MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins’ bullpen has been adequate this season, helping Minnesota take a 44-22 record into Thursday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners at Target Field. But adequate is different from good, and it’s trending downward.
The bullpen was given two ties late on Wednesday and blew them both in a 9-6 loss to the Mariners. Three late errors were a factor, but so were hits and walks.
As a group, Twins relievers have been spotty, ranking 21st among 30 major league teams with a combined earned-run average of 4.73 through Wednesday’s game. In 10 games this month, the Twins’ bullpen had made a combined 34 appearances, going 2-2 with three saves, three holds, a blown save and 6.85 ERA.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said he hasn’t noticed much of a change in his relievers, but his official stance was delivered with cagey flexibility.
“It’s not something we’re really locked in and focused on as being a change from anything else we’ve seen this year,” he said.
The bullpen has largely been a work in progress all season, even as the Twins have established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball. That has been largely because of the starting pitching, fourth in baseball with a combined 3.60 ERA, and an offense that leads all of baseball in batting average (.274), home runs (130) and RBIs (380).
Fiftteen pitchers have made major league relief appearances for the Twins, and five have saves, led by right-hander Blake Parker’s nine and left-hander Taylor Rogers’ six. Baldelli said Wednesday he is not auditioning closers, instead likely to stay with the status quo as long the bullpen remains largely the same.
“I can’t tell you if we’re talking about different people that it would be run in the exact same way,” he said. “I can’t say that.”
Baldelli, a first-year manager whose light touch and dedication to communication has worked wonders so far, is loath to criticize players he believes are giving it their best. But as long as the Twins remain a solid playoff team — they started Thursday with a 10.5-game lead in the American League Central — management will be looking for ways to bolster the team’s weak spot.
The Twins recalled right-hander Fernando Romero on Thursday and will put him back in the bullpen, where he performed mostly mop-up duty late in out-of-hand games in April and May.
Romero, 23, was 0-0 with a 5.63 ERA in six appearances before being sent back to Triple-A Rochester. With the Red Wings, he was 2-1 with a 5.47 ERA. He walked eight and gave up 23 hits in 24.2 innings pitched, including six home runs.
Romero had never thrown out of the bullpen until this season. He made 11 starts for Minnesota last season, going 3-3 with a 4.69 ERA. “A lot of this was new for him,” Baldelli said. “He’s learning and taking to it pretty well, but it’s finding that consistency and comfort that is most important, and that’s not an easy thing to put your thumb on.”
To make room on the active roster, the Twins sent rookie right-hander Ryan Eades, 27, to Rochester. Making his major league debut this month, he pitched 3.2 scoreless innings for the Twins.
“I think he threw the ball very well,” Baldelli said. “He can be very pleased with what he’s done. I think he’s proven he can compete and succeed at this level.”