Monday, June 2, 2014

The future of the rotation

Phil Hughes collects himself Sunday before his first start
in Yankee Stadium as a member of a visiting team.
The Twins starters fared pretty well over the weekend in Yankee Stadium. Working it backwards:

  • Sunday: Phil Hughes went eight innings, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks. 
  • Saturday: Kevin Correia, my least favored of the starters, went six innings and allowed just one run. 
  • Friday: Ricky Nolasco also had six innings of one-run ball.

Nolasco did walk four with just three strikeouts and allowed seven hits, 11 baserunners in 18 outs; Correia had nine hits and one walk, 10 baserunners. So the one-run outcomes seem a bit deceptive. They didn't pitch THAT well.

Still, three quality starts in the tater haven that is the newest rendition of Yankee Stadium isn't bad at all.

Meanwhile, a few noteworthy developments regarding Twins starters past and future in the minors:

Mike Pelfrey interrupted his rehab assignment to have his arm checked out, and what is described as minor nerve irritation was found. He is to have a second exam done by the noted Dr. James Andrews. So he's not close to returning, which is probably for the better. I'm in no hurry to see him pitch again.

Prospect Trevor May, pitching for Triple A Rochester, blew away Gwinnett (Atlanta) with seven shutout innings in his most recent start. He's now 5-3 with a 2.62 ERA and a batting average allowed under .200 for the Red Wings. He's also sporting his lowest walk rate since A ball.

May isn't the only Red Wings starter impressing. Kris Johnson, who came up to start the second game of a doubleheader, has a 1.83 ERA. Logan Darnell, who also had a brief call-up, has a 2.54 ERA with more strikeouts than innings. And Alex Meyer, generally regarded as the best pitching prospect in the organization, has a 3.31 ERA while fanning 10.8 hitters per nine innings. (He's also got a high walk rate).

May, Darnell and Johnson are on the 40-man roster, while Yohan Pino is not. Poor Pino, who has picked up a handful of starts, only has a 1.73 ERA.

The Red Wings have a team ERA of 3.14, and I can only imagine how low it would be without old friend Scott Diamond's 7.51. I don't see Diamond returning to Minneapolis anytime soon. A lot of guys ahead of him.

Here's the thing: One can make a case for bringing up any of the May-Meyer-Darnell-Johnson quartet for the Twins rotation. (I'm arbitrarily leaving Pino out on the basis that the other four are younger and better prospects for the future). But for whom?

Certainly not for Hughes, who has been superb. The Twins have too much invested in Nolasco to change course on him after two months. Kyle Gibson has been up and down, but the Twins really do need to give him a clean shot.

That leaves Correia and Sam Deduno. Correia is in the final year of the two-year contract he signed before 2013, and I think he's a possible piece of trade bait in July. Or even sooner if some teams with postseason ambitions start getting squeezed by injuries. (Or if the Twins can find somebody with a spare center fielder.)

Deduno ... well, his injury history suggests he's not likely to finish the year in the rotation. I'd say keep him in the rotation until he gets hurt.

The Twins will have rotation openings this summer. But they need not be in a hurry to create them.

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