The Minnesota Twins were quiet buyers at the trade deadline and wound up sending a pair of lottery ticket pitching prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for veteran relief pitcher Kevin Jepsen.
Minnesota wasn’t getting any help from their bullpen heading into the deadline and the unit was especially having issues with getting right handed hitters out. While Jepsen isn’t one of these All-Star stoppers in the late innings, he definitely filled a need and helped stretch out the Twins bullpen.
But this wasn’t the case in his first outing with Minnesota as Jepsen took the loss in an 11-inning battle with the Seattle Mariners on August 2nd. The 31-year-old walked two hitters and only managed to get one batter out as he was charged with two earned runs. This wasn’t an ideal debut but it was quickly put behind him as Jepsen and the Twins both moved on.
The veteran righty has been nearly perfect for the Twins since his forgettable outing against the Mariners, allowing no earned runs over seven outings; spanning 6.1 innings. First year manager finds himself Paul Molitor handing Jepsen the ball in high leverage situations, including the eighth inning in both of Minnesota’s back-to-back wins against the Cleveland Indians this weekend.
His success against the Indians is just an example of Jepsen going above and beyond what Minnesota expected of him after the pitching staff was suddenly bit by the injury bug. Trevor May, a starter turned relief man, has been the Twins eighth inning guy in recent weeks but was forced to make a spot start on Friday night because of an injury to Phil Hughes, making him unavailable in each of the team’s last two games. Fellow right-handed reliever Blaine Boyer, who leads the staff in appearances, was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation last week, which opens up a lot of out that Molitor needs to hand off to other guys in his bullpen.
While the move wasn’t flashy, it’s paying off for the Twins, who are just a game and a half behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot in the American League. Jepsen has been great for the past month and a half, dating back to his days in Tampa Bay. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 16 of his last 17 total appearances, allowing just seven hits over 14 innings.
Minnesota’s bullpen was once a weakness, but in time it will be turned into a strength. May will re-assume his role as a relief pitcher and be available to pitch as soon as tomorrow night and Boyer is expected to return next week when the team is in Tampa Bay. With Jepsen pitching as well as he is, it suddenly won’t be that hard for the bullpen to get a few big outs before handing the ball off to American League saves leader Glen Perkins in the ninth inning.