Monday's Mail (4.12.21): Roster Decisions, Dobnak Usage and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Welcome back to a weekly edition at Access Twins called “Monday’s Mail.” If you’d like to be involved, there are a few ways you can do so:
Tweet @brandon_warne or @accesstwins with the hashtag #askBW
if Twitter isn’t your thing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Monday Mailbag”
Watch for sporadic Facebook posts asking for questions
Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:
We’ll try to start this out on a positive note, as there is a fair amount of fan angst in the Twins Twitterverse as of this writing.
It’s always going to be hard to find consistent work for relievers — and that’s even more so true for the de facto long guy in the ‘pen. The Twins have played six of their nine games with a margin of two runs or fewer, with Randy Dobnak pitching in one of them — when he took the loss on Opening Day.
Beyond that, he’s worked just once — in the team’s 15-6 blowout win over Detroit a week ago — and he got up but not into Sunday’s game, an 8-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
The path to consistent work might be separating J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker in the rotation. Both look to me like they’ll be five-and-dive guys this year, leaving Dobnak a couple of innings as the bridge to the end-of-the-game quartet. However, Dobnak can’t do that more often than probably twice in a five-game span, and certainly not on back-to-back days.
The postponement on Monday would potentially give the Twins the option to do this. Happ was slated to start on Monday, so the Twins could in theory find a way to skip him — but that doesn’t feel ideal with the need to build up his innings after a COVID-altered spring training.
So this is the long way of saying Dobnak is kind of biding his time for a shot in the rotation, and in the meantime, he’s going to kind of get the rotation scraps — which seems like a really crappy way of saying what he means to the team, which is a lot.
For reference, this is what Paul is hinting at:
This is a pretty good synopsis, however, of where Twins Twitter is with this 5-4 start. The Twins have been in all nine games — you can call it a 5-1-3 start if you’re a hockey fan, I guess — and have probably done more to lose those games than they have to win them.
But in reality, the Twins are still the most talented team in the division and possibly the American League, and even though 5-4 doesn’t seem great, it’s still a winning percentage that, over the course of a full season, would result in a 90-win season.
I don’t think you can rule it out, but there are just so many moving parts here. Does Josh Donaldson ever get on track health-wise? Does Miguel Sano ever start swinging the bat well? If one or both of those never happens, we might be looking at a situation where Luis Arraez has all he can handle at third base with Alex Kirilloff and/or Mitch Garver siphoning starts at first base.
The short answer is that I’m not sure it’s a legit concern. The longer answer — including what I’ve already noted — is that I think Polanco could find himself on the short end of that timeshare if he doesn’t get his swing back. Nobody is asking him to replicate 2019, but from 2019 until this very second, he’s hit .278/.336/.440, which would be more than passable for everyday work at second base.
I think his swing is still a little wonky from last year, and those things can be hard to work out. I think he eventually will, and we might be looking at an inverted 2019 where Polanco’s better in the second half as opposed to the first.
But if everyone is playing well, that’s also a good problem to have.
I know this is partially tongue in cheek and in response to Sunday’s result, but the answer is a long, long time.
Friend of the program Jeremy Maschino — a pitching guru and someone you should follow on Twitter here — had this to say about Colome’s early-season woes.
“Colome’s success going forward will be determined by his willingness to throw fastballs up in the zone.
Colome’s fastball has 17.8 inches of spin-induced carry, which by itself is very impressive. Major league average currently howevers around 15.5 inches. Colome also sits around 93-95 mph which is around a tick above major-league average.
Given that he has high carry and above-average velocity, he should be throwing up in the zone. Batters will swing under his fastball as it will be much harder to get on plane with. Any fastball low in the zone allows hitters to match the plane of the baseball much easier, resulting in harder contact and less optimal results.”
From my standpoint, Colome is basically the present-day David Robertson. He’s never posted a full-season ERA above 4.00, and has pretty much always put up good peripherals. He’s going to get a long bit of runway before his roster spot is in any jeopardy, though he might be fourth in the pecking order in terms of leverage.
That, however, sometimes means working the ninth inning because guys like Hansel Robles or Taylor Rogers worked earlier/tighter spots.
Manager Rocco Baldelli is not going to ever employ a traditional closer in the sense that many fans have become accustomed to, and when it goes sideways like it did on Sunday, some grumbling is inevitable.
Much faster than Colome, anyway. Cave has an option left, and as this point looks like the odd man out whenever Kirilloff makes his much-anticipated regular-season debut.
Kyle Garlick has been doing exactly what the Twins hoped when they carved out a role for him. He’d make a strong right-side platoon partner for Kirilloff if they opt to shield him from lefties — not likely, but could happen — but nevertheless, Garlick is fulfilling his specific role better than pretty much anyone on the bench right now.
So while they wouldn’t DFA Cave per se, he could be much closer to the roster merry-go-round than one might like from a player with his service time.
He’s probably a week or 10 days from losing playing time, I think. It’s a really, really frigid start, and I do think the Twins could also even use Willians Astudillo at first — or maybe even Garlick, who has a little minor-league experience there — in addition to the Garver and Kirilloff suggestions I made earlier in this piece.
I don’t think it means the Twins will abandon Sano in any sense, but rather just try to move him through these struggles in a different way as opposed to just swinging his way through it by playing every day.