An ode to the Big Sweat

Posted on January 22nd, 2009 – 12:38 PM
By Joe Christensen

First, I want to say thanks for all the congratulatory remarks on the birth of Baby Noe. A few of you had me laughing out loud with references to her arbitration status, revised zone rating and slugging potential. Mom and baby are doing great.

With TwinsFest and the Diamond Awards upon us, I had hoped to return with a flurry of insight and analysis, but the best I could think of is this: I’m going to miss the Big Sweat.

Former Twins LHP Dennys Reyes (aka Big Sweat) remains a free agent, reportedly drawing interest from the A’s, Mets and Dodgers.

It would be impractical for the Twins to re-sign Reyes, of course, since they already have LHPs Craig Breslow and Jose Mijares returning to their bullpen. Reyes, who posted a 2.33 ERA in 75 games for the Twins last year, probably would have commanded a three-year, $12 million deal in a better economy.

Now, he’ll probably get a two-year deal for about half that price. Still, it wouldn’t make sense for the Twins to sign him. If they spend money on a reliever, he should be an eighth-inning specialist.

It’s been a foregone conclusion that Reyes is gone, but I should mention that he’s been one of my favorites in the Twins’ clubhouse. Reyes hails from Mexico and would routinely greet me by saying, “Que pasa?” What’s up? What’s happening? He wanted to know what Twins news I was hearing behind the scenes.

I know some German but almost no Spanish, so it became our running gag, the way I would grapple for a proper response in Spanish. ”Nada,” I’d usually say. Nothing. Fortunately, Reyes’ English is excellent, and he tells some great stories about pitching for Jack McKeon’s Reds.

(Funny, we could have had that same conversation every day this offseason, and it would have been the same. Any Twins news? Nada.)

Anyway, Breslow was a tremendous pickup for the Twins last season. He posted a 1.63 ERA in 42 appearances after getting claimed off waivers from Cleveland in late-May. The Twins began turning to him in tougher situations, and Breslow made 13 appearances in September, spanning nine innings, without allowing an earned run.

Meanwhile in September, Mijares became an overnight sensation, posting a 0.87 ERA and taking over the primary setup duties. In 10 1/3 innings, Mijares allowed one run and three hits. In the 1-0 tiebreaker loss to the White Sox, Mijares relieved Nick Blackburn, faced four batters and retired them all.

Mijares has better overall stuff than Reyes and Breslow, which adds to the Twins’ confidence. Breslow is far from overpowering, but he’s extremely savvy. Keep in mind, he has a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale.

Here’s the thing: Reyes, who turns 32 in April, is a 12-year major league veteran. He usually got the call, when the Twins were about to face a tough left-handed batter in a close, late-inning game.

Mijares handled just about everybody he faced in September. Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Markakis, A.J. Pierzynski and Jim Thome combined to go 1-for-6 against him.

Against Breslow, the following batters combined to go 2-for-22 (Thome, Markakis, Pierzynski, Choo, Sizemore, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano and Alex Gordon).

Breslow held lefthanded batters to a .183/.230/.232 line last season. Mijares held major league lefties to a .143/.143/.143 line in September after allowing lefties to bat .217 last season in 28 minor-league appearances.

Reyes held lefties to a .202 average last year (and .148 during his amazing 2006). What the Twins will miss is his history of success against some of the toughest lefthanded hitters in the American League.

It seemed like Reyes got the ball in every close game at Cleveland, with the Indians staging a rally, and that drum beating in the left-field bleachers.

Grady Sizemore is 5-for-15 lifetime against Reyes, Travis Hafner 4-for-14. Victor Martinez, a switch-hitter, would turn around and bat righty against Reyes. He’s 2-for-15.

Thome has 13 career plate appearances against Reyes. He’s 3-for-10 with two home runs (OK, not a great example). Curtis Granderson 8 PAs (1-for-8, 1 HR), Gordon 8 PAs (1-for-8, no HR).

You get the picture. The Twins might like Breslow and Mijares, but they’ll miss Reyes’ experience. I’ll miss our conversations.

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