Reusse: Twins’ lack of left-handed relievers sign analytical times

There were two major league draft games in the 1970s. The biggest happened in June, and there was also the January phase which was loaded with college junior players.

Jesse Orosco was a left-handed pitcher from Santa Barbara City College in California. The Twins took him in the second round of the January 1978 phase and scout Jesse Flores signed him.

Orosco pitched 20 relief games with a 1.13 ERA for the rookie league team in Elizabethton, Tennessee. In the 1978 winter meetings, owner Calvin Griffith heeded manager Gene Mauch’s call and traded for Jerry Koosman, the Mets left-handed starter.

Two months later, Orosco became the second young pitcher on the deal to go to the Mets. The date was February 7, 1979.

The twins had been reluctant to trade Orosco. And they were able to get it back, even though the date was August 31, 2003.

Orosco was 46 when the Twins sent right-hander Juan Padilla to the Yankees for him. He had pitched for eight teams in 1,244 regular season games before arriving in Minnesota.

The Twins had started 2003 as defending AL Central champions, with Eddie Guardado (the AL’s 2002 saves leader), JC Romero (81 games, 1.89 ERA in 2002) and the budding star Johan Santana as southpaws in the bullpen.

How was it with a month remaining that the Twins felt the need to bring in the most-used pitcher in major league history to shore up their left-handed relief?

It went down like this: Romero’s ERA was at 5.00, Santana was on rotation mid-season, and the obsessive need for left-handed relievers to tackle left-handed hitters was shared by all teams. in contention.

Orosco ended up pitching in eight games and had 13 outs for the Twins. He was unused in the playoffs and concluded his career with what remains a record 1,252 appearances.

The idea of ​​having 11 launchers (rather than 10) was gaining momentum at this time. Two decades later, the controversy is that teams are limited by a new rule to having 13 pitchers, when most managers would prefer 14.

How can a manager and his pitching coach be expected to operate with a simple eight pitching bullpen?

It’s a very different paranoia than the one that doesn’t seem to exist anymore: the need for several left-handers in a paddock.

The Twins are in the second period of this season with Caleb Thielbar as their lone left-handed reliever. Asked about the impact of this on a manager on Friday, Rocco Baldelli said:

“It’s better than not having lefties.”

Baldelli’s playing career ended in 2010, when if it wasn’t the official trying to end a game, it was almost automatic to bring in a southpaw to face a southpaw.

Now, that doesn’t happen for two reasons: A) the pitcher has to face three batters unless he ends an inning; and B) a closer look at “reverse spreads”, meaning that right-handed pitchers handle left-handers better than right-handers.

“There are a lot of right-handers coming out of left-handers now,” Baldelli said. “There are more reverse splits for left-handed hitters than I’ve seen in my life.”

The cutter changed the right-lefty game to some degree, Baldelli said.

“The cutter and the curve,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ baseball boss. “There are right-handers who neutralize left-handers with these throws.”

Those of us trained in the lore of baseball yelled louder at the end of spring training on Taylor Rogers’ trade because he was left-handed.

“We knew we were giving up a good pitcher to Taylor,” Falvey said. “We didn’t want to lose him, but the fact that we got the chance to add to our starting lineup, in addition to getting a reliever, made sense to us. Starter Chris Paddack got injured, it’s unfortunate for us.

“But Taylor being left-handed…that didn’t figure into the craft for us.”

Glen Perkins, a three-time left-handed All-Star closer to the Twins, was working for BSN on Friday. He was asked about this change in thinking about the need to be left-handed versus left-handed.

“You know what? I’ve had reverse gaps quite often,” he said. “I’ve taken out right-handers better than left-handers in a few seasons. One reason…I was more comfortable throwing my slider at right-handers.

“And the right-handed hitter – I always said, ‘Bring them on. What’s the stat? Pinch hitters hit 80, 100 under.

“The left-left was automatic. Now the divisions are more important. And I would say that makes sense.”