One area of strength for the Minnesota Twins in 2012 was the bullpen, with Glen Perkins and Jared Burton leading a group that posted a 3.77 ERA (ninth in the American League). The Twins also got the fewest innings from their starters in the American League (880), so the bullpen’s performance is even better when taking their workload into consideration.
One pitcher that has a chance to make a case for a spot in the Twins bullpen, even at this early stage of spring training, is Anthony Slama. He only has seven games of major league experience, and surely would have earned a late-season call up in 2012 if not for suffering a broken fibula on a comebacker and missing eight weeks.
In 31 appearances for Triple-A Rochester last season, Slama had a 1.24 ERA and 14 saves along with a 56:18 K/BB ratio over 36.1 innings. For his minor league career, in six seasons, he has a 1.99 ERA, 100 saves and a 12.4 K/9 rate.
Perkins, Burton and Brian Duensing are locked into spots in Minnesota’s bullpen at this point, but after that there are plenty of question marks. Anthony Swarzak is expected to miss a couple more weeks after suffering two broken ribs a few weeks ago, but he should earn a spot as a long reliever if healthy. Alex Burnett, Casey Fien, Tyler Robertson, Tim Wood, Josh Roenicke, and Lester Oliveros are among the contenders for the remaining bullpen spots, along with Slama.
Of the above mentioned players, only Slama and Oliveros are not currently on Minnesota’s 40-man roster. Since Slama still has minor league options left, there’s a chance he opens the season with Rochester once again. But if the Twins want their most talented players at Target Field on Opening Day, he should have a spot in the bullpen right out of the gate. Simply put, Slama has nothing left to prove in the minors and it’s time for him to get a long look at the big league level.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.