Move To Bullpen Suits Twins' Gutierrez Just Fine





MINNEAPOLIS—Righthander Carlos Gutierrez's elbow surgery made him a reliever. Joe Nathan's elbow surgery may keep him there.

The 24-year-old Gutierrez started games in college at Miami, switched to relief after having Tommy John surgery, and finally resumed starting again after being drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2008 draft.

But the switch was motivated mostly by Minnesota's desire for Gutierrez to develop more pitches than his mid-90s sinking fastball, a weapon that he used almost exclusively in college.

"You never know, maybe he thrives in that role and now you've got an A-plus prospect," vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "If he can develop the durability for it, that's the most valuable commodity you can have.

"He was a starter his whole life until he got hurt. But the plan all along was really to get his slider and changeup going again—you can't do that an inning at a time—and then see where we are."

Here's where the Twins are now: In the twilight of long-time closer Nathan's career. He had Tommy John surgery of his own in 2010, but the 36-year-old may have a few more years remaining.

Radcliff is loath to project any pitcher as a closer, but Nathan's injury and Gutierrez's preference for the bullpen convinced the Twins to move him back last July at Double-A New Britain. With Triple-A Rochester this season, he had logged 11 2/3 innings through eight appearances, with six strikeouts and six walks.

"He really has a reliever's mentality, for wanting to pitch every day," Radcliff said. "He's now reached a level where we have to consider our major league needs, how he can help us."

He can do it with that sinker, "a plus pitch with the velocity he can get on it," Radcliff said. "He's still got stuff to work on—holding runners, setting up hitters—but I think everyone is comfortable with where he's headed now."

TWIN KILLINGS

• The Twins moved 2010 first-round pick Alex Wimmers to the disabled list and returned him to extended spring training after a disastrous season debut for high Class A Fort Myers. He faced six batters and walked them all, throwing just four strikes in 28 pitches, three of which went to the backstop.

• Signed to play catcher for Rochester, Steve Holm got the call to Minneapolis when Joe Mauer's viral infection forced him to the DL. The Twins concurrently promoted Danny Lehmann to Triple-A and Dan Rohlfing to Double-A.