Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fifth-starter starts

Pedro Hernandez gestures to the heavens at the start
of his outing at Boston May 8 in an apparent gesture
to his recently deceased cousin. He went just two innings.
Pedro Hernandez is pretty clearly the Twins' fifth starter. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are veterans with multi-million dollar salaries; Scott Diamond and Vance Worley aren't as well paid as Correia and Pelfrey, but they are more-or-less established rotation arms. Hernandez is a relatively unheralded rookie with mediocre velocity and low expectations.

Low expectations — that's an important factor with fifth starters. Hernandez on Monday went 5.1 innings — 16 outs — while allowing three runs. Not a quality start, but (a) he left with the lead and (b) most managers will take that from their fifth guy.

The problem for the Twins is that they're getting that kind of start not only from Hernandez but from the rest of the rotation as well.

The Twins have had six starts of seven innings or longer this season, four from Correia and one each from Diamond and Worley (and Correia's last two starts were five and 5.1 respectively.) Pelfrey has two six inning starts, Hernandez has topped out at 5.1 innings and Liam Hendriks, the only other man to get a start so far, at five innings.

The bullpen has made up for some of the ineffective starts. Anthony Swarzak, the primary long man, already has 22 innings (ERA 3.22), and Josh Roenicke (3.00) and Ryan Pressly (1.62) have 18 and 16.2 innings respectively. (And one of Hernandez's better games was a long relief stint during a lull between starts.)

But those guys are long men for a reason. The starters need to eat more innings. Only Correia is averaging more than six innings a start, and he's showing signs of receding to his usual level. And to eat more innings, they'll have to pitch better. Worley's ERA is 7.15; Pelfrey's is 6.03. They're making Hernandez' 5.79 look good.

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