Gruver's Move Found Convenient

Twins righty develops new pitch in bullpen stint





MINNEAPOLIS—Sometimes the bullpen is a way station. Sometimes it's a sanctuary. Sometimes it's a classroom.

For Steven Gruver, two months spent in low Class A Beloit's bullpen in 2012 were a little bit of all three.

The 2011 seventh-round pick out of Tennessee needed a break from the rotation, the Twins decided, after a four-start slump in late June. Gruver's mix of breaking pitches and a fastball with late movement had become hittable; he allowed 16 earned runs over 20 innings, and five of the eight home runs he allowed all year came in that span.

"That's not uncommon at all. It was his first full season—a lot of guys start feeling the workload in June and July," said Jim Rantz, the Twins' recently retired farm director.

The Twins had planned a bullpen stint all along, in order to limit the lefthander's innings to roughly 120—he finished with 115—as he made the transition from college baseball to the pros, and his difficulties made the timing easy.

"You have to let them catch their breath," Rantz said, "but we still consider him a starter."

Especially after Gruver used the time to develop another pitch.

"He's a good control pitcher. He keeps the ball down in the zone. But we'd like him to work a changeup into the mix," Beloit pitching coach Gary Lucas said. "He's a guy who's really good at pounding the strike zone. He gets a lot of outs with his location. But a changeup would allow him to get guys by changing speeds, too. He already had a changeup, but it wasn't to the point where he was comfortable using it."

A better mix of pitches and regular work out of the bullpen got the 23-year-old back on track, and he finished strong. He allowed two runs on five hits over his final nine innings, including a spot start. He finished with a 7-8, 3.61 record and allowed six runs in 20 innings out of the bullpen.

TWIN KILLINGS

• Former big league outfielder Rene Tosoni and righthanders Jeff Manship and Kyle Waldrop were among Twins farmhands who became minor league free agents.

• Catcher Chris Herrmann developed soreness in his left (non-throwing) shoulder and was sent home from the Arizona Fall League to heal.