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Updated: September 28th, 2013 10:31pm
Despite rough September, bullpen registers as a bright spot for Twins

Despite rough September, bullpen registers as a bright spot for Twins

by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins will have to win on Sunday to avoid their first 20-loss month since September of 2011, when the club went 13-41 from Aug. 1 on en route to the first of these past three 90-loss seasons.

But even amidst a trying season, there have been moments and individual seasons which provide hope.

The bullpen has been fantastic for the Twins all season long, and it has been relied on heavily as the club has racked up 572 1/3 relief innings through Friday night. That's the most in baseball by nearly 25 frames. That also amounts to nearly 3 2/3 innings pitched on an average night for the most used bullpen in baseball.

And as a result, it's not surprising that despite solid full season numbers, the 'pen has begun to wear down a bit late in the season. Overall, the bullpen has a collective 3.52 ERA, good for 14th among 30 big league teams. That includes a 5.03 September ERA, which was fourth-worst in baseball. It's been a good, healthy unit, but it'll need help in terms of innings from its starters for next year to be better.

But as assistant general manager Rob Antony said before Friday night's game, it's not many teams who have their bullpen as the standout unit across the board. And in that respect, the season has been a struggle.

The offense struggled up and down the lineup, with disappointing seasons from Ryan Doumit, Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe, and before he departed, Justin Morneau. In fact, as sad as it sounds, one of the highlights has been Josmil Pinto's September. It's been that kind of season.

After all, this is a team with set the franchise's all-time strikeout record with a full month remaining in the season.

But the one standout from this offense -- aside from Joe Mauer having his standard solid season -- has been the continued development of Brian Dozier. One year ago, he was sitting at home having not received a September call-up.

Fast forward to this season and Dozier has spent most of the year among the top-five second basemen in the American League (using Wins Above Replacement or pretty much any other statistical measure).

So good has Dozier been at second that the club is moving touted prospect Eddie Rosario back to the outfield.

And whether it has been with his bat -- .243/.311/.414 in a year where the second baseman average is .260/.319/.376 -- his glove, or his emergence as an all-around solid player, Dozier is one player the Twins brass could hang their hat on as a positive development in 2013.

Unfortunately, there haven't been enough.

Notes

* Twins GM Terry Ryan said Josmil Pinto had a bruised right hand, but that he could likely be good to go for Sunday's season finale. Pinto was hit by a Corey Kluber pitch in the fourth inning of Friday's 12-6 loss. Pinto has enjoyed a phenomenal cup of coffee with the Twins, hitting .342/.398/.566 with four home runs and 12 RBI through 21 games (83 PA).

*Twins bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar keeps detailed records of which pitchers warm up when, in terms of frequency and intensity. And according to manager Ron Gardenhire, an intense warm-up session can be considered the same as an in-game relief outing when it comes to how he'll decide which pitchers to use or back off from on any given day.    

* Indians DH Jason Giambi left Saturday's game with a left forearm cramp. He is day-to-day. It's likely he and former Twin Jason Kubel are jockeying for one possible spot as a bench bat for a potential Indians playoff roster. With one game remaining in the season, the Indians are in sole possession of the first wild card spot in the American League.

* Cole De Vries had a trying season. The Eden Prairie native won a rotation spot out of spring training before a right forearm injury shelved him until early May. Upon returning, De Vries pitched relatively poorly in the minors (4.96 ERA, 1.44 WHIP). In that sense, his September call-up can be considered a possible send-off as there's a real chance he'll be removed from the 40-man roster this fall. With Saturday's effort -- five innings, five earned runs -- De Vries' season will end with a 10.80 ERA in just 15 major league innings this year.

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
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