Saturday, June 16, 2012

Liam Hendriks and the 2013 rotation

Liam Hendriks has
eight major league starts
with a record of 0-4, 7.40.
Today begins Liam Hendriks' second attempt to secure a spot in the Minnesota starting rotation, which has been about as stable as a rockslide.

There's a lazy line about a team that's buried in the standings, as the Twins are, that "they have nothing to play for." Those silly enough to believe that, believe everything that isn't the postseason is nothing, and that's not so. Even bad teams, and particularly the players on bad teams, have goals to reach for.

One of the Twins goals is to find, develop and protect the pieces of a workable starting rotation for future seasons.

As we peer from today's vantage point into the unlit future of 2013, I see three groups of candidates for that rotation:

The first group consists of Nick Blackburn and Scott Diamond. Blackburn is here not because he's earned it with his pitching, but because he has a guaranteed contract. Diamond has earned it with results; even in his loss Thursday night to Philadelphia, he wasn't all that bad (14 ground balls, three fly balls; 65 strikes, 35 balls). He just gave up a couple of homers, and got no run support. It happens. Diamond's ERA is now 2.13; double it, and you still have a reasonable starting pitcher.

The second group is Hendriks, all by himself. Of all the starting pitchers in the Twins system, he's the most ready for a major league job. Not necessarily the best prospect of the bunch — I'd still prefer Kyle Gibson's pending career to Hendriks' — but the most ready to step in now.

The third group is everybody else; flawed with possibilities. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano are pending free agency; Gibson and Alex Wimmers are rehabbing injuries; Scott Baker is both; Cole DeVries and P.J. Walters are limited by their stuff.

Over the coming weeks/months, Hendriks will either rise into the first level or sink to the third.

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