Shuffling the roles for Joe Nathan and Matt Capps at the back end of the bullpen may help alleviate some of the frustrating ninth-inning meltdowns, but -- as Ron Gardenhire noted -- the Twins are still going to have Capps lined up to throw a lot of high-leverage innings. If he can't get on track the team will still be hurting for right-handed relief late in close games.
The Twins recognize this, and reports that they "have had internal discussions about bringing back Jon Rauch," whose personality they couldn't get rid of fast enough during the offseason, would seem to offer a glimpse into their desperation.
Without a doubt, the front office is going to need to identify a reliable right-handed arm to serve in a setup role, and unless he can find his command Capps won't be adequate. As the Twins scour the trade market for palatable options, they ought to give consideration to one option that's already within their organization: 23-year-old Kyle Gibson.
Gibson, who emerged as a top pitching prospect last year with a spectacular season in the minors, impressed the coaching staff so much during spring training that some felt he was ready to pitch in the majors.
Instead, he headed to Rochester with the expectation that he'd be up to help the big-league club at some point during the summer.
As it turns out, while their lineup has been ravaged by a staggering number of injuries, the Twins' rotation has (knock on wood) remained mostly healthy. For his part, while he's doing a good job of getting strikeouts and grounders, Gibson has turned in short start after short start in Triple-A. Only once in 16 turns has the righty completed seven innings, and he's gotten through six just twice in his past 10 starts. For an organization that strongly emphasizes starters pitching deep into games, that's not a good way to force yourself into the rotation picture.
Could Gibson make an impact in the bullpen, though? His lacking stamina would not be an issue there, and he might be able to maximize his stuff in short stints the way Glen Perkins has. Gibson's repertoire has played well in Rochester, as he's averaging a strikeout per innings and has been especially tough on righties, holding them to a .266 average with a 52-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Twins view Gibson as a starter in the long term, but they've often worked their best pitching prospects into the majors in relief roles in the past. If they feel that this approach wouldn't hurt Gibson's progression, it would make an awful lot of sense to give his highly touted arm a shot before trading more assets away for a guy like Rauch who probably isn't any better.