July 20, 2010

Twins call up Anthony Slama, demote Alex Burnett to Triple-A

Alex Burnett experienced initial success after making his big-league debut on April 8, tossing 31.1 innings with a 2.30 ERA, .225 opponents' batting average, and 26-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio through mid-June. Since then he's coughed up 12 runs in 9.2 innings while walking more batters than he struck out and allowing opponents to hit .466, and after his fourth ugly outing of the month last night the Twins demoted Burnett back to Triple-A.

To replace Burnett on the roster and in the bullpen the Twins called up right-hander Anthony Slama, who ranked 19th on my list of the team's top prospects heading into the season and has been deserving of a chance for some time now. Clearly the front office doesn't believe in Slama, keeping him in the minors until five months before his 27th birthday despite a 1.80 ERA in 235 career innings and Ron Gardenhire making it pretty clear he wanted to give him a look.

However, his amazing minor-league track record screams out for an opportunity. I don't expect Slama to be an elite reliever and he's no sure thing to even develop into a quality setup man, but when someone holds opponents to a .170 batting average while racking up 83 strikeouts in 68 innings at Triple-A there's no reason not to give him a shot. Hopefully he'll thrive like Pat Neshek, who the Twins were similarly skeptical about before finally giving him a shot in 2006.

As for Burnett, his overall numbers were reasonably strong for a 22-year-old rookie getting his first taste of the majors, with a 4.39 ERA and 30-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings. He showed a promising fastball-slider combination after making the switch from starter to reliever just last season and certainly looks capable of being a key part of the bullpen long term. He jumped straight from Double-A to the majors, so some time at Triple-A is hardly a bad thing.

  • Pat

    Didn’t the Twins have to drop someone from the 40 man to make room for Slama?

  • Chris

    If we are lucky, that person is Mahay.

  • The Twins placed Clay Condrey to the 60-day disabled list.

  • BrooklynTwinsFan

    What I find amusing is how you have been calling for Slama’s call-up for some time now, but are suddenly distancing yourself from him a little bit now that it has finally happened, “dont expect him to be an elite reliever, no reason NOT to give him a shot.” What a ringing endorsement, haha. Covering your backside a little based on the fact he has given up runs in his last 3 outings…? (Seriously though, good for him it’s about time he gets his chance!)

  • Jakemiester

    Blogger’s rejoice! Slama has been called up!

  • Sid

    Free at last!! Free at last!!

  • Ryan L.

    I may be way off base, but knowing how illogical some of Gardy’s personnel decisions have been I wouldn’t be surprised if Slama wasn’t called up earlier because he refused to shorten his name to the more intimidating and cooler sounding “Tony Slama”, insisting instead on the cumbersome “Anthony Slama”.

  • David

    I heard Michael Cuddyer talk about being named Michael, rather than Mike. The Twins avoided ever calling him Michael by instead calling him Cuddy. Welcome, Slammy!

  • Mike Green

    It is bad luck for a reliever to be nicknamed Slammy.

  • Pedro

    Burnett’s problem has been not being able to get ahead in counts and not being able to throw his slider for strikes. In his most recent outings, he’s gotten behind to hitters and left a lot of fat fastballs in the middle of the zone when forced to throw a strike. Hopefully he can get that slider back in shape in AAA and work on a third pitch, which a guy like him could use since he’s not really overpowering.

    Slama…. well, that doesn’t fix the Baker-Slowey-Blackburn trifecta, but maybe he’ll start seeing some Rauch innings.

  • jimbo92107

    Burnett has a bright future, but he needs to work on spotting his fastball better. Batters were teeing off on his heater lately, while laying off everything else. I saw Burnett throw a two-seamer that bent right and missed the outside corner for a ball. That same pitch thrown inside might catch the corner for a very tough strike. If Burnett learns to throw that pitch down in the zone to lefties, he’ll be back up before the end of the season.

    Meanwhile, congratulations to Anthony Slama. His record demanded that he get a shot. Now, will they use him as directed, or pretend he’s a setup guy? Rauch needs to go back to setup, while Slama should be the one to miss bats as a closer. We shall see…

  • Pedro Munoz

    Thank god. Burnett started out ok but now he can’t get anyone out. The move doesn’t make Scott Baker’s pitching any better, but if the reliever gets the first batter out, the 5th inning ends with us down 4-1, which is a very different game than 7-1 with Burnett/Mahay.

    WTF was up with that Span bunt?

  • pk

    Pedro..agree 100% with the Span bunt. Seriously. Two down and you’re supposed to be one of our best OBP players and you bunt!!!!
    In addition, why not give Repko some run last night against a junk ballin lefty and sit Span? Sort of a reward for the good at bat on Sunday.

  • Jakemeister

    We have pitchers named Slowey and Slama. When do we call up Touchemalley and Leftitupa?

    Span at the plate with runners on second and third with two outs. Opposing pitcher is Cleveland’s back end starter. A hit scores two runs while a successful bunt only scores one run. Span does not have a bunting percentage twice as high as his hitting percentage.

    I’m no mathmatician but I do play one on TV and I have to say that Span bunting there was stupid and I hope he’s embarrassed about it.

  • Brent

    I know that it is attaching too much blame to a simgle play, but I thought span’s idiotic bunt attempt turned the momentum of the game against us. I know Baker puked the next inning, but i thought that play was as gutless and stupid a play as i’ve seen in a long time.

  • Span’s bunt was an incredible waste of an important at-bat. I don’t understand how any logical thought process was applied (from Span or the Manager) that ultimately decided a bunt was a good play there. Caught me completely off-guard while watching the game, and I just about threw my laptop at my TV.

    As for Slama, I’m one of the most excited people you will find out there because he’s finally been called up (clicking my name will pretty much outline my man-crush on him). And in my eyes, it’s probably a year or so behind what the schedule should have been the way he’s performed. But, DO NOT expect him to take the Closer Role on the MLB club right away or be pissed at Gardenhire because that’s not where he’s using him. That’s just not how you introduce a guy to the Bigs (though he might get that chance right away out of necessity because of injuries and guys who are unavailable).

    Name me ONE guy who stepped into the Closer Role the moment he debuted in the Majors. I’m fairly confident this NEVER (or at least Rarely) happens.

    Gleeman’s not backtracking, he’s tempering expectations and thinking realistically and logically.

  • chris

    finally slama comes in!!! Welcome Anthony!!! Get the job done!!!

    But is the majors..sometimes people come up..and geht 20 innings of great work..ERA under 3.00

    and sometimes…you are rocked in your 1st inning …get 4 earned runs..and your era is exploding for the whole season…

  • Pedro Munoz

    Mauer’s bunt last night was the last straw. Just shut it down.

  • Debby

    I aplaud Anthony for not wanting to shorten his name, after all he was named after his Great Grandfather, Anthony Slama, the Polka Band leader from Milton, North Dakota. Most people knew him as Tony Slama. But Anthony is right to go by the name we have always known him by. And the whole family is very proud.