Since starting pitching was obviously going to be an unavoidable weakness, the Minnesota Twins knew they would need exceptional efforts from both the offense and bullpen in order to maintain a respectable record this season. We're only a week in, but thus far, both units have answered the call.
In their 4-2 start, the Twins have averaged 4.7 runs per game on offense and the relievers have been outstanding outside of one implosion (or Chris Davis explosion) that led to Friday's loss. Across Minnesota's four victories, the bullpen has delivered 13 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only seven hits.
The meltdown on Friday was painful, but that was simply a poorly pitched game all around, with Liam Hendriks setting the tone by failing to last through the fifth. Outside of that hiccup, the relief corps has been absolutely phenomenal, and easily the Twins' biggest difference-maker in a fast start.
That group received another boost over the weekend, when Tyler Robertson – who served up the grand slam that accounts for almost the entirety of damage inflicted against the Twins' bullpen this year – was bumped to Rochester to make room for Anthony Swarzak.
I've noticed that Swarzak doesn't garner much fanfare. Maybe it's because of his unglamorous role, or maybe it's because of his failures as a starter. But the guy has proven to be an asset in the bullpen. As a reliever over the past two seasons he has posted a 4.02 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.
Those are hardly spectacular numbers, but then you have to consider everything else he brings. He's been remarkably durable, frequently pitching multiple innings at a time and always available to start in a pinch. He's generally avoided injury, horseplay notwithstanding. And he's a former second round pick with a live fastball who's still only 27. There may be upside in him yet.
On Sunday, Swarzak made his first appearance of the season, recording four critical outs in a close game and earning a win. His return improves a bullpen that has already been a smashing success in this young season.