Twins focus on relievers Lyon, Gagne
Club pursuing relievers for setup role behind closer Nathan
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have spent all winter searching for relief help and now that search appears to be focused on two free-agent pitchers who could be options for the club's setup role -- Brandon Lyon and Eric Gagne.Discussions between the Twins and Lyon's agent, Barry Meister, have been ongoing this winter but it appears that Lyon could be getting close to making a decision on where he will pitch next season. Meister told MLB.com on Friday that he's currently weighing the interest from teams and that his client could have a decision on a team by next week. So far no official contract offers have been made to Lyon although there are believed to be three or four teams interested in the pitcher, including Minnesota and Detroit. Some teams, like the Tigers, are pursuing Lyon as a possible closer. The Twins, however, are looking at Lyon, 29, as an eighth-inning option to bridge the gap to closer Joe Nathan. It was an area that was a trouble spot for the club last season. Lyon, who had a 4.70 ERA with a .301 batting average against, saved 26 games for the Diamondbacks last season although he spent most of the second half in a setup role. The previous season, Lyon was considered to be one of the premier setup men in the league, recording 35 holds and two saves in 2007.
Gagne could also be an option for the setup role if he were to sign with the Twins. According to a person with knowledge of the talks, the Twins have discussed contract terms with Gagne's agent, Scott Boras. The exact figures of those discussions are unknown.The 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner and Major League record holder for most consecutive saves converted, Gagne is coming off his worst season in the Major Leagues in which he went 4-3 with a 5.44 ERA and 10 saves for the Brewers in 2008. After signing a one-year, $10 million contract to be the Brewers' closer last winter, Gagne was moved out of the closer job by mid-May and saw his first half slowed by injuries as he went on the disabled list for over a month with rotator cuff tendinitis. But the 33-year-old right-hander improved in the second half of the season, posting a 3.52 ERA after the All-Star break. The Twins have expressed interest in other relievers this winter, including Mike Lincoln before he re-signed with the Reds, Takashi Saito before he signed with the Red Sox, and Guillermo Mota before he signed with the Dodgers. Minnesota signed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to a Minor League contract to battle for a long relief role in the bullpen, but so far the Twins have been unable to sign any late-inning options.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.