Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anthony Swarzak vs. Kevin Slowey vs. Glen Perkins

Kevin Slowey is
0-1. 3.26 in six
outings, all starts,
on his rehab
There are, I'm  sure, sound medical reasons for the unhurried pace of Kevin Slowey's rehab from his abdominal strain.

But beyond the physiological is this: There is no current place for Slowey in the major league rotation, and there is apparent agreement between the pitcher and the organization that he does not fit in the bullpen.

So when his 20-day rehab assignment to Triple-A Rochester expires, the expectation is that Slowey will be optioned to the Red Wings, perhaps as preliminary to a trading-deadline deal. Or perhaps not; pretty much everybody expected the Twins to dump Glen Perkins during his 2009-10 exile, and no deal was ever done.

Perkins has obviously found a home in the bullpen. His fastball velocity is markedly higher than as a starter, and his somewhat limited repertoire plays better in brief outings.

Slowey's record as a major league starter is superior to Perkins. Perkins has 44 major league starts on his resume with an 18-12 record and 5.09 ERA; Slowey, in 82 starts, is 39-21, 4.42. But like Perkins, Slowey has a limited selection of pitches, has had difficulty going deep into games and has never made it through a full season in the rotation.

It wasn't outrageous for the Twins to decide that Slowey was the odd man out for their rotation this spring, but their spring training decision to make him a key component of their bullpen plans backfired. Perkins, whose very career appeared to be on the line this spring, earned his current role by getting outs in relief. For him, set-up work is a step up from where he was; for Slowey, it probably looked like a demotion.

In four major league starts this year,
Anthony Swarzak is 2-1, 2.84.
Then there's Anthony Swarzak, like Perkins a product of the 2004 draft, like Slowey a second-round draft pick. Swarzak's career also appeared to be going nowhere after last season, when he went 5-12, 6.21 for Rochester.

He went to winter ball, got sick, lost a lot of weight, decided to keep it off — which is a tough way to go about it. He pitched well in training camp but was demoted early, pitched well in Rochester (his strikeout rate jumped, his walk rate plummeted), got called up for a spot start late in April, didn't fare well, got another call up in mid May and has stuck.

He's had three more spot starts and the Twins have won all three. He hasn't been marvelous in his long relief role (he's had seven relief appearances and allowed runs in five of them; another way of looking at it is that his ERA has been lower after four of the seven outings, higher after three).

Swarzak has the bullpen role that Slowey ideally would have started with —  long relief, spot starter.  In a real sense, he benefited from lower expectations.

I'm still not completely sold on Swarzak. It's only 40 innings, but his strikeout rate (4.3 K/9) isn't good, and his BB/K ratio is roughly where it was in his first go-round in the majors in 2009. He has the job for now, but I'm not sure how secure his grip is. I remain convinced that Slowey is the better pitcher.

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