It's early, but it looks like I was on the wrong side of the bullpen debate. While fans and the Twins themselves were obviously looking for additional bullpen help at the end of spring training, I firmly believed that the team had enough options internally to find one or even two very reliable arms to file in behind Glen Perkins and Casey Fien. That hasn't happened yet.
Breaking camp with Blaine Boyer, Brian Duensing, and Mike Pelfrey in the bullpen certainly lacked confidence and ingenuity, but perhaps the front office believed that rostering those three instead of Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, and one of Trevor May or Alex Meyer would mean the bullpen would be a bit more stable. In two out of three cases it's safe to say that performance has yet to meet those moderate expectations.
While six games is too early to make any drastic changes, it's worth wondering just how the Twins are going to go about using their bullpen. A new manager is a part of the equation, but so too is the fact that Fien has made just one appearance and has been unavailable since Thursday. He just told Mike Berardino that he's ready to go for today and that "it was just muscle tightness," but anytime a pitcher misses a few days to feel better Twins fans get understandably nervous.
With all of that in mind, here is how Paul Molitor has utilized his bullpen through six games this year.
There are questions worth asking. Does Stauffer require additional rest after 48 pitches? What has made Boyer the go-to option at such an early juncture? Is Molitor basing his bullpen usage on overall pitch counts? Judging by this chart, if the Twins need their bullpen tonight I'd have to assume they'd run with Stauffer, Fien, and Perkins. Provided they're all healthy and ready to go, because we haven't heard nearly as much from any of them as we've heard from Graham, Thompson, and Boyer - who has been a trainwreck to watch.
I'm obviously trying to make connections where there isn't much of a sample to go on, and suffice it to say we're left with little more than guesswork. But at this point in the season, if the team's starters continue to struggle to get through even five innings then management might want to be a bit more aggressive about how long they're willing to let a reliever sit on the shelf without going on the disabled list. Because as hopeful as I am that Fien is going to be fine, if this was just about avoiding nagging aches and pains down the line then I'd rather have just seen him hit the disabled list so that the bullpen had a full compliment of arms.
The home opener starts in just a couple of hours, so I'll pull the plug on this editorial for now and we'll re-visit the topic in the coming days and weeks. We'll be right here for your game thread, and we'll see how Molitor manages his relievers tonight. Let's hope Trevor May delivers in a big way.