Twins bullpen starting to come together

Twins bullpen starting to come together

MINNEAPOLIS -- When several members of the bullpen went down in Spring Training with injuries, the Twins were scrambling to find the right balance.

Now, nearly two months into the season, it looks as though the bullpen is starting to come together.

Jose Mijares is back on the 25-man roster and has had two good outings this week. He made appearances on both Thursday and Friday and allowed only one hit in that time. Manager Ron Gardenhire said this is what the Twins expected from Mijares all along.

"We said that all along that we had to get him healthy and throwing the ball," Gardenhire said. "We lose [Joe] Nathan and then there's Mijares who's iffy and not being where he's supposed to be. That's two parts of your bullpen that aren't there. We got one piece back, and he's throwing the ball really well."

Since the Twins can't use Mijares every night, they'll continue to turn to left-hander Brian Duensing in late-inning spots as well. Gardenhire said Duensing is special since he has the right combination of pitches to come into the game as a starter or out of the bullpen. The Twins have been trying to stretch him out, but aren't afraid to use him in short situations either.

The Twins expect to use Duensing in Saturday's game since Mijares pitched in both of the past two games. Duensing has not made an appearance since starting the second half of their suspended game against the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon.

With Nathan out for the season after having Tommy John surgery, Jon Rauch has been effective in the closer role for the Twins. After Friday's game, pitching coach Rick Anderson said he has seen improvements in Rauch's delivery.

Anderson said in recent outings -- including a blown save and a loss in his past two outings -- that Rauch was flying off the mound after releasing the ball, sometimes so bad that it looked like he was "running to first base." However, after Rauch recorded a save in Friday's game, Anderson said it was some of the best pitching he had seen the right-hander do in awhile.

"I thought tonight was the best he's thrown in a while," Anderson said after Friday's 2-1 win over the Rangers. "He had angle, and his pitches were outstanding. You see the different demeanor tonight. He looked calm and then you look the other night and he's falling all over the place."