Tyler Duffey will be one of several Twins relievers who might be called upon to close games after the club traded Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals.
SAN DIEGO – Pitching coach Neil Allen was asked who the Twins’ next closer will be, and he immediately looked at Tyler Duffey.
“Tyler Duffey is going to be the long reliever, setup man and close games,” Allen said.
Duffey overheard Allen and said, “Swiss army knife!”
It was a joke, and the truth actually is quite the opposite. The Twins won’t have one pitcher attempt to do a number of things, they will have a number of pitchers attempt to do one thing.
And that is to be Brandon Kintzler.
The All-Star closer was traded to Washington minutes before the nonwaiver trade deadline Monday, and it leaves a Bartolo Colon-sized hole in the Twins bullpen. Allen and manager Paul Molitor will attempt to fill that hole through community closing.
“I’m not going to name a closer,” Molitor said. “I don’t think we are in position to do that.”
Molitor did express his confidence in veteran Matt Belisle and lefthander Taylor Rogers, two relievers he’s used to help protect leads, which would make sense. He left some flexibility to use other relievers as well.
But the departure of Kintzler and his 28 saves means that everyone is going to move up a spot in the pecking order.
“It’s kind of all hands on deck right now,” Molitor said. “Be ready.”
Pitcher Gee recalled
Dillon Gee was signed by the Twins to a minor league deal on June 22 but was immediately summoned to the majors when the club ran low on arms. He spent four days with the club as an emergency option, never pitched in a game, and was sent back to Class AAA Rochester when the crisis was over.
“It was a weird circumstance,” Gee said. “I know I came up. It was an emergency situation. [But] I hadn’t thrown much.”
Returning to Rochester allowed him to get stretched out and sharpen his pitches. But he wasn’t sure when he would get another opportunity with the Twins.
“The original plan was to get my starts in Rochester and hopefully be ready when the time came,” Gee said. “Our hand got forced to come up early without having those innings built up. I kind of wondered in the back of my mind if I had missed my shot, but I’m here now and just want to help the team.”
For now, he will do that as a long reliever, a role the Twins needed filled.
“He’s my long man that I have been looking For a couple of months,” Molitor said. “We haven’t really had one. In terms of protection for our starters, that is the role he will serve for now until we see how things go.”
Outfielder Byron Buxton was activated from the 10-day disabled list and back in center field for the Twins.
Buxton landed on the DL because of groin muscle strain but missed an added week because of migraines. That prompted the Twins to send him to Class AAA Rochester for a brief rehabilitation stint before returning to the club.
“I was ready to get back out there on the field. I was healthy,” Buxton said. “I had 10 days for the migraine to come, and it chooses to come that ninth and 10th day. That’s how I looked at it.”
Molitor was happy to put Buxton’s name back in the lineup.
“This is a good park to have him play in,” Molitor said. “There’s a lot of room out there in center field.”
Because of the trades of Jaime Garcia and Kintzler, the Twins didn’t have to send anyone down to make room for Gee or Buxton. That allows outfielder Zack Granite, batting .267, to stick around a little while longer. Granite got off to a slow start at the plate but has been able to make pitchers work.
“Granite has done fine,” Molitor said. “I’m happy with the way he’s played. He’s learned a lot in a short time up here.”