twins have made some roster moves, I’ve been trying to discern a plan. So far, the closest thing I can come up with is a short-term strategy of trying out some younger players to see how they do. No real long-range plan is clear yet.

Brian Dozier has been very good so far, both at bat and in the field. He looks like a possible long-term answer at shortstop and that is good news. Of course, the sample size is small and we’ll have to see how he handles the inevitable slumps, but he is a promising prospect to help solidify the infield in the future. Whether he is the solution at shortstop for the next five or six years at least will be determined not only by his play, but also by the progress of other shortstops in the system – namely Levi Michael, the Twins’ first round draft pick in 2011 now playing at Fort Myers, and Pedro Florimon, a waiver wire claim in the off-season. Florimon seems to be on a fast track right now as he was promoted from AA New Britain, where he began the season, to AAA Rochester, and is playing well enough to be noticed. I would not be surprised if later this year he is called up to play shortstop and Dozier moves either to third base or second base to make room for him.

As I predicted in my last post, Danny Valencia is no longer on the 25-man roster. He was demoted to Rochester and had a slow start there. It is hard to see him in the long-term plans for the Twins. The best hope they might have now is that he plays well enough to be worth something in a trade. Jamey Carroll continues to be a solid player, now at second base most of the time. At his age, he is destined to be the veteran utility player, but that will be delayed as long as no one else plays better and earns a right to play every day at third base or second base. So far, Alexi Casilla has been too inconsistent to be a regular.

Trevor Plouffe appears to be getting an opportunity to earn a regular spot in the lineup playing third base in the absence of Valencia. He has not been bad in the field at third, but he continues to struggle at the plate. It will be very interesting to see how long they give him to get his act together as a hitter. Almost certainly, the primary reason for a long tryout is the power he showed last year when he hit 15 home runs in a partial season at AAA last year. When the Twins broke camp to open the season, he was pegged as an outfielder, but his play in the outfield (both left and right) has been less than stellar and there is a bit of a log jam there with recently claimed Erik Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni (another off-season, waiver pick-up recently called up from Rochester) showing much better defensive prowess. They both have been decent at the plate so far as well.

Today Justin Morneau will return to the active roster from the DL. Chris Parmelee will be optioned to Rochester to make room for him. Parmelee played well enough in the spring to earn an opening day spot. While he did hit well in spring training, at least one reason he started the season on the 25-man roster was the uncertainty surrounding Morneau and his readiness to play first base. That all is past now. Morneau will return to play first base, meaning Parmelee would be relegated to bench duty, so it will be better for him to go to AAA where he can get his hitting stroke back in order. In some respects, it’s too bad he had to be rushed to the majors because of the Morneau situation, because he really needs time to develop more and he has not spent any time at AAA yet. Now he will get that chance.

Starting pitching has continued to be problematic. The good news has been the way Scott Diamond and P. J. Walters, both recent call-ups from AAA, have pitched. Diamond in particular has impressed with two outings of 7-inning, shutout ball each time. Walters pitched well, but got no run support in his first start. The rest of the rotation has been dismal. What the Twins have in mind for the rest of the year is not at all clear. They appear to continue to hope that Francisco Liriano will regain his dominance while working out of the bullpen for a while so he can return to the rotation, but I do not hold out much hope for that to happen. Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis are just not effective enough to even be the innings eaters they were intended to be. A couple more starts each and if they continue to be bad, they should be let go so younger players can gain some experience. Nick Blackburn pitched a little better the last two times out, but still is missing consistent location of his fastball, which has meant too many home runs. Since he is under contract through next year, I expect he will either remain in the rotation, if he improves, or end up in the bullpen, perhaps as the long man.

Surprising to many, the bullpen has been the bright spot of the season so far. Jared Burton and Glen Perkins have done the job in the set-up role, Matt Capps has converted all save opportunities (although he has blown two tie games that he came in and took the loss), and the others have pitched better than expected. Perkins, Burton, and Alex Burnett are probably keepers for the near term. Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak are being kept stretched out enough that they could be options for the rotation, although both seem better suited to bullpen use, as that is where they have excelled this year.

The whole pitching situation is still muddled enough that it is premature to project long-term. The next month or so will probably provide some clarity as to what the Twins’ powers that be are planning.

For now, my speculation is on which players are most likely to be on the trading block this summer. Topping my list are Denard Span, Matt Capps (if he remains effective as a closer), Francisco Liriano (if he does reasonably well in the pen), Ben Revere (no longer seems to be in the long-term plan) and Justin Morneau (if he returns and hits well with power). My off-the-wall guess is Morneau will be traded to Toronto for a starting pitcher filling needs for both teams and giving Justin an opportunity to play in his native land, Canada.

Time will tell if any of my thoughts are anywhere close to what the Twins have in mind. I look forward to the next few weeks to see how the rebuilding process plays out.

Next Roster Shuffles

This week the Twins had to make another roster adjustment to create space for Jason Marquis on the 25-man roster. Marquis had been in New Britain building arm strength due to missing so much of spring training.

Luke Hughes was designated for assignment to make room, a decision that came as a surprise to the Twins blogger/sports writers community. After doing a little musing about it, I’ve decided it is the first in what is most likely going to be a series of moves in the next few weeks.

Here are some reasons why I think moves are coming soon.

First, the addition of a pitcher and dropping a position player is almost certainly a temporary measure. Carrying 13 pitchers is not sustainable for any significant period of time. While it is easy to see why this number might be useful for the short-term, 12 is going to be the number eventually. Uncertainty with regard to Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn is what brought about the need for more pitchers. Neither one appears to be going on the DL, so numbers are needed to get through until they are pitching again. So far reports indicate Blackburn will be starting next Tuesday and Perkins could be available as soon as today.

Second, the removal of Hughes from the 40-man roster creates a spot for someone who is not currently on that extended ML roster. Much speculation has already begun about what that means with the most common conclusion being the vacant slot will be given to Brian Dozier as he is called up sometime in the next few weeks. Other speculation has concluded the slot is being held for a possible waiver claim in the near future. And, one blogger has even posited Drew Butera will be brought up because Ron Gardenhire likes having three catchers at his disposal. My guess is the Twins are creating flexibility with no specific action determined yet.

Third, as the Twins continue to play out the tough April schedule, it will become increasingly clear if they are going to be at all competitive this year. If not, the rebuilding will begin in earnest. If they are playing well, winning more than losing by the middle of May, the process will be delayed.

Finally, now into the realm of pure speculation on my part, I am anticipating rebuilding sooner rather than later. If that is the case, the next move to reduce the pitchers to twelve will be quite interesting. I think Jeff Gray is the most vulnerable to go. He has no more options so will be designated for assignment. Earlier in the season I was almost certain the first to go would be Alex Burnett because he had a less than stellar spring training and he has never had a full season in AAA. Instead, he has pitched very well so far and Gray has been less effective.

Continuing with the speculation on the position player side, the next few weeks will also be important for both Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla. If both continue to play and hit as well as they have over the past week or so, the promotion of Dozier will be delayed giving him even more time to prove he can be consistently effective at AAA. If one or the other falters, Dozier will be called up and he will get his shot at holding down the shortstop position.

When the rebuilding effort has definitely begun, I’ll get into more speculation about which veterans will be shopped for trades before the mid-summer deadline.

Flexibility Trumps Brute Strength

It looks like it might be a trend on the rise. Off-season training that focuses on flexibility, agility and strength of muscles used in baseball motions rather than only core strength and bench pressing or other pure weight lifting moves appears to be growing among baseball players.

Two Twins in particular have indicated their changes in off-season workouts – Glen Perkins and Denard Span – are key to their success. Perkins made the shift away from primarily weight training a year ago and it may have contributed to his surge in velocity as well as general effectiveness as a reliever in 2011. Span made adjustments as part of his recovery from concussion symptoms during this off-season. Span also included regular Yoga work as well as regular massages in his routine. We shall see how that plays out for him this year.

Other players in the major leagues have deviated from the now routine weight training approach and it looks to me like this will become another development in the evolution of training strategies for professional players.

It makes sense to me to build strength through flexibility development while training the muscles and motions that one actually uses in the sport. It also makes sense that doing other athletic activities, not just the sport one specializes in, would be good for development as well as avoiding repetitive motion injuries from too much of the same.

Maybe one result of this some time down the road will be a return to the multi-sport high school athlete as a good thing as opposed to the current emphasis on specializing early. I’ve always been convinced that developing all athletic abilities is a strength one can build on for the primary sport.

Leadership

Much has been said during the off-season about the Twins’ lack of leadership. Although there may be some truth to that argument, I believe this situation is much more nuanced than that.

I find the topic of leadership one of interest, not only because of how much it is being discussed these days, but also because it has been a topic I have researched, studied and practiced for a whole career. So, here is my take on the Twins and leadership.

There are many levels of leadership in an organization such as the Twins – owners, senior management, field manager, coaches, players. Owners demonstrate leadership in how they set the expectations for the senior management. Senior management lead in the choices they make for lower level managers, etc.

One could argue that the two most important leaders in a major league baseball operation are the general manager and the field manager. They certainly are the most high profile positions when it comes to evaluating the success of the franchise. While some of the chatter about leadership the past few months has involved discussion of those two positions, most has been about team leadership or lack thereof from key players.

Once the tone is set by Twins’ ownership and senior management, including Gardenhire, leadership from the players can play an important role in the success of the team, but the tone definitely is set from the top. Ownership made a change in general manager and Terry Ryan has been public about some of the changes he wants to see. He has set the tone.

From all the public comments Ron Gardenhire has made this year, he seems to have decided that he needed to change his approach and is asserting himself more vocally and boldly. That may simply be because last year’s disaster was so embarrassing that he does not want anything like that to happen again, or it may be that he realizes he needs to be more directive with younger players and not assume they have absorbed all they have been taught coming up through the system. His previous style of practically deferring to veteran players who he knew would do the right thing did not work last year and so he is going to be more vocal and directive.

Since Gardenhire has clearly set that new tone this year, player leadership will emerge to compliment his new approach. With several new players on the team and some dominant personalities gone, it will take a little time for it all to work itself out, but before long we will see players settling into their new roles.

From outside the clubhouse, it appeared that Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan were key leaders in the past. I think it is important to emphasize the point about “outside the clubhouse” because none of us know what really goes on behind the scenes. We are thus left to speculating based on reading between the lines of comments made by management and players as reported by the media.

Leadership by players can take many forms. In sports, it is almost a worn out cliche that the best kind of leadership is leadership by example. One can find many stories throughout the history of baseball that illustrate the importance of this kind of leadership. Their play showed how it is done and others learned from that success trying to emulate it in their own work to be better.

In the last decade or so, it appears to me that more emphasis has been put on vocal leadership than in the past. Leaders are now quite often identified as guys who speak out, call out teammates who are not playing up to their potential, and assert a dominant role by their dominant personality. I think there may be some truth to that kind of leadership being important in today’s game, but I also think players who lead quietly by example are critical to success.

It would be interesting to know who really commands the most respect in the Twins’ clubhouse. Was Cuddyer really the acknowledged leader among peers or was he just the public face because he was most comfortable talking to and with media? With Cuddyer and Nathan gone, who now do the players look to as the most respected guys?

I have a feeling the real, most highly respected leaders might contain a few surprises to us fans and even the beat writers. My reason for that is I think some of the more introverted players may have more influence than we think. We might get occasional glimpses or hints of who the real leaders are by comments made by players in answer to less direct questions. Maybe even some of the tweets provide insight that might not be obvious if you are not looking for it.

From some of this year’s evidence, it appears Jamey Carroll has quickly gained respect and may become a key leader. If that is true, it will be very good because on the field one of the positions that requires leadership is shortstop. In my opinion, it was as much the failure of leadership at shortstop as it was poor play and errors that led to such a bad year for the Twins last year. Alexi Casilla has all the physical skills to play shortstop well, but he does not, apparently, have the leadership skills needed. It may be largely a language issue with him, as I’m sure was a factor for Nishioka, but it is more than that. It requires a take charge personality that exudes quiet confidence and Alexi seems to be more of a good follower than a leader. He is, therefore, better suited to second base, if he is going to be a regular.

Catcher is the other most important leadership position on the field. Mauer does that well when he is able to play, but may not be a forceful enough personality or extroverted enough to do that much off the field. The other players who played so much behind the plate last year may have done alright calling the games, etc., but the inability to hit made them liabilities as complete leaders. This year it will be interesting to see if and how Doumit emerges as a leader.

Although I have no way of knowing this for sure, I suspect Jason Kubel may be missed more in the clubhouse and on the field by some players than Michael Cuddyer. The reason I say that is he led by example. He apparently said very little, but always showed up and gave full effort. I think the younger guys noticed that and those with less than big personalities will emulate that, or at least I hope so.

I’m going to be bold and predict that Denard Span, Matt Capps, Jamey Carroll and Glen Perkins are going to be important leaders this year. They will each lead in their own way. For example, Perkins is their new union representative, and that demonstrates that players have some level of respect for him.

In addition, I think Morneau will lead again if he is able to play well, otherwise he will not be a dominant voice on this team. It will take a full MVP year for Mauer to assert himself and even then he may never be a clubhouse leader because of his mild manner and introverted personality. His value off the field may be in how well he relates to and works with the pitchers and pitching coach, Rick Anderson. Both Mauer and Morneau have publicly stated more than once that they believe they lead best by example, so they need to be in the lineup regularly and playing well.

One more player to watch is Josh Willingham. He is said to be similar to Cuddyer off the field and if that is the case he could emerge as a leader.

With spring training games now underway, the players are no doubt feeling their way into their appropriate roles for this year. I am looking forward to this year in part to see who the players look to for leadership from their peers.

Bullpen Questions

With the injury to Joel Zumaya, my projected opening-day roster needs adjustment. At this point, I’m not even going to speculate on who will replace him. I don’t think looking at stats alone will be the best way to discern who will be the set of pitchers that have a good chance of making the roster.

There will be an intriguing list of possibles to follow and once spring games begin, we’ll have an opportunity to see how they actually perform this year. In fact, I almost expect to be impressed with some guys who are not on my list now and that may mean a very different look to the bullpen than I projected earlier.

Some questions I will be looking to have answered in the next few weeks:

  • Will Matt Capps perform well enough to deserve the closer role?
  • Will Glen Perkins look good enough to preserve hope for another excellent year from him?
  • Will Brian Duensing return to being very good out of the bullpen again?
  • Will Terry Doyle pitch well enough to keep on the roster or will he go back to the White Sox? Will it be as a starter, long relief man or middle innings guy if he sticks?
  • Will any of the hard throwers show enough control to earn the right-handed set-up role that was envisioned for Zumaya?
  • Will overall performances be strong enough to fill the bullpen with in-house candidates or will a trade be necessary?

Right now the decision the Twins made to add some ‘B’ games looks like a wise one, as it will help some of the pitchers in camp show more of what they can do by giving them more opportunities to pitch in live action.

The best part is – spring games are soon to begin. It will be fun to watch the progression and see who emerges as the go-to guys in the pen.