Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The rotation merry-go-round

P.J. Walters embraces pitching coach
Rick Anderson after his complete game
five-hitter Tuesday night -- easily the
best outing of his unsubstantial
major league career.
Jason Marquis, out. Cole DeVries, in.

Marquis' grip on his job was slipping all season, and his dreadful start Sunday — and the strain it put on the bullpen — made his departure inevitable. Marquis is probably going to land another chance somewhere, most likely in the National League, but I doubt there'll be enough demand for his services for the Twins to trade him. I would expect him to be released.

DeVries is lined up to start Thursday. If we count Scott Baker, who never took the mound in the regular season, DeVries will be the Twins 10th starter -- and we haven't reached Memorial Day yet.

I am mildly surprised that DeVries got the call. Liam Hendriks would have seemed more likely. But I assume that the Twins don't want to yo-yo the Aussie up and down. When he comes back, it's with the intent that he stays.

And while Marquis isn't returning to the Twins rotation, there are two pitchers now out of it who do figure to return to it — Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn. I would expect that when Blackburn is ready to come off the DL, it will be into the rotation spot DeVries is about to fill.

Of course, the Greg McMichael Rule is always in effect: If you get outs, they'll find a role for you. 

DeVries -- who was so far down the totem pole this spring that he wasn't even in major league camp -- may look like a temp worker right now, but so did Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters when they showed up, and their status becomes more entrenched with each quality start.

There remains reason to be skeptical of Diamond and Walters. Their raw stuff is not imposing, and their records of success are limited. But they've been more effective this season than Blackburn or Liriano, and if they keep getting outs, they'll keep getting the ball. And if one or both splutters, their roles can vanish quickly.

And the same will apply to DeVries. If he gets outs, he'll get the ball. If not, somebody else will. This is his chance.

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