Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tyler Duffey and limiting innings

Tyler Duffey's ERA since his
disastrous debut :2.45. 
Tyler Duffey made his seventh major league start Monday. He may not make another start for the Twins, at least this year.

Not because he's been ineffective; the 24-year-old's 6.1 innings of one-run ball Monday drove his ERA below 3.80.

But even after skipping a turn in the rotation -- Duffey was pitching on nine days rest -- he's in novel territory. He has 138 minor league innings on his record this year, and now 38.2 more on the big club. That's 176.2 innings split among three levels (Double A, Triple A and the majors), and the college reliever hadn't reached 150 before.

It's a dilemma for manager Paul Molitor and pitching coach Neil Allen. By the results, the rookie is clearly one of their best starters right now, and every game matters for a team that is just outside the playoff field. On the other hand, one of the organizational philosophies -- evidenced by the Jose Berrios shutdown -- is "protect the pitchers."

The Twins have 19 games left on the schedule. Duffey could make as many as three more starts; if he does, and matches Monday's 19 outs in each, that's 19 more innings, which puts him at 195.2. I don't think the Twins want to go there, but they may need to if they are to get to a place they do want to go, the postseason.

Certainly the Twins have other options to get them through the final weeks of the season. Phil Hughes comes off the disabled list today. Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and Ervin Santana remain in regular turn. Mike Pelfrey is getting the skipped-turn treatment this time through. That's five guys without Duffey.

Molitor even, unbidden, brought up the name of Ricky Nolasco on his pregame radio show Monday, saying he hoped to get Nolasco into a game yet this season (while stopping short of saying it would be as a starter). Nolasco hasn't pitched since May.

Molitor is clearly piecing together his starters one series at a time now. I doubt he's going to shut Duffey down completely. But he's not going to rely on Duffey either.

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