Tonight, the Twins open up their second half of the 2011 season. They stand with a 41-48 record (this after a 17-37 start) and sit just 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers. The Twins also have a huge advantage by playing the first 12 games of the second half at Target Field, and against divisional foes. You may recall in my previous post, I mentioned the time for the Twins is now.
Despite the recent success of the Twins, there are still several weak points in this team moving forward. Most of these holes will be filled once players start returning from the disabled list. Key players like Denard Span, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel still sit on the DL (Although, sounds like Span could be back at the end of this homestand).
But if the Twins wish to remain in contention, they need to fix their bullpen. Right now, the Twins bullpen consists of Alex Burnett (6.75 ERA), Anthony Swarzak (3.38 ERA), Phil Dumatrait (5.71 ERA), Jose Mijares (5.49 ERA), Glen Perkins (1.87 ERA), Joe Nathan (5.82 ERA, 1.42 ERA since return from DL), and Matt Capps (4.42 ERA). And right now, the only ones you can truly trust are Perkins and Nathan.
So the Twins have two options here. Try and fix the bullpen using players in the system, or acquire some solid relievers before the July 31st trade deadline. There aren't many options with the promote from within plan. Chuck James was fairly successful in his brief stint with the Twins in June, but since his return to AAA his command has not been great (4 BB in 5 IP). The Twins could also try Kevin Slowey, Scott Diamond, Eric Hacker, or Kyle Waldrop but none of them have pitched well at AAA, so it doesnt make sense to bring them up (For those wondering Anthony Slama is on the DL right now, but he could be an option when he returns).
So clearly, this will have to be a fix from outside the organization. And in the previous two seasons, Bill Smith has made moves that did benefit the Twins down the stretch (O. Cabrera, Pavano, Rauch-09, Capps-10). So I do have confidence in him to bring in some bullpen help via trades.
The Starting pitching will be fine going forward, and the timely hitting will be fine as well assuming those key players start returning soon. The bullpen is what the Twins need to improve upon heading towards the end of July. Because lets face it, a bullpen featuring Burnett, Dumatrait, and Mijares as middle relief, won't get you very far. So lets hope it gets improved. Because the Twins season could depend on it.