Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sorting out the pitching staff

Kyle Gibson appears to be the leader for the fifth spot
in the Minnesota starting rotation.
When the Twins on Friday morning listed the planned starters for the next five exhibitions, the beat writers concluded that the braintrust had settled on a rotation: Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson.

Not so fast, the Twins quickly said. It's still not settled between Gibson and Scott Diamond.

Apparently Sam Deduno is slated for the bullpen. What we do know is that Vance Worley cleared waivers (not surprising) and has been assigned to Triple A Rochester. (Worley's departure opens a spot on the 40-man roster, giving the Twins room for one of  Jason Kubel or Jason Bartlett. This is a mixed blessing.)

I'm a Diamond fan, but Gibson needs to be in the rotation. The 2009 first-round pick is 26 years old. It's time to find out what the Twins have in him. Right now, Nolasco is clearly the best starting pitcher in the Minnesota rotation. To be a true contender, the Twins need at least two starters better than his established level of performance. Gibson might be one of those starters.

What I would really like is for the Twins to trade away Correia to open a rotation spot for either Deduno or Diamond. Reportedly there have been numerous scouts at the Twins games, raising speculation that deals could be in the works involving some of the out-of-options starters or bullpen arms. My guess, however, is that no deal is coming, and if one does happen before the opener, trading away a veteran reliever is more likely than trading a starter.

Keeping one of the starter candidates (Deduno) as a reliever is a bad sign for Ryan Pressly and Caleb Thielbar, two of the seven holdovers from 2013's relief corps. Presumably the Twins will open with a seven-man bullpen, so somebody loses out to make room Deduno. If Michael Tonkin makes the squad (and he should), that's another spot taken from an incumbent.

That's why a bullpen trade seems plausible.

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