Rough Winter Did No Favors For Twins' Ryan Mullins





MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins' front office tells its players that it's almost impossible to have an unsuccessful experience in winter ball.

Lefthander Ryan Mullins must be glad to hear it.

A 2005 third-round pick, he supplemented a decent season at Double-A New Britain with a month in the Puerto Rican League. But the results weren't what the Twins had been hoping for: Four starts for Mayaguez, 15 1⁄3 innings and a whopping 14 earned runs.

But the experience will outweigh the numbers, said vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff.

"A guy like Ryan, who hasn't played at the upper levels yet, it's a different competitive situation than what he's experienced," he said. "There are a lot of older, veteran players, and just fighting to get them out, it can be a big help down the road. Even if it's painful now."

For Mullins, though, the "now" is important. The Vanderbilt alum turned 26 over the winter, and, according to Radcliff, "this spring is going to be pretty critical for him.

"He's not a can't-miss guy, so he's got to get himself on the radar. He could help us at (Triple-A) Rochester, but he's fighting for his life."

Mullins has a below-average mid-80s fastball, relying instead on a changeup and curve to get batters out. "Good command, and we like his breaking stuff," Radcliff said. "But throughout his career, he picks one pitch or the other and focuses on it. He has trouble figuring out how his pitches mesh."

Mullins has been a starter for most of his five seasons in the Twins system, but the organization is contemplating a bullpen tryout to see if he's a potential situational candidate. It's a matter of finding the right fit for his talent, Radcliff said.

And of making the most of what he learned from a seemingly bad winter in Puerto Rico.

TWIN KILLINGS

• First-round pick Kyle Gibson likely will bypass the Midwest League and make his pro debut with high Class A Fort Myers. The righthander, who pitched for three seasons at Missouri, has recovered completely from a stress fracture in his right forearm.

• The Twins lost middle infielder Steve Tolleson to the Athletics on an early-February waiver claim. He had proved his readiness for the big leagues at Rochester last season, according to the Twins. "We believe he'll have a long career in the majors," Radcliff said. "He can hit good pitching, and he has great at-bats. You hate to lose that."