Friday, June 23, 2017

Chris Gimenez, Nik Turley and more pitching moves

Thurday's rain delay was apparently the longest in Twins history -- five hours -- and it sure didn't take long for the Twins to suspect that they should have just postponed it.

It was still the first inning when I sent this tweet:

And sure enough, the Twins backup catcher pitched the ninth inning, his sixth pitching appearance of the season.

There was a lot of chatter leading up to the draft about two-way players, and the question arises: At what point to we consider Gimenez a two-way player? My answer is: When his pitching is not limited to the ninth inning of blowout losses.

That said, Gimenez has now pitched five innings with a 7.20 ERA this season. The Twins have used 25 pitchers (and counting; two new names, Dillon Gee and Trevor Hildenberger, are being called up). Six of them have worse ERAs than Gimenez and eight have fewer appearances.


Nik Turley is one of the six and of the eight (ERA 16.39 in three games, all starts, total of 9.1 innings). The Twins merely optioned him out rather than designating him for assignment Thursday, but the Twins need to make space on the 40-man roster today for both Gee and Hildenberger, and DFAing Turley is an obvious possibility.

I feel for the guy. He was a 50th round draft pick, spent a decade in minors, finally gets to the show and gets three starts, every one of which goes poorly, every one worse than the one preceeding it.

Indeed, he may be the least effective pitcher in Twins history, although I'm not sure how to weigh ERA vs. opportunity. For example: Randy Rosario has an ERA of 30.86, but Turley has seven more innings and two decisions.

Having written that, I looked up Steve Carlton's Twins record. The no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer pitched 53.2 innings for the Twins at the end of his marvelous career with an 8.54 ERA, going 1-6 in 1987-88. Andy MacPhail and Tom Kelly gave him a lot of rope.


As for the new guys: Gee was signed to a minor league deal earlier this week, and presumably he's going to take Turley's rotation berth, although I wouldn't care to wager that he's ready to go deep into his first start. As I said when he signed, I don't expect much.

Hildenberger is a sidearming right-handed reliever who has shot up the minor league system, posting some ridiculous ERAs in the process. Last season he had a combined 0.75 at two levels (high A and Double A). That is not a typo: Zero point seven five. This year's ERA is a more normal 2.05 with 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings at Triple A. That K-rate is roughly what he's posted consistently.

No velocity; if he threw hard he would have been up earlier. I don't know how his style is going to fare in the majors and particularly against lefties, but

  • he's been getting outs in the minors and
  • the Twins are in no position to ignore that.

He calls to mind Anthony Slama. another funky righty who never got a real chance with the Twins despite some overwhelming minor league numbers. Slama had some bad timing with injuries, but at the core of his lack of opportunites was a belief that his minor league success was based on minor league hitters chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Slama always walked more guys than Hildenberger has, though.

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