Friday, April 16, 2010

Should the Twins Demote Mijares?

For the most part, the Twins bullpen has been outstanding this year. The one exception is Jose Mijares, whose struggles from late last season and spring training have carried into the start of the 2010 campaign. Mijares has made five appearances thus far, facing 16 batters and getting only nine outs while surrendering six hits (two of them homers) and two walks. He's struck out only two batters. In his most recent outing against the Red Sox, Mijares threw just 10 of his 21 pitches for strikes, laboring through a low-leverage inning in a blowout.

One wonders how much further into the doghouse Mijares will dig. He already angered his teammates and coaches late last season when he became frustrated during a game in Detroit and beaned a Tigers hitter, leading to a retaliation strike against Delmon Young. This came during a month of September in which Mijares looked increasingly hittable. The southpaw followed up his inauspicious finish to the '09 campaign by showing up to spring training late and out of shape, and proceeding to post a 6.75 ERA in nine Grapefruit League appearances. Now, his sophomore big-league campaign has gotten off to a rather dreadful start.

That the Twins recently called up Ron Mahay, a 39-year-old reliever who went unclaimed in free agency this past offseason before signing a minor-league deal in late March, would seem to reflect their current lack of faith in Mijares. The team already had a backup lefty in the bullpen in Brian Duensing, but the youthful Duensing can hardly be called upon to face tough lefties in high-leverage late-game situations, and now it seems the Twins may be hesitant to call upon Mijares in those same situations. Mahay missed nearly all of spring training and got just four tune-up appearances in Ft. Myers before his promotion. He replaces a promising young reliever in Alex Burnett, who'd performed admirably in his first couple appearances with the Twins, and bypasses the organization's top relief prospect, Anthony Slama.

Given how unreliable Mijares has been thus far, some fans are calling for his demotion to Triple-A, particularly now that Mahay is present as a second lefty specialist. Personally, I don't think it's time for that yet. Yes, Mijares is struggling, but a bad spring training and a handful of ugly April outings do not trump his outstanding performance throughout the minors and his dominance over left-handers throughout last season (.155 BAA vs. LH hitters). That Mijares is struggling with his control should come as no big surprise, given that he averaged five walks per nine innings as a prospect, but he managed to battle through that to post a 3.31 ERA in 270 minor-league innings and can overcome those issues at the big-league level as well.

For Mijares, it's all about confidence. Sending him down to Triple-A after just five appearances would send the wrong message. But at some point, if the hefty lefty doesn't shape up, the Twins will have a decision to make. That time might come when Clay Condrey is ready to return from the disabled list.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Duensing started game 1 of the Division series against the Yankees in the Bronx last year. Does it get any more high leverage than that?

Nick N. said...

How'd he do?

Nick N. said...

Whoops, looks like his name accidentally got carried over from a previous edition. Thanks for bringing it to my intention, and without the last bit of malice or sarcasm!

Topper said...

The Mijares slow ride to hell is starting to remind me a little bit of the JC Romero downfall -- I agree he has too much talent to react so swiftly, but at the same time the Twins stood pat way too long with JC while he couldn't throw the ball over the plate without getting knocked around (consequently leading him to just not throw the ball over the plate...)

Anonymous said...

Does Mijares even have options left? Hard to send him down if he doesn't...

Anonymous said...

In the game last September, Mijares threw behind Adam Everett, leading to Delmon's plunking the following inning. Mijares didn't actually hit Everett.

John said...

I dunno, Mijares looks pretty bad. With two other lefty relievers, his utility is pretty questionable until he gets his act together. If it was just a rough patch, that would be one thing, but this also a guy with a history of lacking commitment and mental fortitude.

Bowie said...

As long as they're winning they can afford to let Mijares through his problems. But once, they go through a bad streak, if Jose hasn't straightened it out, I look for him to go down. Question is, who do they bring up?

SimmerDownNow said...

There is no way Mijares' minor league track record can be considered "outstanding". More than 5 walks and a homer per 9 IP does not a great prospect make. He's spent almost no time at AAA so far. At this point, I don't think a few months there would hurt.

Anonymous said...

Jose Mijares was a very good prospect. His k/9 was almost 11. His major weaknesses were that he had spotty control and was a fly ball pitcher and those 2 things kept him from being an elite relief prospect, but i'd still consider him a well above average relief prospect. A lot of the hits hes given up this year have been to right handed hitters which I would tend to try and keep him away from. All three batters that reached for boston were right handed and the morales hr was right handed. He doesnt look right to me; he velocity seems down and his location isnt good but if gardy puts him in against lefties i still think hes the twins best option. Duensing was in tonight in a similar low leverage inning and hit a lefty and gave up 2 hits to righties. This was against royales hitter and not the red sox. Duensing has been bad against righties this year too. Gardy should start using them like loogys until they prove they can get righties.

Jacob said...

I have to basically 100% agree with Nick's assessment here. Mijares has proven he has the "stuff" to be a rock solid lefty specialist capable of occasionally taking down a high value inning. But lately he has been very, very poor.

Demotion to AAA can allow a pitcher to work on certain things without the fear of screwing up a win. If sent down he could possibly re-wrap his package and be ready help this team.

I agree as well that it isn't quite time for a demotion for two reasons:

1) It is basically just too soon to panick with the guy. We are ten games in and it is important to take spring training and early games with a grain of salt. But he has been so bad that I'd argue we are closer to that point that normal this part of the year. Gardy and Co know it too.

2) The Twins are getting deep starts and very solid production from almost everyone in the bullpen. Duensing, who has long reliever stuff IMO, is throwing the hell out of the weak stuff he has to where he is a high value situation quality guy. He is starting to make a believer out of me. I hate "intangibles" arguments as I am a bit of a stats type of dude, but this Duensing guy has...guts. He reminds me of Guardado in a way.

Because of this the Twins can keep Mijares in low value situations where he can potentially get his crap together at the majors without blowing a win.

But if we have a starter going into a shaky stretch and the bullpen starts getting taxed to the point where we need Mijares in tied late games and the like, and he is still sucking ballz, we might have to call up Slama or someone who is throwing it like a man at the time.

It sucks because Mijares does have a very wide sweeping slider with wide left delivery and that wide angle pitch to the outside corner is damn near impossible for a power left handed hitter to crush. It forces hitters to go the other way with it which is out of character for left handed hitters often times. Not to mention the fact that guys have a hard time making contact when he is on. This makes him that ideal solution to a power hitter from that side of the plate and it is very important to have that IMO.

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