Twins patient with struggling Rincon
Once an integral arm of out 'pen, righty can't find groove
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson hasn't forgotten the integral part that Juan Rincon played in the success of the club's bullpen just a few short years ago.That's why it's made the recent struggles of the right-hander difficult for Anderson to watch. In each of the past three seasons, Rincon has hit a rough patch. Rincon has a 7.88 ERA over his last seven appearances. In those eight innings, he's allowed nine runs (seven earned) and surrendered 13 hits. The right-hander also issued seven walks during that span. "I can just see he's going through a tough time and he's pressing," Anderson said. "We're trying to get him into some situations where he can have some success and get them out. But with the bullpen pitching so many innings, we've had to use him more. So every time we feel like we're building some confidence, he hits a bump and we go back." The latest blip for Rincon came in his performance in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Orioles. Rincon came into the game for the start of the seventh inning after the Twins had pulled within two runs, 4-2. But the right-hander gave up a double to leadoff hitter Ramon Hernandez, threw a wild pitch and then allowed an RBI single to Adam Jones to give back another run to Baltimore.
That's when manager Ron Gardenhire nearly ran out to the mound to get the struggling reliever."He faced two hitters and didn't make any pitches," Gardenhire said. "It was not a good outing. But you just have to keep running him out there. That's all we can do. ... He's trying hard, he works. He just has to continue trying." After Pat Neshek was lost for the season in early May with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the Twins hoped Rincon would emerge as another reliable late-inning option. "I definitely don't want to be in this spot, but things are not working and it hasn't been because of a lack of effort or a lack of commitment," said Rincon, 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA in 22 appearances this season. Anderson doesn't believe the problems are so much mechanical now, but instead a result of Rincon putting too much pressure on himself. "I think the mental part right now, he's battling that more than anything," Anderson said. "We're trying to build his confidence in some way. But I think the only way to do that is to keep sending him out there and see if he can't throw up some zeroes." Getting Rincon work could become more difficult as the Twins increase their pitching staff to 13 pitchers on Thursday. Part of the reason the Twins have to go to 13 pitchers is that Rincon is out of options, like fellow relievers Boof Bonser and Brian Bass. Rather than risk losing any of the pitchers, the club will instead rely on just three players off the bench. But the hope is that the team will be rewarded for its faith in Rincon. "He's done a lot of great things here so you keep running him out there," Gardenhire said. "He has a track record of getting people out. He's struggled lately but he's continuing to work. He's a good guy for the ballclub. But we all know you have to get people out."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.