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Twins bullpen showing signs of stability

Three relievers combined for three scoreless to close win on Wednesday
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' bullpen has been one of the team's biggest issues this season, with the unit's 4.61 ERA entering Thursday's finale vs. the Phillies ranking as the fourth-highest mark in the Major Leagues.

But if you take away Michael Tonkin's four earned runs in a rough 1 2/3 on Tuesday night, the Twins' bullpen has allowed just one earned run over nine innings of work over the course of the team's three-game winning streak.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' bullpen has been one of the team's biggest issues this season, with the unit's 4.61 ERA entering Thursday's finale vs. the Phillies ranking as the fourth-highest mark in the Major Leagues.

But if you take away Michael Tonkin's four earned runs in a rough 1 2/3 on Tuesday night, the Twins' bullpen has allowed just one earned run over nine innings of work over the course of the team's three-game winning streak.

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It may not be much, but it's progress.

"When you're having a lot of people contribute in different roles, it's challenging," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I'm sure at times these guys want to do more."

Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly and Fernando Abad combined for three high-leverage scoreless innings in Minnesota's 6-5 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday night to follow up a long night of work on Tuesday, in which three relievers combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings outside of Tonkin's struggles.

"I'm just trying to find a way to get those last outs, which we've had trouble doing," Molitor said. "But to see us clean up those last three innings the way we did was a positive sign. I think guys are understanding what we're trying to do."

The Twins have also recorded three consecutive saves for the first time this season, with Abad and Brandon Kintzler splitting the closer role for the time being following Kevin Jepsen's removal from the ninth inning.

Video: PHI@MIN: Kintzler secures four-out save

With eight different relievers without clearly defined roles in his bullpen, Molitor has been forced to just play matchups and adjust on the fly, particularly in light of the starting rotation's continued struggles, which has forced the Twins' bullpen to throw 248 innings, the second-highest mark in the American League entering Thursday.

"On given days, it might work where one guy gets one inning and the next guy gets the other inning, but we're still trying to build these guys up into these roles," Molitor said. "They know they're going to pitch late; they're just not sure exactly how it's going to shake out on a given day, where we're at with the other team and the score and all those type of things."

Of course, this relative stability has come against the struggling Phillies lineup, meaning that optimism must remain cautious at best, but any progress from a bullpen marred by inconsistency and blown leads is a welcome sign for the team.

Molitor has stated his desire to stay with a 13-man pitching staff for the near future until his starting rotation begins to stabilize.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Twins