Between the departure of longtime closer Joe Nathan and Tommy John surgery taking out Joel Zumaya for the season, the Twins bullpen is going to look very different than previously anticipated. With Matt Capps, Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing the only virtual locks in the bullpen, there are four spots just waiting to be earned by a handful of candidates.
Jeff Manship has begun to separate himself from the pack of candidates as he is having a spectacular spring. After having a less than ideal 2011 season as a result of a persistent shoulder injury, everything is finally starting to fall into place for the right-handed hurler. He has allowed only a single earned run in his spring outings, along with eight strikeouts, no walks and three total hits.
According to Phil Mackey at 1500ESPN, Manship stated this is the best his arm has felt in consecutive days in years. If Manship keeps this up, he should find himself heading to the land of 10,000 lakes at the end of the month.
Another right-handed reliever that is expected to find himself on the 25-roster on Opening Day is right-hander Kyle Waldrop. The 6'5" pitcher has a heavy sinker that hits at an average of two feet, two inches high — a pitch that is very difficult to put in the air. During his time with Rochester over the past two seasons, 63 percent of balls put into play against him were hit on the ground. He also put up a 3.19 ERA, striking out 104 batters while walking only 31 unintentionally.
Through his first three outings this spring, Waldrop has yet to walk a batter or allow a run.
Another name consistently mentioned in the battle for the bullpen is Anthony Swarzak. He had a decent year with the Twins last year, pitching largely in long-relief positions. He is also out of options, so despite seeing limited time this spring (and having mediocre results), his spot on the Opening Day roster should be safe.
Rule 5 draft pick Terry Doyle also has a good shot at heading north with the major league ball club. As a Rule 5 draft pick, the Twins must place Doyle on the 25-man roster, offer him back to the White Sox or work out some kind of trade with Chicago that allows the team to keep Doyle and send him to the minors.
Doyle certainly has potential. He put up a 1.98 ERA to go with his 4-0 record in the Arizona Fall League. Reports say he works fast and pitches to contact — something highly valued in the Twins organization. So far, he has not lived up to that potential in Fort Myers. Last week, he pitched two thirds of an inning as the Pirates tagged him for seven unearned runs.
Other potentials who still have a shot to make the roster are Alex Burnett, Phil Dumatrait Luis Perdomo, Jason Bulger and Jared Burton. Burnett has put up a 4.50 ERA thus far this spring, but pitching coach Rick Anderson believes if he ever gets control of his stuff, he can be one of the better pitchers around.
Jason Bulger and Jared Burton are decent veterans with absolute potential to fill out the bullpen. Phil Dumatrait spent some time with the Twins in 2011, and despite some middle of the road performances, it seems like he was coming into camp with some serious zip on the ball. It is estimated he can hit between 97 and 100 MPH with his fastball.
There may be a lot of holes to fill in the Minnesota bullpen, but it looks like this crop of talent might be able to plug them just fine.