Where the Twins Bullpen Stands

AlexAnalyst IMarch 21, 2009

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Luis Ayala #18 of the Minnesota Twins poses during photo day at the Twins spring training complex on February 23, 2008 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

The bullpen was one big reason why the playoffs didn't make their way to the Metrodome last season. Without that tough two-week road trip in which game after game was blown, game 163 would not have been needed.

In the upcoming '09 season the Twins hope the bullpen will solve itself. The front office didn't go out and get some big name, and really, they didn't need to.

Matt Guerrier was worse than bad, and while he hasn't been much better this spring, there is some hope that he'll improve.

Jesse Crain is a full year removed from surgery and has hit 95 MPH on the radar time and time again this spring.

Craig Breslow was solid as the lefty specialist last season. And Joe Nathan is, well, Joe Nathan.

With five starters, and the four locks for the bullpen listed above, the Twins have nine pitchers set to head north. The team would go with 12 at most, and it sounds like 11 is the ideal number. So who else is heading to the Dome come April?

Luis Ayala — Ayala wasn't great by any means last season, but he did pitch in 81 games, which is far beyond overuse. He has been solid this spring, and the obvious hope is that he will revert to any of the years prior to '08. Verdict: Near lock

Jose Mijares— Out of shape and poor mechanics aren't going to give him a spot. After a great September run, Mijares had a poor off-season (with his weight) and hasn't done much better this spring. Verdict: Next batch of cuts

Philip Humber— Humber is out of options, so it's either Minnesota or the old J.D. Durbin train making stops around the league. Humber can pitch, and he's shown that this spring. He can't be a bad long relief option. Verdict: Making a strong push

Brian Duensing— With Mijares' chances dwindling, the Twins could look to Duensing to be the second lefty in the bullpen. He hasn't been bad this spring, but is more of a starter. Verdict: A lot needs to happen

R.A. Dickey— And then there is Dickey, the knuckleball veteran. With Mijares looking less likely to make the roster with each performance, if the team goes with 12 guys, Dickey is the likely leader for that spot. Verdict: Very much in the race.

What do you think, how many pitchers will head north, and who will they be?