Over the winter, the Twins were focused on upgrading their bullpen. They didn't do a terribly good job in adding the quality of pitcher they were probably looking for. When the signing of Tim Stauffer was announced, the organization gave lip service to his ability to start but the smart money was on Stauffer taking over Anthony Swarzak's long relief role.
Stauffer hasn't been good. That's about as succinct as we can be. After averaging nearly a strikeout per inning between 2012 and 2013 as a reliever, his ability to generate a swinging strike disappeared entirely. The velocity was down, although that could have been chalked up to the intercostal strain.
Today, the Twins optioned Doug Bernier to Triple-A (Bernier has options left?) so that they could activate Stauffer. But is he ready to pitch?
In his last two rehab games Tim Stauffer struck out one, walked two, allowed hitters to go 6-for-12, and reportedly topped out at 87 mph.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) May 21, 2015
Minnesota is winning at the moment, but they're riding a fine line. The bullpen is already pushing the envelop in terms of reliability and indicators of future performance raising the red flags we've heard many times before. If Stauffer keeps pitching like he has all year, if the report Gleeman quotes is accurate and Stauffer's velocity is vanishing, the Twins cannot continue to give struggling veterans a long leash.
There's a right-hander in Rochester who has been blowing hitters away and whose velocity would top any member of the current Major League bullpen. Lester Oliveros has very little left to prove at Triple-A. If we see Stauffer struggle over two or three outings, let's hope the front office is ready to cut bait on a multi-million dollar mistake.
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Calling up Stauffer on an off-day leaves Paul Molitor with an eight-man bullpen and a three-man bench for Friday night's series opener versus the White Sox. The Twins used all seven relievers yesterday against the Pirates, but is the additional bullpen arm necessary?
Reliever pitch counts, Pittsburgh series:
Glen Perkins: 31
Blaine Boyer: 33
Brian Duensing: 8
J.R. Graham: 33
Michael Tonkin: 2
Ryan Pressly: 22
Aaron Thompson: 7
On Friday, it's likely that Graham and Boyer would probably be unavailable. Perkins would be available in a save situation, and Pressly wasn't overworked on either Tuesday or Wednesday. In spite of using all seven relievers yesterday, the Twins would very realistically have five pitchers available out of the bullpen tomorrow night.
So why activate Stauffer now? My only thought is that perhaps additional roster moves are coming, and one of them could include another pitcher either being optioned or sent to the disabled list.
Just a guess. We'll find out soon enough. We'll see you back here later for some more draft talk.