The Twins needed a spot for Carl Pavano on the 40-man roster and they created it by designating right-hander Boof Bonser for assignment on Tuesday.
Acquired from the San Francisco Giants with Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano in the trade which sent A.J. Pierzynski westward, Bonser made his Twins' debut in the 2006 season. Bonser made 18 starts for the Twins that summer and finished with a 7-6 mark with a 4.22 ERA in 100.1 innings. He struck out 84 hitters against 25 walks in his rookie campaign, and was a major reason why the Twins caught the Detroit Tigers on the season's final day for the AL Central Division title. He was the Twins' starter in game two of the ALDS that post-season against Oakland.
He made the rotation out of spring training in 2007 but slumped mightily in 30 starts. He posted an 8-12 record with a high 5.10 ERA in 173.0 innings, striking out 136 hitters against 65 walks. Things got even worse in 2008 as Bonser made only 12 starts and lost his spot in the rotation. He finished 3-7 with a 5.93 ERA that season and never got things going. Viewed as a bullpen option in spring training 2009, Bonser showed up with a sore shoulder and missed the entire season after surgery.
With Pavano's acceptance of arbitration Monday night, the Twins have four slots filled in the rotation and have many options both for the fifth starter and for the bullpen. Bonser made $450k last season but was arbitration-eligible this off-season. As La Velle E. Neal III points out, the Twins' payroll will likely approach $90M in 2010 and they needed to let someone walk (also, look for Jesse Crain to be another potential casualty as the deadline to offer contracts to non-free agents passes this weekend).
Bonser would have made an interesting late-inning option for the Twins this spring. Although he is coming off surgery, he still has a fastball capable of hitting the mid-90s. The Twins are crowded in that area, even without Bonser and potentially Crain, with Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, Matt Guerrier, among others. Bullpen duty is likely his future in the big leagues and someone will definitely take a chance on a 28-year-old with a big fastball, injury or not. Twins' fans may play a little "what if?" with Bonser, but he was a major contributor to that 2006 team but did not provide much else after his rookie campaign.