First-year manager Paul Molitor has gone with an eight-man bullpen for over a month now, leaving the Minnesota Twins with just three available bench players on a regular night.
It’s an interesting concept and the Twins have the pieces to make it work because so many of their players can play multiple positions. Because of this, they never need to dig deep into their bench when guys need a night off. But with so many pitchers in the bullpen, a lot of them are being wasted away and not getting much action on the hill, which is why the Twins need to scrap the idea of an eight-man bullpen.
Last night’s 7-2 win over the Chicago Cubs marked the third win in a row for Minnesota. Molitor has only needed to use four relief pitchers during the winning streak and none of his bullpen arms have been used twice, including closer Glen Perkins. Only Blaine Boyer has been used twice out of the bullpen in the team’s last four games dating back to the Twins’ most recent loss.
Phil Hughes cruised through eight innings last night in under 100 pitches and many fans would have loved to see him come out in the final inning and go for the complete game, but with a big lead in hand, Minnesota brought in J.R. Graham to finish. Graham hadn’t pitched in any of the Twins last five games and had only pitched twice since filling in as a spot starter on June 6. But he isn’t the only Twins reliever struggling to get innings on the mound. Lefty Brian Duensing has appeared just once in Minnesota’s last five games, and righty Michael Tonkin has appeared in just one of their last six.
There has to be an better way for Molitor and the Twins to use the final roster spot, and with a number of bats in the minor leagues dubbed Major League ready, there are options on the table. Centerfielder Aaron Hicks is currently on the 15-day disabled list with an forearm injury and there should be no doubt that he’ll get a roster spot back when he returns. Minnesota also has a number of hot bats in Double-A and Triple-A who are knocking on the door of the Major League level.