The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 20, 2009

Bullpen shuffle

After watching Jesse Crain's sweat-heavy (and results-light) outing on Friday, it was hardly a shock on Monday when the Twins put him on the disabled list. The man simply did not look comfortable out there.

The Twins say this isn't major, and that they expect him to be ready to go before the 15-day period is up. Meanwhile, Jose Mijares is back — when I wrote the final sentence of the Monday print column, I hadn't expected that wish to come true so quickly — and that provides some grounds for further roster speculation.

Two weeks or so from now, Crain returns. How do the Twins make room for him? It's a seven-man bullpen now, and (barring injury ) we know Crain isn't going to dislodge Joe Nathan.

1) Return Mijares to the minors. Unlike the other five set-up/middle/long relievers, he has options left. However, he remains the most talented of that crew, and if he's straightened himself out, the Twins need him.

2) Try to slip Juan Morillo to the minors. He's a project and unlikely to be useful in high-leverage situations for a while, if ever. However, he has as high-velocity an arm as you're going to find, and it's hard to imagine the Twins taking the risk of losing him after just two weeks.

3) Try to slip R.A. Dickey to the minors. Again, not a high-leverage use guy. But the knuckleballer not only has a distinctive pitch, he appears to have a specific role that makes sense (long-man/spot starter) for him and doesn't for anybody else on the staff — except maybe Matt Guerrier.

3) Try to slip Craig Breslow to the minors. Despite a poor outing against the Blue Jays, he's not going anywhere.

Which leaves Guerrier and Luis Ayala. Ayala has had seven outings and has given up at least one run in four of them; it's not a pattern that encourages Ron Gardenhire to use him in the eighth inning role. Guerrier has allowed runs in each of his last three outings and has pretty much convinced everybody around the organization he belongs in a middle-innings role.

One of those two guys, methinks, is gone when Crain returns. Unless, of course, somebody else gets hurt first.

e-mail Edward Thoma