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Updated: February 25th, 2012 3:16pm
Notebook: If Zumaya's injury is serious, it's unclear who'd step up

Notebook: If Zumaya's injury is serious, it's unclear who'd step up

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins won't know the extent of Joel Zumaya's right elbow discomfort until an MRI result comes in Sunday, but based on his storied injury history it's probably not too soon to start looking further down the depth chart at replacement options.

The Twins brought Zumaya in hoping he could stay healthy enough to pitch primarily in the seventh and eighth innings leading up to Glen Perkins and Matt Capps.

Including Zumaya, the Twins have 33 pitchers in camp, but not many of them currently profile as pitchers who could immediately step in and handle late-inning, high-leverage situations.

"We're looking for a guy like (Anthony) Swarzak to step up," said general manager Terry Ryan, who also added he doesn't plan to "overreact" yet to the Zumaya situation.

"We brought in a number of non-roster guys who have major league experience. ... (Jared) Burton's got some of that experience. ... I would like to think that (Brian) Duensing, Swarzak and (Alex) Burnett, they are capable."

Until games start next week, Ryan said it's difficult to evaluate many of the guys brought in this offseason and at the end of last year. Ryan did point to Lester Oliveros and Esmerling Vasquez as having live arms, but "marginal experience," and others in the organization are intrigued by Jason Bulger, Casey Fien, Jeff Gray and Matt Maloney.

But of all the pitchers mentioned above, only Duensing, Bulger, Vasquez, Swarzak and Burton have thrown more than 120 career innings in the major leagues. Most of Burton's came prior to 2010, and most of Bulger's came three seasons ago, in 2009.

It's possible one or two of these pitchers -- or more, if the Twins are fortunate -- could turn into serviceable bullpen guys.

However, there's a difference between a serviceable sixth-inning reliever and a reliever who can shut down top lineups in the seventh and eighth innings as a bridge to Matt Capps.

Zumaya, if healthy, can shut down good lineups.

"We have a lot of guys here with good arms," Ryan said. "I think that's a fair assessment. ...

"It's just a matter of if they step up and throw strikes and dominate innings down here (in spring training). You are going to have to do some things to make this ball club.''

Similar to last season, the Twins are throwing a slew of relief pitchers into a competition, hoping a few of them stick. Perkins was the only one who stuck in 2011.

As for possible free-agent options, the pickings are slim. The Twins had varying levels of interest this offseason in Dan Wheeler, Todd Coffey and others, but Coffey signed with the Dodgers and Wheeler signed a minor league deal with the Indians.

Quick hits

• Triple-A hitting instructor Tom Brunansky was on-hand Saturday overseeing batting practice on one of the side fields. Brunansky, who was promoted from Double-A this offseason, has built strong relationships with Brian Dozier, Joe Benson and others. He has received mostly rave reviews for his ability to teach and connect with young players. In his 14-year career, Brunansky hit .245/.327/.434 with 271 home runs (163 with the Twins).

• As the Twins attempt to get some guys used to playing multiple positions, Steve Pearce moved across the diamond from third base to first base on Friday. Brian Dozier came out early and fielded groundballs at second base, then switched back to shortstop for team infield drills. Pedro Florimon has played third base, shortstop and second base over the past two days.

Health report

• Zumaya will undergo an MRI Sunday to determine the extent of his right elbow discomfort. Zumaya exited his throwing session five minutes early on Saturday due to discomfort along the inside of his surgically repaired elbow.

• INF Luke Hughes (right shoulder) continued to take groundballs in team fielding drills, but he still isn't able to throw. Hughes said it's likely he'll be able to swing before he's able to throw.

• Asked about the status of right-hander Kyle Gibson (elbow), Ryan said, "He'll pitch this summer. I think we anticipate him pitching this summer. In fact, I don't think, I know." Ryan said it's too early to say which level Gibson will start at. "If we have to start him in A ball or in Double-A, I don't care where he starts, that's not important, actually it's where he ends up in the end. If he's 100 percent, we'll be very pleased about that, but yes, you can anticipate him pitching competitively this summer."

Numbers game

15: The approximate number of live pitches tracked by Justin Morneau, who went through his second straight full workout. Morneau stood in against right-handers Joel Zumaya and Terry Doyle.

5: Significant arm surgeries performed on Zumaya since 2007.

Overheard

"It's always fun to catch something like that."
-- Catcher Chris Herrmann, talking about catching Zumaya's fastball before the right-hander exited early.

On deck

Full-squad workouts continue on Sunday.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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