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Twins’ closer might already be on their roster

By La Velle E. Neal III

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Twins are fairly confident that their closer of the near future is already in the organization.

What they are trying to determine is how near that future really is.

Already tasked with upgrading their starting rotation, the Twins could use a reliever or two. And they have been in contact with many agents representing relief targets. One of those is former Twins closer Brandon Kintzler, who was traded last July 31 but is willing to return to the club.

The Twins also have shown interest in 40-year old Fernando Rodney, who had a 4.23 ERA but saved 39 games. Righthander Juan Nicasio, who had a 2.61 ERA in 76 games with three different clubs last season, also is on their radar but has little closing experience and might be a set-up target.

The Twins’ search could be influenced by their belief that some of their young relievers can close. Just not right now.

Someone like Rodney could close for part of the season before yielding to one of the younger arms, if the Twins go that route.

“Do we want to thrust that person into that role come Opening Day? Probably not,” Twins General Manager Thad Levine said. “But I think, come season’s end, that are we open-minded that someone who didn’t start the year as the closer finishes the year as the closer.”

Sidearmer Trevor Hildenberger was 3-3 with a 3.21 ERA last season after being called up from Class AAA Rochester. He got one save, on Aug. 13 vs. Detroit when he went 1 1/3  innings. His competitiveness was evident the more experience he received. In 124 minor league games, Hildenberger posted a 1.57 ERA and picked up 52 saves.

He appears best equipped to step into the ninth-inning role.
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