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Why Alex Burnett Over Anthony Slama?

I generally can find a reason for the things the Twins do, even if I don't agree with the choice myself.  This is one of those times.

On Sunday the Minnesota Twins announced that Clay Condrey would hit the disabled list with a strained right elbow.  Condrey had a decent spring and was pretty much guaranteed a roster spot on Opening Day from the minute he was signed, which was a bit odd in itself, but at least the guy had service time under his belt and experience at retiring Major League hitters.  But once he hit the DL, the Twins moved by calling up reliever Alex Burnett to take his spot.  Why Alex Burnett and not Anthony Slama?

Because Burnett is on the 40-man roster--sure, that's the obvious answer.  But there's more to it than that.

It is a shame that Slama isn't the first guy the organization goes to.  He's 26, and there's nothing left for him to prove in the minor leagues.  Sure, his stuff doesn't necessarily grade out as outstanding, but the man puts up double digit K/9 ratios everywhere he goes.  He barely allows a baserunner per inning.  Aaron Gleeman pointed out that by putting Joe Nathan on the 60-day disabled list (which they'll probably have to do at some point anyway), Slama could have been added to the 40-man roster.

What keeps pulling us back from that precipice is just that:  the 40-man roster.  Because as sexy as Slama's strikeout numbers are, it's not like Burnett's a bad pitcher.  He strikes out three hitters for every one he walks, he's pretty good at keeping baserunners down, he's got pretty good stuff and he's just 22.

It'd be easy to put up a side-by-side statistical comparison of both guys, but Slama's minor league career hadn't even started when he was Burnett's age.  At 23, Slama was in rookie leagues destroying kids five years younger than he was.  Burnett was 17 and 18 in his rookie league seasons with the Twins, where he struck out 104 batters in 119.2 innings while walking just 27, and he won't turn 23 until July.  Slama has spent three years down on the Twins' farm; Burnett's been there five years already.

Slama's a good pitcher, and he deserves his shot.  And he'll get it at some point this season.  But don't let anyone fool you into thinking this is "A stupid Twins move", because it's nothing of the sort.  Burnett's a good pitcher, and a young pitcher.

Just for the hell of it, here's your side-by-side.  It's minor league career totals, but considering the age difference at echelons of the system, this is probably the best look.  The games differential is what it is because 2009 was Burnett's first season as a relief pitcher exclusively.

Stat Slama Burnett
Games 140 139
Innings 183.2 496.1
WHIP 1.04 1.18
H/9 5.7 8.3
HR/9 0.2 0.6
BB/9 3.6 2.3
K/9 13.3 6.9