If you have followed along in our reports from the Salt Lake Buzz spring training camp, you know that manager Phil Roof is pretty well set in most areas of the team. The only area that's iffy for the Buzz is the bullpen - shaky all last season - as nine pitchers battle for six roster spots.
Veteran Dan Naulty and fourth-year minor leaguer Fred Rath will be the closers - a role, some assumed, they would fill with the Minnesota Twins. However, injuries have taken some 6-7 mph off of Naulty's fastball; he hopes to regain that velocity in Salt Lake. Rath, whose repertoire includes a knuckle curve, was impressive in 1997 with 17 saves. Three of those saves came in a 10-game stint with the Buzz late last season. But neither was impressive in their opportunities this spring with the Twins.There are three lefties looking to head West with the Buzz. Kevin Ohme looks to return to Salt Lake, where he went 2-5 with a 5.62 ERA and eight saves, leading the team with 56 appearances. Dan Smith spent the last eight years in the Texas organization, making the Rangers in 1992 and 1994. Going 1-5 with a 4.66 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, Smith is still trying to rebound from shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of 1995. And Chris Cumberland, who was claimed off waivers in August from the Yankees, has appeared in 100 games - all as a starter - in five years of pro ball.
One of the right-handers vying for a spot is Gus Gandarillas, who is battling back from a fractured right ankle when he was struck by a line drive last July. Gandarillas pitched well for the Buzz (1-0, 3.18 ERA with two saves) prior to the injury. The three other righties include Buzz veterans Keith Linebarger and Shane Bowers and newcomer Ken Wallace. As a starter, Bowers went 7-2 with Double-A New Britain and 6-2 with Salt Lake last season. He was 0-3, however, in five appearances with the Twins. Linebarger was 4-6, 6.63 ERA, in an up-and-down year with the Buzz.
Pitching coach Rick Anderson indicates it will be a few days before the bullpen crew is set.
BEELINES: There are a couple of ex-Buzz players in camp as coaches in the Twins organization:
- Former infielder Jeff Carter (Class of `94) is in his second season as a coach, his first at Class-A Fort Meyers.
- Former outfielder Ricardo Ingram (Class of `95) is in his first year at Class-A Fort Wayne.
Pitchers Travis Baptist and Shane Bowers, outfielder Jamie Ogden and infielder Jeff Ferguson were not in camp Tuesday as they went to Winston-Salem, N.C., with the Twins.
The Buzz lost 11-2 to Oklahoma on Tuesday, with Travis Miller taking the loss. Former Buzz third baseman Tom Quinlan drove in three runs for the Redhawks.