Harper filling unexpected role in Twins 'pen

July 20th, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Twins approach the July 31 Trade Deadline, they have made several moves in recent days to trim the non-core members of their bullpen by designating , and for assignment.

That left as the lone remaining pitcher among the former Minor League free agents that had been cobbled together to hold down the fort in the Twins’ bullpen for most of this season. Though Harper allowed the decisive two runs in the sixth inning of Minnesota’s 5-3 loss to the A’s on Friday night, he still occupies an important role in this relief corps.

Because Taylor Rogers is the only left-handed reliever on the Twins' 40-man roster, Harper has emerged as an unorthodox matchup against both left-handed hitters and righties earlier in games. It's not necessarily a role that manager Rocco Baldelli had envisioned for Harper entering the season -- Harper was the last man added to the 25-man roster, after all -- and the Twins' skipper could only offer speculation as to why Harper fares so well against lefties.

"I would say the cut fastball, if that's what you want to call it, is definitely a tool, a weapon, against left-handed hitters," Baldelli said. "And the fact that he changes speeds with his breaking ball -- he's not just playing with shape, he's playing with depth, he's playing with speed, he can do different things with it, which, I think, plays well against the opposite handedness-type of hitters."

However he does it, though, the results have spoken for themselves. Harper has a 3.18 ERA with 41 strikeouts and eight walks in a team-leading 42 appearances. He has held left-handed hitters to a .583 OPS, with only three extra-base hits in 76 plate appearances, while righties have fared slightly better, with a .655 OPS in 85 plate appearances.


According to Baseball-Reference.com, 14 of Harper’s 19 appearances since the start of June have come in high-leverage situations. The shaky outing on Friday snapped a streak of 3 1/3 perfect innings over Harper’s last three appearances.

And though his outing contributed to the Twins’ loss on Friday, the fact that Harper was in the position to do so at all -- pitching as the first man out of Baldelli’s bullpen late in a tie game and occupying a key niche -- speaks to the 30-year-old rookie's remarkable journey this season.

"He established himself fairly early, coming into some difficult situations facing both righties and lefties," Baldelli said. "Pitching effectively against both of them. And he just did it, and did it kind of easily. It didn't seem like there was a ton of adjustment that he had to make. He was a very low-maintenance guy. He would just go out there and continue to do the job over and over again. He put himself in that spot."

Morin traded to Phillies; Mejia claimed by Angels
The Twins traded Morin to the Phillies for cash considerations Saturday, while Mejia was claimed off waivers by the Angels. Morin had been designated for assignment Tuesday to create roster space for both Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron in their returns from the 10-day injured list. Mejia was designated for assignment last Saturday.

Morin was initially signed as a Minor League free agent during the offseason, but he gave the Twins a solid arm out of their bullpen following a midseason callup from Triple-A Rochester, posting a 3.18 ERA with 11 strikeouts and two walks in 22 2/3 innings.

Mejia arrived in the 2016 trade that sent Eduardo Nunez to the Giants and struggled with a transition into a relief role this season, posting an 8.80 ERA with 15 strikeouts, 12 walks and three homers allowed in 15 1/3 innings.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers. Even if Harvey is not claimed by another the club or traded, the Angels are expected to release him.