Twins Claim Breslow
First, in case you hadn't heard, the Twins claimed lefty reliever Craig Breslow off waivers from the Indians, and he will join the team before tomorrow's game against the Yankees. Since the team's 40-man roster was filled up after adding Howie Clark and Sergio Santos over the last few weeks, the Twins had to transfer Pat Neshek from the 15-Day DL to the 60-Day DL. Breslow will almost certainly be replacing reliever Bobby Korecky on the active roster. Korecky is the only pitcher in the bullpen who can be optioned to Rochester, making him the logical choice to go down.
Breslow is an interesting claim. Most obviously, he gives the Twins a second lefty out of the bullpen, which should put a little less stress on Dennys Reyes and should give the Twins a chance to mix and match a bit more with the 'pen late in close games. If you look at Breslow's career ERA, it's not bad -- 2.95 at the big league level, including 3.24 in 8.1 innings with the Indians this season. Unfortunately, Breslow also has a very high WHIP of 1.66 for his career and 1.80 this season. That suggests that at some point, that ERA will start to rise. Another factor on the plus side is that at least at the minor league level he strikes out a lot of guys while keeping his walks down, which is usually indicative of a guy who has good stuff. Breslow will turn 28 in August, so he should be in peak condition, and hopefully can add something to the Twins bullpen. While I don't think Breslow's addition will make or break the Twins season, I do think it was a reasonably good pickup.
I do have to say, however, that I feel pretty bad for Bobby Korecky. This kid pitched his heart out over his last few appearances, establishing at least in the short term that he could be just as effective as the more established relievers (*ahem* Juan Rincon *ahem*) around him. He basically got caught in a numbers squeeze, and because of where he is in his career (i.e. he has options available), he is the guy getting shipped out.
There is an interesting consequence to this that has not been touched on by the Twins website or the Strib as of this writing, however. We know that Scott Baker is going to be ready to come back in the middle of next week (barring a setback). We also are 90% sure that Boof Bonser is headed to the bullpen when that happens. The wrench in the works now, though, is that there isn't an easy corresponding roster move available to make room for Baker to rejoin the team. With Korecky presumably shipping out to Rochester, the Twins will be forced to either part ways with a current reliever or do something creative with the rotation.
The first option seems to be for the Twins to waive one of the current relievers. Many fans have been shouting for them to do this to Juan Rincon for awhile now, and certainly that could happen. With Rincon making a fair amount of money and with an ERA of 4.30, however, my guess is that Rincon isn't going anywhere -- but it's only a guess. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Rincon disappeared, ultimately. The other option here is probably Brian Bass. Bass had a few good moments with the team, but the bottom line is that (following that horrid performance in Detroit), his ERA is now sitting at 5.74 and his WHIP is 1.76. He also largely becomes expendable with Boof in the bullpen, because Bonser would pretty much be taking his "long relief" role. To me, that makes Bass the most likely choice to be waived when Baker is activated and Boof is sent to the 'pen.
Of course, there are a few other, more creative (and therefore less likely) options. The easiest would be for the Twins to waive Bonser, thus avoiding the need for a corresponding roster move. I think I've made myself fairly clear over the last few days -- I don't think Bonser is worth all that much to this team. My preference would be to keep him around, simply because I don't like giving up pieces for nothing, and because there is still a chance that Bonser could turn his career around. Nonetheless, I wouldn't spend much time crying about this if the Twins pulled the trigger (at least, until he put on another uniform and crushed us a la Sidney Ponson).
Another option would be for the Twins to send down a different starter who still had options left. That pretty much would have to be either Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn, and that's not likely. Blackburn's 3.39 ERA led the team's starters before tonight, and he's simply pitched too well to go down. Slowey may have been an option before he pitched tonight, but he now has a 3.37 ERA and, like Blackburn, seems to be doing quite well in the big leagues, thank you very much. This isn't really the same situation as with Korecky, either -- true, Korecky has come up big in his last few outings, but to be honest he hasn't pitched all that much. Blackburn and Slowey have more established track records in the big leagues. While sending one of these guys down and keeping both Bonser and Baker in the rotation would solve the personnel problem, then, it would do so in a strange way that ultimately would leave the team much worse off. The chances of this happening are virtually nil.
Finally, and perhaps least likely, the Twins could expand to 13 pitchers. There was a time when the Twins were loath to carry even 12 pitchers, but that has been the norm this season. It's no longer unheard of for a team to carry 13 guys, either -- I remember the Tigers being one of the first teams to do it, but several other teams have gone with 13 for stretches of time. To make this work, the team would probably have to sacrifice an infielder, and with Nick Punto set to replace Howie Clark on the roster this Saturday, the most likely candidate to go down to make room for Baker would be Matt Macri. I don't think I need to spend too much time pointing out how short-handed this would leave the team in the infield, and how much it would handcuff any in game strategy. Even though such considerations are less important in the AL than the NL, they still figure in. This possibility seems too remote to consider seriously -- the Twins just aren't the kind of team to carry 13 pitchers.
It will be interesting to watch over the next week or so as all of this sorts itself out. My guess is that Brian Bass is in his last days as a Twin (and I'm not judging whether that's good or bad, just saying that I think it's likely).