After the acquisition of closer Matt Capps, the Minnesota Twins had a consistent bullpen. Every reliever knew what his job was going to be. Every reliever had his inning.
It was organized. Peaceful.
Flash forward a month.
The Twins acquired two more relievers: Randy Flores off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies and Brian Fuentes via trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States in North America.
Now, everything is a complete mess and it's evident by the pen's performance as of late.
Starting with Thursday's absolutely terrible loss to the Tigers in 13 innings, it became quite evident that Ron Gardenhire and the Twins' coaching staff is too inclined on using the deep bullpen.
What do I mean by that?
Since the Twins acquired Flores and Fuentes, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seems to be too keen on "playing the match-up."
Instead of letting his reliever pitch his inning, Gardy is now using the one-and-done strategy where he brings in a pitcher to get an out, then goes to another reliever to get another out or the final two outs.
In Friday's game, the Twins went through three relief pitchers in just one inning. Three. This is coming off the heels of a game that required the use of two starting pitchers, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn, as relievers.
It's one thing if it's a 17-inning game and you have no other choice to use a starter. However, if the starter is coming in during the 11th inning, something is wrong.
Now, the Twins entire pitching staff, sans Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano, is in utter disarray.
What happens if Friday's game goes into extra innings? You just burnt three pitchers in the eighth inning trying to get three outs and a handful of your previous relievers were taxed in the previous game and probably unavailable.
Does Gardy send in Michael Cuddyer to toe the rubber? How about seeing what Denard Span has?
Before we had this depth, the bullpen had a rhythm. It was effective. Now, the bullpen seems disorganized and that may be leading to the inefficiencies we've been seeing over the past couple weeks.
Now, I'm not against playing the match-ups if you have the players. However, those match-ups should be in the eighth and the ninth, not the sixth or seventh or when your entire pen is available to throw. Two pitchers in an inning should be enough unless, of course, one flounders and needs to be yanked.
Also, it's September. That means expanded rosters. More pitchers are available to use. However, for some reason, these pitchers weren't with the team for Thursday's marathon.
Even with the expanded rosters, I'll still want Crain, Guerrier, and Flores in the game before Alex Burnett and Rob Delaney. These pitchers should only be used when the game is out of reach or the bullpen in completely taxed like Friday's game.
Hopefully, Gardenhire is taking a long look at his pitching staff and will rethink his strategy and going back to how things were before.
Stick with what works. Now is not the time to experiment with a new bullpen strategy.
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