It's hardly a crisis, but Paul Molitor this week hasn't anything close to his season opening rotation on hand.
Ervin Santana left camp to join the Dominican Republic team for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, and Hector Santiago and Jose Berrios were already with Team Puerto Rico. Toss in the season-ending injury to Trevor May, and the Twins are without two rotation locks and two primary candidates.
Not that Molitor is short on pitchers. Indeed, the absent ones have opened innings for a number of "lesser" candidates, specifically non-roster invitees Ryan Vogelsong and Nick Tepesch and Rule 5 pick Justin Haley. Vogelsong and Haley each drew their first spring starts this week, Vogelsong on Sunday, Haley on Monday.
May's injury in particular seems to have amped up the possibility of Vogelsong landing a rotation spot. The 39-year-old would seem to have limited upside and I'm not sure that his floor is very high, but the Twins seem to value his experience.
An interesting quote (via the Pioneer Press and Mike Beranadino) from Vogelsong:
"... I know there’s a competition, so there’s definitely a fine line of where you go, ‘I’m working on stuff but I need to get results too.’ I think the powers that be here are smart enough to see spin and pitches being executed and doing the things you need to do to win a ballgame.”My translation of that: Vogelsong is taking the established veteran approach to spring despite knowing that he's not established. He's confident that the new front office will look beyond the spring training ERAs and examine the data gathered from their TrackMan system -- objective data on his pitches, the spin rates and the movement and location.
Will that be enough to get him the fifth starter job? My personal bias is for the guys with some growth potential, and that ain't him. I can't see Vogelsong as anything deeper than a placeholder.
Hector Santiago, as noted in the Monday print column, is working out of the Puerto Rican bullpen. Tuesday night he threw 2.2 shutout innings as Puetro Rico beat the powerful Dominicans 3-1. Santiago has now thrown 5.1 innings in the WBC, allowing one run.
My grasp of the pitching rules for the WBC is incomplete, but I believe Santiago has been burned for the rest of the second round. Berrios is to start against Venezuela in Puerto Rico's third game of the round.
This will be interesting to see play out: Ervin Santana had resisted the urge to play for the Dominicans, saying he wanted to focus on making his opening day start, but relented after the first round.
Reportedly he insisted that he be a starter -- he didn't want to go to San Diego to throw a couple innings of relief -- and the Twins apparently expected that he would be kept on their schedule so he remained on track to pitch on April 3, the Twins opening day.
That would have meant pitching Tuesday night. Instead, Carlos Martinez (St. Louis Cardinals) got the start against Puerto Rico. Santana is to start on Saturday against Team USA, which is as far off the schedule as he can be.
I don't know what Santana and the Twins were told before Santana agreed to play, but it's quite possible somebody thinks they were lied to. Tuesday was an off day for the Twins, and major league camp was closed, but Thad Levine issued a bland statement saying that he was sure the Twins could adjust things so Santana can start the opener.
And I think that's true. This isn't optimal, but the Twins should be able to work around it.