The Minnesota Twins bullpen struggled for most of the 2015 season and it ulitmently became one of the big reasons why the club fell just shy of the second American League wild card spot.
From all the games given away by Tim Stauffer, Brian Duensing and Caleb Thielbar in April with a combined monthly ERA of 7.46 to Aaron Thompson‘s 7.50 ERA from May though his demotion in early July following a fast start, Minnesota just couldn’t rely on the middle relievers in the early part of the season. The injury bug also bit them early on when Casey Fien wound up with a stint on the 15-day disabled list in May. Things then took a turn for the worse in the second half when All-Star closer Glen Perkins became a completely new man – in a bad way – when neck and back injuries made him a very unreliable option out of the bullpen.
But there are some reasons to believe that the Twins bullpen could be turned into an asset going forward as the team continues to blossom behind a talented, young core. A healthy Perkins along with Kevin Jepsen, who was a force after Minnesota acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline, is surly a great feeling when it comes to the back of the bullpen and they have a number of pitchers like Fien and Duensing who have proven over the years to be capable middle relievers. The Twins surely have all the pieces to be a decent bullpen, but they’ll want more than decent and 26-year-old Ryan Pressly is a forgotten asset who can really help them out.
Pressly, acquired as a 2012 Rule 5 draft pick out of the Boston Red Sox system, was lost for the season in early July with a right lat strain after making 27 appearances out of the bullpen and posting a strong 2.93 ERA. If this is an injury he comes back from at full force, then the Minnesota Twins should be all smiles as he was just beginning to show how good of a pitcher he really is.
Coming off a 2014 season where he posted a 2.86 ERA, Pressly had continued to look good at the Major League level and had even beefed up his strikeout rate from 4.4 per nine innings to 7.2. His last eight outings before the injury were some of his best of his Major League career and he only allowed one earned run over those appearances. While he still might not be looked on as an eighth or ninth inning guy by manager Paul Molitor, Pressly has proven that he is more than capable of handling any middle relief duties if healthy.
His strikeout rate is the biggest factor in Pressly being a key force in the 2016 Twins bullpen. Perkins and J.R. Graham, who fell apart late in the season and posted an 8.74 ERA after the All-Star break, were the only two Minnesota pitchers with at least 35 appearances out of the bullpen to finish with over six strikeouts per nine innings.
It’s easy to see that the club needs capable strikeout arms out in the bullpen and that’s exactly what Pressly can do. Recovering from any injury is difficult and bouncing back from one that made you miss the final 80 games of a season is even harder, but there were a lot of good reports on Pressly towards the end of the season and he should get a real look in Spring Training when it comes to being handed a key role in the bullpen for Opening Day next April.