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Updated: March 1st, 2013 6:52pm
Twins prefer three lefties in bullpen, but not if righties are better

Twins prefer three lefties in bullpen, but not if righties are better

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For a team that has lost nearly 200 games combined the last two seasons, the Minnesota Twins are actually sitting pretty well with their bullpen.

With lefties Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing, and right-hander Jared Burton, the backend of the 'pen is already set. Perkins has turned into one of the better closers in baseball, Burton's changeup proved virtually unhittable for most of last year, and Duensing, when used sparingly against powerful right-handed bats, has been effective as well.

Behind those three, the Twins will keep four more relievers, and according to general manager Terry Ryan, it doesn't matter if all four turn out to be right-handed.

"We have a boatload of guys, especially from the right side," Ryan said. "From the left side it's basically Duensing and (Tyler) Robertson, (Caleb) Thielbar and maybe (Pedro) Hernandez. That right side, we've got a bunch of guys. ... You prefer the best 12. ...

"It would be great if you could have three quality lefties out there. That would really give you a lot of balance, but nobody is going to take a lefty just because he throws left-handed if there's a better righty sitting out there."

Right-hander Alex Burnett seems to have solid job security after posting a 3.52 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 71 2/3 innings last year, although his 4.52 strikeouts per nine were among the fewest of any pitcher in baseball.

Right-hander Casey Fien also impressed last year, posting a 2.06 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only nine walks in 35 innings.

Righty Anthony Swarzak has been an innings-eater over the past couple seasons, but his spring routine has been pushed back weeks due to damaged ribs.

Most of the other realistic right-handed bullpen candidates are newbies.

Josh Roenicke was claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies this offseason, much to the chagrin of former Twin Michael Cuddyer, who has texted his former colleagues raving about Roenicke.

Roenicke has been a strikeout-per-inning guy at almost every level, including the majors, when allowed to pitch an inning at a time, but the Twins could use him in a long role much like the Rockies did last year.

Wood has fared poorly in 58 career major league innings, posting a 4.50 ERA, walking more batters (33) than he has struck out. But at Triple-A Indianapolis last year, Wood posted a 2.19 ERA with 67 strikeouts and only 23 walks in 70 innings.

"We signed Wood to a major league deal for a reason," Ryan said. "We liked what we saw in the International League last year in the Pittsburgh organization."

Rich Harden could also be a bullpen candidate by the end of March, as is Rule-5 pick Ryan Pressly.

It's worth noting that Wood, Roenicke and Swarzak are all out of minor league options.

So, if the season started this week, it's likely the Twins' bullpen would be lefties Perkins and Duensing, and righties Burton, Burnett, Fien, Roenicke and Wood.

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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