Usually reliable 'pen experiencing woes

Usually reliable 'pen having woes

DETROIT -- The Twins' bullpen has been one of their most reliable assets in recent seasons, but the first half of their current road trip hasn't exactly shown that to be the case.

In three losses to Boston this past week, Minnesota's 'pen posted a 25.50 ERA, giving up 17 earned runs in six innings.

"Our bullpen came in [to Boston] a little out of whack," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Thursday's game in Detroit. "We were really misfiring out of the bullpen and made a lot of bad pitches."

Some of those, Gardenhire pointed out, were to Boston slugger Manny Ramirez. He came into the series in a 2-for-19 slump, but went 6-for-13 (.462) with six RBIs in his three games against Minnesota.

"Manny wasn't swinging good," Gardenhire said. "If we stay in on his hands, he couldn't get the ball out of there. Then we start throwing him balls out and over, and we got him hot. It just amazed me that we missed so many pitches with our bullpen."

Although the total numbers for the 'pen were inflated after Wednesday's 18-5 loss got away from the club late in the game, the struggles also saw the Twins losing the first two contests in the eighth inning.

Minnesota has been trying to fill in the primary setup role since Pat Neshek went down with a right elbow injury in mid-May.

Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain have seen the majority of the time in that role, and Minnesota has also tried out Brian Bass during the series with the Red Sox.

Guerrier and Bass both had their hiccups during the series. Guerrier gave up three runs in the eighth inning to earn the loss Tuesday, and Bass gave up the game's only run Monday in the eighth. On Wednesday, with the Twins trailing, 9-5, Bass gave up five runs on six hits over 1 1/3 innings.

But Gardenhire said that the struggles by Guerrier in that type of situation were rare.

"He's normally under pretty good control," Gardenhire said. "He was just really missing, and he was missing bad. The home run to Manny was off the plate away, and he threw that ball right down the middle. That's not like him at all. I just think a little too much excitement and [he was] overamped probably."

There is a possibility that the Twins could look outside for another late-inning specialist before the July 31 Trade Deadline. Although Minnesota has been known to be quiet in July, there have been indications that the team might be interested in adding an extra arm to the bullpen. The problem is that those options on the market are limited.

Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt is expected to be shopped around, but he's having a down season -- posting a 6.30 ERA in 41 appearances this season. Colorado left-hander Brian Fuentes is also being discussed as a potential trade piece, but so far the reported asking price for the lefty has been steep.

The Twins' bullpen still has a combined ERA of just 3.96 on the season entering Thursday, and Minnesota is 40-4 when holding a lead after seven innings -- so the team isn't growing concerned just yet.

"Overall, I don't think it's been bad," Gardenhire said of his bullpen. "We've just had some really bad blowups."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.