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Updated: July 2nd, 2010 10:54pm
Pelissero: With Slama and Waldrop dealing, will Twins give them a shot?

Pelissero: With Slama and Waldrop dealing, will Twins give them a shot?

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ron Gardenhire opted for subtlety, some humor even, but his position was clear.

Yes, he's seen at Anthony Slama's numbers at Class-AAA Rochester. Yes, he's seen Kyle Waldrop's too.

And yes, both bullpen prospects are throwing like guys ready to make their big-league debuts -- perhaps helping a team chasing a pennant this summer.

"What can I do about it?" Gardenhire said before Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"They're not on the roster, and I don't make the roster decisions. If it's deemed necessary that we get 'em up here and they're better than what we have, then we'll try to do that."

Slama, 26, has a 1.39 earned-run average, 15 saves and 51 strikeouts over 45 1/3 innings as the Red Wings' closer.

Waldrop, 24, has a 1.02 ERA in 53 innings and hasn't allowed an earned run since May 23.

"It's been talked about -- more than once," Gardenhire said. "You know there's way more involved in that."

And one obvious factor is the money the Twins would have to pay to the obvious candidates -- or is it candidate? -- to be dropped from the bullpen if someone gets promoted.

By no means is the Twins' bullpen in dire need of help. It entered Friday night ranked first in walks per nine innings (2.54), second in ERA (2.83) and third in walks and hits per innings pitched (1.16).

But if there's one thing Rochester seems ready to offer the Twins, it's relief pitching, so it's no surprise there's interest in seeing what the top arms can do against big-league hitters.

Gardenhire was even more direct earlier Friday, when asked during his weekly appearance on 1500 ESPN whether Slama has caught his eye.

"He's caught mine for sure," Gardenhire said. "We've talked about him. He keeps throwing like that, and hopefully, we'll find some room for that young man. He's definitely winging it down there, and I think it's about time where he can help us."

Waldrop, meanwhile, is a former first-round pick (25th overall in 2004) who has two more years of minor-league experience than Slama, a 39th-round flyer in 2006.

Both are big right-handers -- Waldrop stands 6-foot-4, Slama 6-3 -- and either could be an option if the Twins decide to replace, say, veteran left-hander Ron Mahay in the coming months.

Mahay didn't allow an earned run in his first 11 appearances this season but has a 7.11 ERA since. Perhaps more telling, the Twins have lost the past 11 games in which Mahay has pitched and 15 of the past 16 -- a sign he's one of the last options in winnable games.

Gardenhire gave him a shot on Thursday night with the score tied and two runners on base in the seventh inning. Mahay promptly threw a chest-high fastball in an 0-1 count, and Carl Crawford ripped it to center for a go-ahead single.

"We brought him in to spin the ball and he threw fastballs, and that's just a mental mistake by our pitcher," Gardenhire said. "He knew that going in. But when he uses his breaking ball, Mahay has done very well at getting specific left-handers out."

Well enough for the Twins to keep three lefties in the pen and leave two promising righties at Class-AAA?

Perhaps until Sept. 1, when it won't cost the Twins a dime to quietly divert Mahay's work to late-season call-ups. Even then, though, they'd have to make a tough personnel decision -- neither Slama nor Waldrop is on the 40-man roster.

A night after Mahay gave the Rays the lead, Jon Rauch blew a save and Matt Guerrier took the loss, Brian Duensing and Jesse Crain escaped Friday's eighth inning and Rauch left two on in the ninth to close a 2-1 win over the Rays.

The Twins' bullpen isn't broken. The numbers back that up.

But as Gardenhire knows, the numbers also say Slama and Waldrop may be ready to make an impact this year -- if the Twins give them a shot.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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