The Twins A, B, and C options in the bullpen haven’t exactly panned out this spring, so yesterday Ron Gardenhire announced that they’re skipping straight to option K.
There is only one pitcher in the Twins farm system who deserves the letter that denotes a strikeout, and that’s Francisco Liriano. Last year he struck out 33 batters in the 23.2 innings as a September call-up. And 112 batters in 91 innings in Rochester before that. And 92 batters in 76.2 innings in New Britain before that. For the mathematically challenged, that’s 237 strikeouts, which nearly matches the 238 strikeouts that Johan Santana rang up.
Oh, and Liriano’s just 22 years old.
So there isn’t a lot of point debating whether Option K belongs in The Show. He would be starting for at least 80% of the other teams in the major leagues, though it appears he won’t have that role for the Twins, given the depth of their starting rotation. Previously, it was thought that if he wasn’t starting in the majors, he would be starting in Rochester. That changed yesterday.
It changed because some of the Twins other options haven’t panned out. Faced with two open spots in the bullpen, they watched Gabe White retire, and they released Darrel May on Saturday. That essentially leaves minor leaguer Willie Eyre and southpaw Dennys Reyes, and there are plenty of questions about both. With Gardenhire’s announcement, it appears the Twins will move either Liriano or Scott Baker to fill one of those spots. It will probably be Liriano, in part because he’s left-handed, and in part because Baker earned that rotation spot last year and is viewed as more mature.
Some will get worked up about this decision one way or the other. Certainly, of the three options, having Liriano in the bullpen is probably the worst possible choice. Most appealing is Door 1, where they have him starting in the majors, developing into the overpowering talent they’ll need to win the division, or win in the playoffs. Door 2 is also a better option, where they send him back to Rochester, which keeps him working everyday while they delay his service time (and his price tag).
But the nice thing about this game show is that all of the prize packages are pretty damn nice. Door 3 gives the Twins a dominating arm the bullpen could use, and might need given the uncertainty about Juan Rincon’s health. It also gives Liriano the chance to show he belongs at this level, and to work everyday with pitching coach Rick Anderson.
But mostly, it gives Twins fans the chance to see one hell of a talented kid. It gives us, on any given night, the opportunity to watch the bullpen and see if the Twins will go with Option K.