June 22, 2009

Twins reportedly call-up Bobby Keppel

UPDATE (2:45 PM): It was in fact Luis Ayala who was DFA'd. We'll see if he accepts an assignment, but that's doubtful.

Could this be the end for Luis Ayala or Sean Henn?

According to Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Twins have called-up Bobby Keppel after Saturday's bullpen blowup over the weekend.

Sean Henn came into the game in the seventh inning with a runner on first base. He proceeded to give up the inherited runner with a double and then gave up two more runs on a Jason Michaels home run. The Twins would like to hold onto another left-handed reliever, which means Henn could be spared. Luis Ayala has struggled in recent outings and has again made it difficult to send him out during any sort of situation with any pressure as he's having trouble controling his sinker.

Keppel is right-handed, which makes the speculation of Ayala being cut even more attractive. Keppel is 3-3 with a 2.43 ERA in 23 games this season. He was recently moved to the starting rotation after a request to the Twins organization. He has an opt-out clause in his contract, and he felt that starting would draw more interest from other clubs. In the three starts he's had since the move, he was 1-2 with a 2.57 ERA.

The most interesting stat from Keppel's three starts is his K/BB ratio. From the bullpen, Keppel struggled with his control, striking out only 14 batters while walking 12. But as a starter, Keppel struck out 14 batters while walking just one. He's also had a 2.07 GB/FB ratio, which has undoubtedly helped bring his season ratio up to 1.91 GB/FB. In those starts, he's also thrown 61.4% of his pitches for strikes while only allowing one home run.

Although he looks capable of starting, it doesn't sound as though the Twins are calling him up as a starter. Even with Kevin Slowey currently hurt, the Twins seem more interested in fixing their bullpen than to replace Slowey. The Twins bullpen has pitched better in the last month or so, but it still is far from being up to the Twins' standards.

Henn or Ayala seem to be the most logical of players being cut, a few other players could also make sense as well.
  • Matt Tolbert has been absolutely atrocious this season. He's currently 0-12 in his last four games, bringing his season slash-line down to .168/.261/.228 in 101 at-bats. As much as Ron Gardenhire likes him, it makes little sense to keep him on the roster when he's playing this poorly. We already have one Nick Punto on the roster, we don't need two.
  • Jason Pridie was called-up after Denard Span was placed on the disabled list last week. The Twins are currently hoping that Span can come back later this week, meaning Pridie's current stay in the big leagues is winding down fast. The only action he's seen thus far is as a pinch runner. With the Twins going to two National League ballparks in the next week, the Twins will already have one outfielder on the bench at all times. It's seems unlikely Pridie sees anything more than a pinch running or defensive substitution from here on out.
  • Finally, Jose Morales could make sense to be sent out. I know this is probably the least likely to happen, but it doesn't make sense to me to have Morales sit on the bench the entire time he's up here. I thought he'd get a start on Sunday, but Mike Redmond, who's arguably having the worst season of his career, started in his place. Morales has played great in his short stints in the Major Leagues, and seems to be the best option to fill Redmond's spot next season, but he does need to play. If the Twins can't work Morales in, more than just a pinch hit here-and-there, then I think he could also be sent back to Rochester.
The three position players I just mentioned do have an advantage over either relievers right now, making their demotions more unlikely. That advantage is that the Twins are currently set to embark on a nine games in nine days road trip, with six of those games coming against National League opponents. That means that going back to a 12-man pitching staff right now, is highly unlikely.

But I do expect all three of those players to be sent down sooner rather than later.