MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are looking to blend veteran arms with youth as they attempt to improve their bullpen in 2018.The Twins signed veteran closer Fernando Rodney and veteran lefty Zach Duke to one-year deals this offseason in order to fortify a bullpen that saw several youngsters -- like right-handers
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins are looking to blend veteran arms with youth as they attempt to improve their bullpen in 2018.
The Twins signed veteran closer Fernando Rodney and veteran lefty Zach Duke to one-year deals this offseason in order to fortify a bullpen that saw several youngsters -- like right-handers Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz -- emerge last year. Left-hander Taylor Rogers has developed into a steady setup reliever, while the Twins are hoping for bounceback seasons from Thomas Pressly and Tyler Duffey.
Other young arms like John Curtiss, Gabriel Moya and J.T. Chargois could contribute in 2018, while Tyler Kinley was taken in the Rule 5 Draft and will compete for a spot in Spring Training.
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The bullpen is likely to change throughout the season and there's still a chance the Twins could acquire another reliever. In the meantime, MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Twins might stack up:
BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Fernando Rodney (closer)
Trevor Hildenberger, RHP
Taylor Rogers, LHP
Zach Duke, LHP
Alan Busenitz, RHP
Tyler Duffey, RHP
Ryan Pressly, RHP
It isn't always pretty, but Rodney has been an effective closer for the past decade, recording 300 saves, including 39 with the D-backs last season. He still has strikeout stuff, as evidenced by his 65 punchouts in 55 1/3 innings. Duke has a 2.85 ERA with 220 strikeouts over 198 2/3 innings over his past four seasons, but he returned from Tommy John surgery last July. Hildenberger and Busenitz both had impressive rookie seasons, and the side-arming Hildenberger has the look of a future closer. The Twins also have several top relief prospects, such as Tyler Jay, Jake Reed, Moya and Curtiss. Right-hander Trevor May is coming off Tommy John surgery, and while he'll be stretched out to start, he could return to the bullpen, where he had success before the injury.
Twins relievers combined to record the fifth-fewest strikeouts in the Majors last season, and while that total should improve, they still don't have an elite bullpen that can rack up strikeouts. Rodney is 40 years old, while Duke is 34 and looking to regain his command another year removed from surgery. There will be plenty of competition for the final few spots in the bullpen, and the Twins could also opt to carry eight relievers like they did for much of last season. Kinley is a wild card as a Rule 5 Draft pick, and the Twins must keep him on the roster the entire season or offer him back to his original club. Right-hander Justin Haley made the club as a Rule 5 reliever last year, but he was returned to the Red Sox in July.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
After signing Rodney and Duke, the Twins aren't likely to make a splash with another reliever, although they could opt to bring back veteran Matt Belisle, who capably served as closer in the second half after Brandon Kintzler was traded. It'll be different without three-time All-Star Glen Perkins, as he's still a free agent and would only be brought back on a Minor League deal.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.