With all the commotion currently surrounding the Boof Bonser injury, the Twins are really under fire by some of their fans to find a new replacement for our bullpen. Reports suggest that the Juan Cruz ship has sailed after Cruz rejected an offer from the Twins. Chad Cordero could be a possibility, a slight possibility at best. And the Philip Humber show didn't get off to a good start.
So the question is, if all else fails, who else can the Twins look at for bullpen help? The way that the current bullpen is set up, the Twins have 5 guys who really are only considered as one-inning guys. Of course any pitcher could probably pitch more than one inning, but the Twins don't want to end up like they did last year when they were forced to use up a lot of their arms early. Matt Guerrier for instance was forced to make 76 appearances and had an ERA of 5.19. If that's any indication of how our bullpen was last year, you'd understand that we cannot have a repeat of that.
Jose Mijares is one pitcher that many expect to be a real spark-plug in the bullpen, but like the other pitchers already in the bullpen, he's mostly suited as a one-inning guy. So that would leave the Twins with the need for a long-reliever or a 'mop-up guy', whichever way you look at it. Guerrier started his career as a long-reliever for the Twins and Bonser provided this for the Twins for most of last season. Although it's not a glorified position it is still a very important position on every team. Every team finds themselves out of a game early on at some point throughout the season, it's inevitable. Why would a team want to run the risk of continuing to let their starter get hurt if the game looks to be out of reach? That's when a 'mop-up guy' comes in handy. A guy who can come into a game and throw 4-5 innings and help preserve the other arms in the bullpen.
One player that everyone seems to be forgetting is R.A. Dickey. Dickey came over to the Twins this off-season for the second straight year. After the 2007 season, the Twins signed Dickey but he was later selected in the Rule V Draft by the Seattle Mariners. Then this off-season he signed a minor league deal and was invited to Spring Training by the Twins. Despite not being on the 40-man roster, Dickey is still considered as a possibility to land a spot in the Twins' bullpen, although it will take quite a bit for him to prove that he's worth the risk of losing another man already on the 40-man roster.
Dickey opened up his Spring Training with the Twins yesterday and struck out three of the four batters he faced in his only inning of action. It's certainly a great thing to see, but in no way should anyone be at all 'giddy' over this. Dickey was facing quite a few prospects in the Cincinnati Reds organization, and being that he is a knuckleball pitcher, many are very unfamiliar with the pitch itself, which is no surprise that he had three strikeouts in his solo inning of work.
Still, the Twins organization has always felt that a knuckleball pitcher would have great success in the Metrodome, and now that it's the last season in the Dome, it's really now or never to find out. That is no reason to hand Dickey a spot, but if he can impress enough people this Spring, he is a player I could very well see get a bullpen spot on this team. I know that probably doesn't sit well with a lot of people, but the Twins usually have at least one questionable move on their roster, and this could be it.
Another player the Twins also could count on as a possibility is Jason Jones. I will be the first to admit that I personally am not that familiar with Jones. Part of that reasoning is my stubbornness to even consider finding anything about him as I never felt that he had a real chance of making this team. Although that is still probably most people's gut-feeling, anything can happen in baseball.
Having done some research on Jones, I actually have some hope for him and I think that he actually has pretty good makeup. Jones stands at 6-foot, 5-inches tall and weighs about 225 pounds. He has a low-90's fastball, a good slider, a good splitter and a change-up as well. Through 637 innings of minor league ball, Jones is 43-41 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.
I still believe that the job is still Humbers to loose, despite getting off to a bad start. I still have high hope for him and I think he'll still put up a good Spring. But both Dickey and Jones are players that Twins fans could hear of prior to the end of Spring Training.
On that note, I'm not sure if I'll get a post up over the weekend, but I do anticipate the start of my 2009 Top 50 MiLB Prospect list at some point next week...