Terry Ryan: “Maybe We’ll Get Lucky”

Ever since the Twins handed the reins of the organization back to Terry Ryan, fans have been asking what he was going to do about the pitching staff. We wanted him to tell us how he intended to fortify a rotation that was undeniably one of the worst in Major League Baseball in 2011.

We asked what the plan was for rebuilding a bullpen that arguably made the rotation look good, by comparison, and that was losing the guy who’d been anchoring said bullpen for most of the past decade, in Joe Nathan. Some of us (OK, maybe it was mostly me) hoped that he’d upgrade the rotation to the point where the team would get more than five innings out of starts by pitchers not named Pavano, which would almost certainly make the bullpen look better. But whatever the plan was, we mostly just wanted to know that there WAS a plan.

Can Rick Anderson get lucky and give Glen Perkins some help in the bullpen? (Photo: Reuters/Steve Nesius)

Now… finally… thanks to Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, as reported in this article posted Sunday by the Pioneer-Press’ Tom Powers, we have our answer. “It’s like Terry Ryan said to me the other day, ‘Maybe we’ll get lucky,'” Anderson said.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. Here we were concerned that maybe Ryan and the Twins didn’t really have a plan for improving their pitching in 2012.

My biggest concern was that the Twins were going to repeat Bill Smith’s ill-fated attempt to restock their bullpen a year ago, after losing Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and others. Smith, you may recall, brought in about a dozen guys to compete for the honor of filling in the empty bullpen spots behind Nathan, Matt Capps and Jose Mijares. The field consisted of both new faces (Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Scott Diamond) and old faces (Pat Neshek, Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop, Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett). In the end, only Perkins made significant positive contributions on the mound.

It didn’t seem like a totally unreasonable plan, at the time. After all, most effective middle relievers are “discovered” when they stand out given similar opportunities. But it certainly didn’t work for Smith and the Twins, so many of us hoped for a somewhat different approach in 2012.

Thankfully, Terry Ryan does indeed have a different plan. He’s bringing in THIRTY-THREE pitchers.

Yes, I know, some of those guys are going to be in the rotation and a couple others are pretty much locks for bullpen roles, so they aren’t all competing for bullpen spots. But the rotation is pretty much set and only Capps, Perkins and Duensing can be considered virtual sure-things to be members of the Opening Day bullpen corps.

That leaves 25 pitchers competing for the remaining 4-5 bullpen spots. How in the world will Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire possibly sort through all of those guys to determine which should claim a Big League roster spot?

Again, thanks to Mr. Powers and Coach Anderson, we have a few clues:

“We’ve got 33 pitchers coming in,” Anderson said Sunday from Florida. “I’ve already talked to just about every one of them. We have 13 days to get ready to play. We have the time to get ready.”

There’s clue number one. If you’re a pitcher with an invitation to the Twins’ Big League camp, but Anderson hasn’t spoken to you yet, it’s probably premature to lease an apartment in the Twin Cities.

But there’s more:

“We’ve got ‘B’ games and split squads,” Anderson said. “With 33 pitchers, we need to find innings to see what they’ve got. I was thinking about this just this morning: In the past, maybe we’ve had a couple of spots open, and we didn’t have a whole lot of options. This year, we’ve got nine or 10 guys with a legitimate shot. Maybe more.”

Hmmmm… nine or 10 guys… maybe more… with a legitimate shot. But which nine or 10 guys?

“T.K. [former Twins manager Tom Kelly] always says, ‘Don’t let spring training fool you,’ ” Anderson added with a laugh. “But this year it’s going to be go, go, go. If you don’t have a good spring, we’ll send you down to Triple-A and say, ‘Maybe we’ll see you again.’ This year, guys are pitching for jobs and not just to get in shape.”

Well, I still don’t know exactly who the nine or 10 guys are with a legitimate shot at making the ballclub, but it sounds to me like we’ll all discover pretty quickly who ISN’T in that group. That would be anyone who’s first inning or two of work in Ft. Myers sucks.

So that’s the plan, fans. Invite a crapload of maybes, wannabes, usedtabes, and almostweres to Spring Training, put them on the mound and see if any of them can get anyone out… and, “Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

And here we were worried they didn’t have a plan.

– JC

8 Replies to “Terry Ryan: “Maybe We’ll Get Lucky””

  1. I appreciate the sarcasm in this post. I do think it is a legitimate plan as far as the bullpen goes. I too, wondered about trying to look at 33 candidates. It is probably kind of reassuring that they have narrowed the field to 9 or 10. You can probably give that many a good look and let the rest prove themselves at AAA. I also think that a lot these guys, maybe even some of Twins prospects/suspects will get released fairly early during spring training.

    I had wished that the Twins would acquire a solid starter this off season. Quite likely they didn’t want to overpay for one, with all the other questions about this team. Maybe they have held back enough money to go after one if that looks like it could actually give them a chance at the post season, sometime during the season.

  2. You neglected to mention Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Slowey and Phil Dumatrait were part of the mix last year. And Alex Burnett certainly contributed more the Jose Mijares.

    Luck is always part of any strategy in baseball. Both avoiding bad luck and having some good luck. The Twins last year had a lot of bad luck and not much good luck. And the bullpen was no exception. Virtually every guy they were counting on either spent time on the DL or struggled with injuries.

  3. I’m glad you recognized the sarcasm, Jim… hopefully you and others also recognize the attempt at humor. I’ve learned not to take the Twins, their front office, their players, their manager and coaching staff, or myself, too seriously these days.

    And while the Jason Marquis signing didn’t excite the masses (or me) when it occurred, I am trying to hold out some hope that he could be a second “innings eater” in the rotation and give whoever does end up in the bullpen a few more games where they aren’t constantly up and down warming up all game.

    TT, I certainly didn’t intend for the guys I listed to have been an exhaustive list of pitchers who trotted out to the Hammond Stadium mound last March, but thank you for filling in a few more names. Hopefully, the Twins will see more good luck and less bad luck in 2012.

  4. Yeah, I appreciated the humor as well. It is well that you don’t take too many things too seriously. I think you could call Ryan’ s plan(and he has one) “The buy time for the future Plan” . Everything he did this winter could be interperted that way. Older players who know how to play at both the major league and minor league level. It looks like he wants to get his true prospects playing at the level they should be, and playing with guys who know how to play the game. He doesn’t want to give his prospects “social promotions” but make them earn it. It also looks like he wants more competition for playing time at every level.

    Or maybe he is just guessing.
    and fooling around.

  5. I can give TR a pass on the rotation. If Baker and Liriano are healthy and pitch like they can all year, the rotation will be better. And to do a big rotation overhaul this winter would have been costly and required selling low on the club assets, and probably eating some salary on anybody TR traded. Might as well see if your guys can bounce back, and either help the team contend or at least fetch better value on the trade market this summer.

    But, as a number of people have pointed out, the FA market was loaded with quality veteran relievers, which meant they were available for CHEAP. Ryan could have fit at least ONE into his $100 million budget, too. Why is he content just to roll the dice on Zumaya and then flood Ft. Myers with NRI’s?

  6. Yeah, it’s all just a game to Terry Ryan. A $500M game using Jimmy, Billy, and Bobby’s play money.

  7. What I often wonder is just how much the professional evaluators (Twins) view these bullpen arms as commodity-like. Maybe they believe that Oliveros, Burton, Doyle, Zumaya, Gutierrez, Manship, Waldrop, Burnett….etc. are every bit as likely as Wheeler, Coffey, Lidge, Rauch, ….etc. are to be productive in 2012. And hell, if you’re wrong, go grab Slama, Guerra, Diamond, DeVries, Robertson, from your own system or one of the dozen or so pitchers each of the other 31 teams demoted at the end of spring training.

  8. You all raise good points and thanks for reading and commenting.

    I would just add that, just as I thought improving the rotation could make the bullpen better, I also believe improving the defense should make the pitching better (or at least won’t make it look as bad as last year).

    It really is a crapshoot this season, so “luck” is very much in play.