April 17, 2009

Bye Bye Humber, Hello Morillo

In an attempt to cure an already terrible bullpen, the Twins cut probably their weakest link today when they decided to designate right-hander Philip Humber for assignment. If Humber clears waivers, he will head to Triple-A Rochester where he spent the 2008 season.

Humber, a product of the Johan Santana trade, struggled through the first half of the 2008 season with the Red Wings before finally finding his form in the second half. All tole, he finished the 2008 season with a 10-8 record and 4.56 ERA. He made a good impression after being recalled last September, but was still far away from being the pitcher the Twins thought they acquired.

He struggled in Spring Training but his roster spot was assured due to the fact he'd almost certainly be claimed off of waivers should the Twins decide not to bring him North to Minnesota. Unfortunately, he never figured things out in Minnesota either and was drilled hard in two of his four appearances out of the bullpen. Most importantly, the Twins have been looking for their relievers to just throw strikes, which is something Humber has had problems doing. Humber only threw 60 of his 108 pitches (56%) for strikes this season. He gave up six runs in only 4 1/3 innings pitched (12.46 ERA) and had a terrible 3.23 WHIP. Humber just wasn't getting people out and was very hittable, surrendering a .478 average to his opponents.

As bad as he has been, it would still be nice to see if he can clear waivers and report to Rochester.

To fill his spot on the roster, the Twins claimed right-handed reliever Juan Morillo from the Colorado Rockies. Morillo is a 25-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic. He has pitched in the Rockies organization since signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2001, finally making it to the Major Leagues in 2006. He has thrown 8 2/3 innings at the major league level, giving up 11 runs (11.42 ERA).

The most notable thing with Morillo is how hard he throws. He could give the Twins the kind of impact that Joel Zumaya of the Tigers gives Detroit, but only Zumaya has slightly better control which should give you incite to the kind of "pitcher" Morillo is. He has reached 100 mph with his fastball but his control is about the same as an infant's bladder.

He also throws a hard slider and change-up, but those both are not reliable pitches and he generally relies on his fastball.

The Twins had two "inning-eaters" in Humber and R.A. Dickey and thought that one was expendable. Of course I would generally agree with this decision, however the bullpen has already thrown 34 innings this season, and five times the starters have failed to reach six innings in a start. I understand that having two inning eaters can be unnecessary, I still would have liked to see the Twins hang onto two pitchers that can throw more than two innings for the time being. Thankfully they are still hanging onto seven relievers and most can be called on for two innings if needed. But then we run the risk of over using some of our relievers, and we all know what happens in that circumstance.

Regardless, I'm happy the Twins are taking a gamble and recognizing that something has to be done. Hopefully it pays off.