So sayeth Ron Gardenhire.
This isn't so much news or a surprise as much as it's a confirmation. While Jon Rauch served as a closer while with the Nationals in the first part of 2008, that's about as deep as experience takes our in-house options, so this option simply makes the most sense. The Twins will base their closer off "matchups and performance", at least when the season opens.
"If we decide to go with one guy as we go along, we'll go with one guy," Gardenhire said before the Twins played the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. "But we're going to start out and we're going to look at a lot of different people and we'll see what happens. We've got about three or four different guys we can go to."
Of course the Francisco Liriano closer speculation keeps hanging around, kind of like that Jarrod Washburn shadow that had followed us for a while. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but it keeps coming up. While Gardy did say this morning that Liriano will be a starter, not the closer, La Velle does list the possibility in his two caveats to the Closer-By-Committee decision:
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before today's game that he will begin the season with a closer-by-committee plan until further notice.
---- But that could change if the front office trades for a closer.
--- And it could change if they decide to approach Francisco Liriano one more time about closing
While people will continue to focus and ask questions about Liriano closing, the real closer-of-the-future dark horse candidate people need to familiarize themselves with is Anthony Slama. Slama has already been optioned to Rochester for the start of the season, which isn't a surprise, but if he can work a bit on his control the man spits bullets. He's 26 this season, and he's pretty much ready: 271 strikeouts, 74 walks and just 117 hits in 183.2 innings.
Slama's success has been attributed largely to two things, and it's kept him largely under-the-radar in spite of his stellar minor league numbers. One, he's always been old for his level of competition. Two, he supposedly has a deceptive delivery. I've seen him pitch this spring, and over at Josh's Thoughts Josh has a great video and prospect breakdown, but I'm not sure what's deceptive about how he throws. If anything it looks like his throwing motion and mechanics allow him to hide the ball pretty well.
For now, our options are exactly who we thought they'd be: Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Jesse Crain and the aforementioned Rauch will be the front runners. This week the Twins will be throwing Pat Neshek on back-to-back days to see how he handles the stress, and if he feels and looks good it sounds like Nehsek will make the trip north and could be in the discussion as well. Hopefully one of these guys can take control of the situation, prove they have the mental dexterity to deal with the pressure of the role and keep the front office from being forced to make a trade.
Barring something unforeseen, this public decision on how to handle the closer role narrows the spring competition list down pretty far. All that's left is the backup catcher job (it sounds like Drew Butera has the edge), and the final bullpen spot (which, if Neshek goes north, means it probably goes to Brian Duensing; if Neshek doesn't go north, it may be Ron Mahay or Glen Perkins who benefits).