Twins search for pitching begins with trio of relievers
By BRIAN HALL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) While baseball's offseason crawls along waiting for a logjam of free agents to clear, Minnesota Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey remains fluid in trying to improve the team's pitching staff.
Waiting out decisions by the top starters on the market, Falvey turned his sights to the bullpen, where Minnesota was tied for 20th in the majors in relief ERA (4.40) last season while making its surprise run to the American League wild-card game.
As one of the more active teams in free agency, the Twins signed three relievers for a total of $23.4 million guaranteed in closer Fernando Rodney, left-hander Zach Duke and right-hander Addison Reed over the past month.
"You don't know, really, where things are going to go sometimes," Falvey said Friday as Minnesota began its annual fan festival at Target Field, with Rodney and Duke in attendance. "So, the way we looked at it was, let's find a way to augment our pitching. Ultimately, that could come in the starting rotation, that could come in the bullpen, but we knew we could upgrade."
Minnesota made Rodney its closer in mid-December with a $4.5 million, one-year contract that includes a $4.25 million team option for 2019. Just 10 days later, Duke agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.15 million. This week, Reed became the third and most-expensive piece on a $16.75 million, two-year contract.
"Rodney's done it for a long time," Duke said. "Addison Reed, he's another one. When he's locked in, he's as good as they come. That cutter-slider combo he throws is tough.
"I think the opportunity right now is there for us to really match up well and lock down some games. That's the key for us. Get the ball to the closer. Make sure that the score stays the same, so that the closer can do his job."
Twins manager Paul Molitor has a bullpen filled with experience after a season in which he mixed and matched veteran Matt Belisle - who is a free agent - with 26-year-olds in Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey.
"It definitely changes the dynamic of how we can go about our business," Molitor said. "People talk a lot about winning the games you're supposed to win, and hopefully at a very high percentage. I think a lot of teams and the movement in the market this winter all attest to the fact that people are trying to protect games that are going your way."
Even after signing Reed, who has 125 saves in seven major league seasons, Rodney will be the closer to start his 16th season. Rodney, who turns 41 on March 18, had 39 saves in 45 chances last season for Arizona.
Rodney found what he was looking for in Minnesota, particularly the chance to keep closing.
"Come to Minnesota, they say they're looking for a closer, a guy who can help the bullpen in the ninth inning," he said.
Falvey said he's still hoping to sign a starter and he sees "between five and 10 starting pitchers out there maybe that could still impact us."
The Twins are investing in pitching, with the support of owner Jim Pohlad. Falvey said he doesn't see any salary limitations if he was to approach Pohlad with a possible deal.
"It's definitely continuing and even more so because when they come with that recommendation, it's so much more of a deep recommendation because of the additions that they've made to their staff," Pohlad said of his continued commitment.
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Updated January 20, 2018