Twins enter halfway point in first place but needing bullpen help
President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said the team is actively assessing the market ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The Twins will meet the official midpoint of the season on Saturday, and because of a rainout between Cleveland and the New York Yankees on Friday night, they were guaranteed to reach it with at least a half-game lead in the American League Central.
If you had offered him that when the lockout ended on March 7, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said, he would have answered,“ ‘Sign me up.’ Every day of the week.”
“That part, we have to be proud of, or happy with, so to speak,” he added. “But we’re not happy enough, right? We want to do more, and ultimately, the halfway point doesn’t matter.”
What matters is making the postseason, something the Twins expected to do when the season finally started on April 7, and after holding at least a part of the Central Division lead for 70 of 79 games, the team is officially looking for ways to improve before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
“Our point of view is, how do we find a way to play consistently? How do we add to the team, both internally and externally as we go into the July-August stretch?” Falvey said Friday.
As is generally the case for all contending teams, the Twins are looking for pitching, albeit mostly for their overtaxed and injury-riddled bullpen. In one of the biggest games of the season Thursday at Cleveland, the Twins were down to journeyman right-hander Tyler Thornburg in the ninth inning of a tie game — and he gave up a walk-off home run in a 5-3 loss to the team’s closest division rival.
Overall, Twins relievers have been decent, ranking 16th with a collective 3.87 earned-run average despite throwing 317⅓ innings, fourth most in the majors. But the Twins lost 5 of 8 games against Cleveland from June 21 to Thursday despite holding a late lead in each of those losses. Further, the Twins had eight potential bullpen arms on the injured list Friday — Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Jhon Romero, Danny Coulombe, Bailey Ober, Trevor Megill and Joe Smith.
Thornburg, signed to a minor league deal in June, was designated for release or assignment on Friday morning and replaced on the active roster by Juan Minaya — one of 28 pitchers the Twins have used already this season. Right-hander Emilio Pagan, who leads the team with nine saves but has two blown saves and a 22.09 ERA in his past five appearances, has been taken out of high-leverage situations for the time being.
While Falvey said small stretches of a long season can seem more important than they are, especially if they’re bad stretches, he acknowledged the bullpen could use help. That could come from the minors, injured list or trade market — or simply from current relievers pitching better. Tyler Duffey, for instance, seems to have recovered from a tough stretch with six consecutive scoreless appearances.
“Some of the guys are not throwing the ball as well as they’d like; they’re going to have to step up and pitch better,” Falvey said. “But we’re going to need to help them do that, right? It’s about coaching, it’s about planning, it’s about identifying things. Because many of these guys have had success before, and we have to find ways to get them back there.
“And we also have to find ways to supplement the group, if necessary, over the course of the next month.”
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