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Twins' bullpen unaffected by 3-batter rule

@dohyoungpark
February 13, 2020

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though the various rule changes coming to baseball for the 2020 season have long been discussed in the public arena, it took until Wednesday for Major League Baseball to officially announce its plans for a three-batter minimum, expansion of the active roster to 26 players and

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though the various rule changes coming to baseball for the 2020 season have long been discussed in the public arena, it took until Wednesday for Major League Baseball to officially announce its plans for a three-batter minimum, expansion of the active roster to 26 players and lengthening the duration of injured list and option assignments to 15 days for pitchers.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was open about the fact that the Twins haven’t explored the rule changes in too much detail as they focused on their run through the regular season. While Baldelli acknowledged on Thursday that the new policies could result in some adjustments to his bullpen usage, both he and his relievers largely agreed that the policies shouldn't have too much of an effect on the Twins' roster.

As a reminder, the new three-batter minimum stipulates that pitchers must face at least three batters or finish an inning as part of an appearance.

Neither Trevor May nor Rich Hill (a reliever at one point in his career) is in favor of the rule change, but not because they harbor any resistance to the evolution of the game. May just feels that the new rule will not address the pace-of-play issue to any significant extent, while Hill is concerned with how the new rule might impact players’ health.

"I don't think, especially in the American League, that it's going to affect us as much as people think," May said. "Personally, I like to have it be on me. I sleep a little bit better at night knowing that. That's just me, in terms of the game. I don't think it's going to affect me, personally."

As the list below shows, Baldelli's deployment of his high-leverage relievers during the 2019 season was largely in line with the new rules.

Number of 2019 appearances with Twins that would now be in violation of the rule
Taylor Rogers: 0 (in 60 games)
Sergio Romo: 2 (in 27 games)
Tyler Duffey: 3 (in 58 games)
Trevor May: 1 (in 65 games)

The Twins were also fortunate that, for the most part, the relievers listed above had even left-right splits last season -- even in the case of Rogers, who is known for his strength in facing batters of each handedness. The newly acquired Tyler Clippard is the only Twins pitcher with polarized splits -- but in a useful twist, his numbers suggest he's actually much more effective against left-handed batters.

"At least here, we haven't really had a one-batter lefty guy in a while," Duffey said. "Rogers maybe was for a little bit there, but he gets everybody out. Us individually, maybe not as big of a deal."

2019 left/right splits for Twins high-leverage relievers
Taylor Rogers: .611 OPS allowed to righties, .667 OPS allowed to lefties
Sergio Romo: .642 OPS allowed to righties, .656 OPS allowed to lefties
Tyler Duffey: .601 OPS allowed to righties, .589 OPS allowed to lefties
Trevor May: .597 OPS allowed to righties, .574 OPS allowed to lefties
Tyler Clippard: .746 OPS allowed to righties, .465 OPS allowed to lefties

Hill is concerned that the new rule could represent added risk for relievers, since they could be pushed into games more aggressively by managers needing them in high-leverage situations, which could then result in their throwing more extended outings.

"I don't like it just because of the health and safety issue for players," Hill said. "When you have guys now, when you're leaning on guys, and he faced three batters last night, and he's coming in tonight to make a huge stop in an inning or get a key batter out, it's going to be difficult to use guys when you want to use them for one hitter."

Number of times pitching three consecutive days in 2019
Taylor Rogers: 2
Sergio Romo: 1
Tyler Duffey: 0
Trevor May: 1

When will Twins fans see Maeda?
According to Baldelli, the Twins don't have a concrete timeline for how Kenta Maeda will ramp up for the season and have yet to schedule a specific date for his first start. Maeda will begin by throwing a side session in the bullpen on Friday.

"We take things as slow as we need to," Baldelli said. "Him doing that for the first time this year is even more reason to just let him get comfortable. And we’ll ramp up as we see him progress physically."

Odds and ends
Shortstop Royce Lewis, the top prospect in the organization, arrived at camp on Thursday. Lewis is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 9 prospect in baseball and joins fellow top hitting prospects Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker.

Though position players aren't officially required to report to Spring Training until next Monday, several guys have already been spotted in camp, including Luis Arraez, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez, Jorge Polanco, LaMonte Wade Jr., Jake Cave, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.