Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taking the fifth

La Velle Neal suggests in the game story from Tuesday that Jeff Manship may be bounced from the rotation before Sunday's start against Kansas City and Zach Grienke.

It could be Francisco Liriano (right). Or Armando Gabino. For that matter, the Twins might still be able to pluck somebody off waivers and toss him into the fray. He wouldn't be eligible for the playoffs, but he might help get there.

Certainly the in-house options right now aren't particularly impressive. Whoever takes the ball for the first pitch on Sunday isn't a good bet to be around for the fifth inning, much less the seventh.

Away back in 1987, Tom Kelly finagled his "rotation" through September — Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola in regular rotation, and he pieced things together in between. Steve Carlton got three starts in the last five weeks or so — the washed-up future Hall of Famer was pitted against Teddy Higuera, Jack Morris and Bret Saberhagen, arguably the three best pitchers in the American League that season. TK's thinking: The Twins weren't likely to score a lot of runs in those games, so he'd see if Lefty had one more big game left — and if not, he wasn't wasting a bullet.

But TK was playing with a lead. Ron Gardenhire's playing catch-up. He can't afford to concede Sunday's game.

Neal dismisses immediately the notion of a four-man rotation for the last two weeks of the season. It would be an un-Twins-like thing to do; this organization believes strongly in protecting its pitchers. Plus, Carl Pavano is not exactly Iron Man McGinnity; there's a limit to how far he can be pushed.

But the prospect of two bullpen starts against Grienke in the last eight days of the season is daunting. Gardenhire has to find the idea of shortening his rotation for the last 11 games tempting.

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