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Twins opt not to add pitching reinforcements on September 1 and pay the price

Sep 3, 2010, 10:15 AM EST

Last night’s Twins-Tigers game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen, as the two teams combined for 13 innings of sloppy, mistake-filled play that included a seemingly endless array of botched double plays and blown leads.
As a Twins fan there are approximately 100 different things I could complain about from the agonizing evening, but the one that stands out is Minnesota’s refusal to call up pitching reinforcements from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday.
Third-string catcher Jose Morales and infielder Trevor Plouffe were the only two players added to the roster by the Twins and they paid the price last night. Scott Baker left his start after two innings with elbow soreness and the Twins had several relievers unavailable because of minor maladies, so when both Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain blew leads in regulation the pitching choices got very strange.
Crain pitched for the 21st time in 34 games–which is an arm-wrecking 101-appearance pace–and was allowed to throw a season-high 40 pitches after never being used for even 30 pitches before. After running him into the ground the Twins then turned to Brian Duensing for two innings despite the fact that he just threw 103 pitches in a start Tuesday. And then they brought in Nick Blackburn, who was scheduled to start tonight.
Obviously teams don’t plan for 13-inning games in which their starter departs after two innings, but if the Twins had simply called up a few pitchers from Triple-A when rosters expanded Wednesday none of that would have been an issue and they wouldn’t have overworked Crain and Duensing while screwing up the rotation for the next week. Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, Pat Neshek, Rob Delaney, and Anthony Swarzak are all on the 40-man roster and could have been added to the bullpen two days earlier.
Instead the Twins added zero pitching reinforcements, blew out the entire pitching staff in a 13-inning loss, and are now planning to call up various fresh arms for tonight’s game. In fact, the rotation is so screwed up now that they’re adding 27-year-old Matt Fox to the 40-man roster just so he can make his big-league debut starting tonight against the first-place Rangers. Without last night’s disaster there’s a decent chance Fox never pitches in the majors. Good for him, bad for the Twins.
And it all could have been avoided by simply expanding the roster on September 1.

  1. ThatGuy - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Aaron, any idea why they are not just pitching Pavano tonight? He last pitched sunday so it would be on 5 days rest, which is fairly normal rest.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    Could somebody explain WHY a team wouldn’t bring up a bunch of extra guys to have 40 available…especially the teams who are in the playoff race? Is it being cheap? Keeping service-time down? What am I missing?

  3. Twinsfn343 - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    wonder if butera will catch tonight, both he and Fox played together at UCF…

  4. MN Boise Fan - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    CF- Service time isn’t a factor for a september call up if I remember correctly.
    Twins 343 – I’d have no problem with Butera catching tonight, but that means he’d be catching two days in a row since Pavano pitches saturday. Mauer could DH those two days I suppose, but that means 2 days of no Thome. My solution would be to tell Mauer we really need him to take one for the team for two days and play 1B, Cuddy to RF and Repko to the bench. Desperate times (no Morneau and Kubel) call for desperate measures (Mauer at 1B) in my opinion.
    Mostly, I agree with AG. No excuse to not have at least Slama, Neshek and Burnett on the plane with Morales and Plouffe on tuesday night/wednesday morning.

  5. gbbrady10 - Sep 3, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    at least it will be an easy look back to see where it went wrong after they miss the playoffs.

  6. Zidane Valor - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    They probably didn’t call up anyone because the Rochester Red Wings (Twins AAA affiliate) have the worst record in the International League (48-92) by 8 games under Lehigh Valley (56-84) and 17 games under three teams with 65 wins. The Red Wings have also lost 11 straight.
    Of course, I guess the extra bodies could have prevented the Twins from using starters in extra innings.

  7. Twinsfn343 - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:08 AM

    i dont expect Butera to catch just b/c they played together but b/c Mauer caught 13 innings last night. The fact that they have experience playing together is pretty interesting though (at least to me b/c I went there) I wonder how many times in MLB history former college batteries have reunited

  8. F. Amos - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Aaron needs to call them out. The Twins do this because they’re too cheap to pay the extra salary. While Aaron is right that they couldn’t have predicted last night’s Baker injury, everything else was predictable. When you’re fighting for your playoff lives, there is no excuse, other than stinginess, not to add one or two arms in the bullpen in order to give your established relievers a breather every now and then.

  9. F. Amos - Sep 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Aaron needs to call them out. The Twins do this because they’re too cheap to pay the extra salary. While Aaron is right that they couldn’t have predicted last night’s Baker injury, everything else was predictable. When you’re fighting for your playoff lives, there is no excuse, other than stinginess, not to add one or two arms in the bullpen in order to give your established relievers a breather every now and then.

  10. avg joe - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Isn’t this post Aaron “calling them out?” I’m not sure what else he can do, aside from holding a press conference in his living room.

  11. doctorfunke - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    You keep dreamin’, obvious Sox fan.

  12. minnesconsin_ad - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    very frustrating situation, and now you’re basically giving a game away to TX tonight. I wish it would rain, even an extra day would be pretty huge.
    I wish the Twins had put a claim on Lily last week. It boggles my mind that the Yankees were the highest priority team to place a claim on the guy. Just insane. For the most part, the Twins starting pitching has been pretty good of late, projecting a Pavano/Liriano/Duensing rotation for the playoffs. But Duensing has proven he can pitch from the pen too. a Lily/Pavano/Liriano trio would’ve looked damned good to me.

  13. doctorfunke - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    Wow, what a dumb post. Not calling up extra pitchers has nothing to do with being cheap. Do you remember a couple of months back when they signed Mauer for $180 MILLION??. And what do you mean “everything else was predictable?” The fact that the defense with the least errors in the league would fail to turn three DPs? Or that one of the top 5 bullpens in the majors would have a bad night? Hardly predictable. This is a pitching staff that has been a part of a team that is leading its division by four games and is as many games over .500 as it has ever been. Ever. Yeah, we had a bad game, and yeah, it maybe could have been avoided. But these things happen and it will be fixed.
    Oh and I’m sure that the Twins make their decisions based off of what bloggers, writers and fans say. If that were the case, Cuddyer would be catching and Mauer would be playing center with Span as the third base coach.

  14. F. Amos - Sep 3, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    doctorstupid, did you not read the original post? You’re telling me that it’s not predictable when Crain was so overused he should have been unavailable, and Fuentes was out with a bad back? The bullpen was essentially two men short but they gambled that they wouldn’t need Crain. That seems predictable and avoidable to me. It might have been an acceptable gamble before September 1 when a move would have required demoting someone for a day, but with expanded rosters it makes no sense.
    And doc, if you can come up with a better explanation for this failure to call up pitchers, besides saving money, I’m all ears. There is no logical explanation for not having at least one extra pitcher even if only to use in late innings over the next few weeks when you’re down 8 runs or have a huge lead. I’m serious about this. Please explain why they wouldn’t want to carry at least one or two additional arms even if those guys pitched maybe 2 innings each in total for the entire month. What’s the reason if it’s not to save on their pro-rated major league salary? Please enlighten me.

  15. eminmn - Sep 3, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    It’s because I’m going to the game tomorrow and would be crushed to NOT see Pavano and his ‘stache out on the mound. ; ) Actually, I’m sure Pavano (and Frankie, too I’m sure) just prefers to stay on a consistent schedule. With Slowey looking to come back, this just might make the most sense, even if it doesn’t look like it right now.

  16. doctorfunke - Sep 3, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    There’s no way that they could have predicted that their starter would only go two innings. That is the only reason that they were in that mess in the first place. If Baker gets through 5, then after that they still have THREE other options besides Crain and Guerrier. Those two were only brought in as an emergency, just like Duensing and Blackburn. If Baker doesn’t get hurt, then this never happens. That is hardly the front offices’ fault.
    And regarding not calling anyone up, I read that there weren’t any pitchers that were available because of recent activity, and also because they weren’t able to get to Minneapolis in time anyways because Rochester was traveling. But somehow you have to blame a front office that is spending close to $100 million dollars on payroll for being cheap.

  17. Son of Shane Mack - Sep 3, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    I can’t tell if you’re sarcastic or not. I’m assuming it is. Like you said, the Red Wings are in last place. They will finish in last place. If they lose Neshak, Burnett, Slama, Delaney, and Swarzak to the big club, they’ll finish in last place. If the keep those guys, they’ll still finish in last place.
    The whole purpose of minor league baseball clubs is to train and furnish the big club with players. So, why not bring up those guys???
    I assumed that the Twins had extra arms in the bullpen when I tuned in during the middle of the game. I had to go check the beat writer’s blogs to see that they in fact did not bring any pitcher’s up.
    After Billy Smith and the rest of the front office’s shrewd moves over the past year or so, I’m baffled by this totally boneheaded oversight.
    Of course, no PLANS for a 13 inning game or the starter going only 2 innings. But it’s September 1st – you make sure you have extra pitching so you’re main guys DON’T get burned out.
    Elementary, dear Watson.
    Good grief.

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