Friday, April 13, 2012

After Baker: Hendriks or Swarzak?

Jason Marquis was slated to pitch the third game
of the season. Then Liam Hendriks was. And when
game time arrived, it was Anthony Swarzak who got the ball.
A very minor silver lining to Scott Baker being out for the season: We won't have to listen this year to Bert Blyleven complaining that Baker doesn't pitch "down in the zone."

Would that we could. 

A healthy Baker -- not that he's had a healthy season since 2009 -- figured to be the best starter in the Minnesota rotation. He and Francisco Liriano were the only members of the projected rotation with an established strikeout rate above average, and Liriano is maddeningly inconsistent.

The assumption here in the wake of Baker's loss was that Liam Hendriks is in line for the rotation berth. He was, after all the man designated to fill in for Baker when the Twins thought it would be a relatively short-term opening.

Jason Marquis paid
for a steak and lobster
post-game spread
for his short-term
teammates in
New Britain this week.
But multiple reports Thursday had it as a competition between Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak, who stepped in for Hendriks in Baltimore when the Aussie went down with food poisoning.

Swarzak is to start today against Texas; Hendriks is scheduled to face the Rangers on Sunday. Jason Marquis is expected to return from his minor-league sojourn next week to reclaim one rotation spot, leaving one spot for the other two.

Had the rotation been sound coming out of spring training, Hendriks would certainly have been optioned out to Rochester. It may be that he — and in the long run, the Twins — would benefit if he were still in the minors. Hendriks has a higher ceiling than Swarzak, but I'm not sure that he would be immediately superior.

When Marquis is brought up, somebody has to lose his spot on the 25-man roster. If Swarzak wins the rotation spot, it's a pretty easy call — Hendriks goes down to Triple A, where he was expected to be anyway. If Hendriks is in the rotation, Swarzak goes to the bullpen, and displaces probably either Alex Burnett or Jeff Gray.

Burnett has an option left; Gray does not. That might be all the front office needs to know on this decision.

What will happen when Kyle Waldrop is ready ... well, that's a bridge to cross when they get there.

No comments:

Post a Comment