Twins Don't Want To Place Limits On Billy Bullock





FORT MYERS, Fla.—The Twins want to make this clear: righthander Billy Bullock is not a closer.

He's a relief pitcher, that's all. Yes, the 22-year-old throws as hard as anyone in the organization and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3.5-to-1. And sure, he's most often deployed in the inning that comes after the eighth, especially when his team is leading.

But he's not a closer, OK?

"We just hate to put that label on a young kid. We never project a kid who's barely starting out as a closer. It's just not fair to him," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "There's enough pressure on these kids as it is, and so many things can happen ahead of him. Why limit his value to that narrow ability?"

Bullock's ability certainly fits the criteria, as he proved with 11 saves last season for Rookie-level Elizabethton and low Class A Beloit after being drafted in the second round out of Florida. The Gators converted him to closer for his junior season after two so-so years as a starter.

The Twins agree that the bullpen is a good fit, particularly given his limited pitch selection and skinny, 6-foot-6, 220-pound physique.

"He's got a big fastball, in the mid-90s when he's throwing well, and a slider, but nothing with sink," Radcliff said. "We really like the angle on his fastball. There's some steepness to it that makes it hard to pick up. It's a strikeout pitch."

Good enough to . . . close?

"We'll see. He's got to be able to pitch any of those innings, six through nine," said Radcliff, who expects Bullock to climb to high Class A Fort Myers this year. "But we're not going to force the ninth on him. If he can do it, that will play out over time."

TWIN KILLINGS

• A crowded outfield at Double-A New Britain has emboldened the Twins to give Juan Portes another shot at third base while he repeats the level. The 25-year-old outfielder has played a combined 98 games at third in the past three years. "He's a bat. He's gradually adjusted at every level we've tried him," Radcliff said. "Those guys, you find a place for."

• Catcher Wilson Ramos capped a 12-for-30 (.400/.400/.733) spring performance by slamming a majestic home run over the batter's eye in Fort Myers. The Twins opted for the more experienced Drew Butera as backup until Jose Morales recovers from wrist surgery.