My biggest complaint about Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli in his five years in Minneapolis is his use of the bullpen and it reared its ugly head again Tuesday night in Chicago.
Twins starter Joe Ryan is cruising through six innings having giving up one hit, two walks while striking out seven with Minnesota up 1-0. Ryan is pulled before the seventh at only 87 pitches.
Rocco goes to Jorge Lopez for the seventh, which is an excellent option. Lopez hasn’t given up a run this season in 12 innings, but he’s not a better option than letting Ryan go out for one more inning.
As luck would have it, Lopez gives up a run for the first time all season, a two run home run to Eloy Jimenez.
Nick Gordon tied the game in the eighth with a solo home run as we head to the ninth tied at two.
Will Rocco go to closer Jhoan Duran in the ninth? Will he give Griffin Jax a second inning considering he retired the side in the eighth on nine pitches. No and no. Rocco puts in Brock Stewart.
Who is Brock Stewart you may ask, even if you are a casual follower of the Twins or baseball? Minnesota called up the 31-year-old righty after last appearing in the majors in 2019 with the Dodgers in Blue Jays. Three scoreless innings over two low leverage situations last week and it was a good return to major league baseball for Stewart.
With that being said, there was no reason to put Stewart in a 2-2 game in the ninth inning against Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters.
Once Rocco put Stewart in the game, I knew the inning was his. Rocco has a bad habit of rarely taking a reliever out mid inning, even if he is struggling and Stewart struggled for sure.
The Twins got through the inning as Stewart left the bases loaded, walked three batters, one intentional, and threw only 11 of his 24 pitches for strikes.
Even though Stewart got through the inning with the game still tied at two, I wouldn’t make it a regular habit of putting him into those high leverage situations in the future.
The White Sox won the game an inning later on an Andrew Benintendi RBI single off of Caleb Thielbar.
Duran must have been unavailable on Tuesday, because that’s really the only reason the game goes the way it did and even that isn’t a good enough reason for me. If Duran was out, then Ryan should have pitched the seventh. If Duran was out, Jax should have pitched a second inning. If Duran was out, I’d expect Lopez to get a potential save chance later in the game, so none of it adds up.
I could go on for a while on poor Rocco bullpen moves over the past five seasons. Another one just two weeks ago sticks out with Jovani Morán getting the 10th inning in Boston with a 4-2 lead. It was a curious move at the time and Morán proceeded to get the loss after allowing three runs, three hits and a walk on 27 pitches.
Duran threw 19 pitches to get through the ninth inning that night. I would have went with him for three more outs. Sometimes I wish Rocco would should more urgency in trying to win a game instead of playing for the next day. A reliever can throw multiple innings occasionally. Duran only pitched once over the next seven days. A starter can go over 100 pitches. It just rarely happens in Minnesota.
The Twins have a good team this year. The starting pitching has been as good through the first month as I ever remember watching the Twins for the past 25 years. I expect them to win the division, despite Rocco’s misgivings.
The unfortunate thing is the bullpen and playoffs continue to be a bugaboo that Rocco won’t let the Twins overcome.