Saturday, February 16, 2013

Starting pitcher change and stability

The Twins 2012 starting rotation had roughly the same outcome as the recent Carnival Triumph cruise.

The Twins deployed 12 different starting pitchers, each of whom got at least five starts; with the exception of Anthony Swarzak, each of the 12 got at least a full month in the rotation. Only Scott Diamond truly thrived.

And so there are no fewer than 19 starting candidates in training camp right now, almost enough to fill four five-man rotations.

The Twins were destined for a major makeover of the rotation this spring regardless of how poorly 2012 went; four of the five veterans who entered training camp a year ago as projected starters were due for free agency at the end of the year. All four -- Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Jason Marquis and Carl Pavano -- are gone now. (Baker never pitched in the regular season, so he's not one of the 12.)

The odd thing, looking at today's spring training roster, is that only three of last year's dismal dozen (Liriano, Marquis and Pavano) aren't still in the organization. The other nine -- Nick Blackburn, Sam Deduno, Cole De Vries, Diamond, Brian Duensing, Liam Hendriks, Swarzak, Esmerling Vasquez, P.J. Walters -- are still on hand.

Some are rehabbing from surgery or other injury, some are more likely to be used in the bullpen, some are destined for Rochester or New Britain or even for release. Other than Diamond, all have an uphill battle to be in the major league rotation. There are, after all, another eight candidates for the rotation, eight guys who weren't part of last summer's problem.

One might have expected a more drastic turnover from last year's disaster. Certainly some will see the continued presence of so many of 2012's starters as a failure of accountability.

But that only Diamond is truly a frontrunner for a starting job this spring tells a different story. I think three of the holdovers -- De Vries, Hendriks and Deduno, in that order -- probably deserve a better opportunity than they're likely to get this spring. The odds are against any of the three emerging as reliable major league starters, but I'm quite certain that at least one of the current rotation locks (Kevin Correia) has established that he never will.

In that sense, the failure of the 2012 rotation casts a shadow over the survivors.


  1. I don't know why I am so intrigued with Sam Deduno. Watching him last year, there were times he had electric stuff. And if the coaching staff can somehow get him to limit his walks he could be a solid rotation guy. Then you look at the numbers DeVries put up and you realize he pitched pretty well. 5-5, 1.209 WHIP. Correia is just another example of throwing money at a really bad pitcher, ala Blackburn. I really believe DeVries, Deduno or even PJ Walters could of held that spot in the rotation equally effectively at a minimum cost. Correia will be making Twins fans pull their hair out by May 1st.

  2. I have some confidence Hendriks will make a good major league starter, probably as soon as some time this year. Devries is a good story and actually pitched well enough last year to get a good shot at starting this year. Like many, it easy for me to root for Deduno, although it seems unlikely he will actually ever harness his stuff consistently enough for anyone to actually leave him in the rotation over a few emergency starts.

    Although the rotation appears fairly full, I don't know how many of the projected starters will be healthy enough to start the year. As far as Correia goes, I would like to actually see him pitch before I would join the anti-Correia crowd.