Friday, February 16, 2018

Spinning the rotation

With Ervin Santana sidelined for more than a month to open the season and the Twins' search for rotation depth frozen in the free-agent standoff, Paul Molitor this week hinted at the possibility of skipping a starter with frequency in the early part of the season.

As he and his pitching advisors see it, the Twins could get through April only using the fifth starter twice.

It's easy to see the rationale behind paring the rotation back to something like 4.5 starters. As Earl Weaver said, it's easier to find four starters than five. And at this very moment, the Twins have two pitchers they consider locks for the rotation to open the season, Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. The other slots are undetermined.

But there are reasons to avoid doing that. In the heyday of the four-man rotation, most teams used early-season offdays to skip their fourth starter with frequency, but not Weaver. He recognized that he would need his No. 4 sharp in the following months, and figured that more rest between starts in the early season chill was better for his aces.

And that's pretty much how I expect Molitor and pitching coach Gavin Alston to conclude this internal debate. I expect they would rather have Berrios, who turns 24 in May, make 30 starts than 34, and would rather not push him in 40-degree temps. And he's the high-ceiling starter, the guy who gives them any advantage to pushing. (There is little obvious gain to skipping, say, Aaron Slegers to give another start to Adalberto Mejia.)

What may lead to some rotation juggling is the April 17-18 series in Puerto Rico against the Cleveland Indians. Molitor recognizes that those games have an emotional resonance for Berrios, and I will be very surprised if Berrios doesn't get one of those starts. Not only does the setting matter for Berrios personally, but these are the top two teams in the AL Central, and having the Twins most talented starter pitch against Cleveland makes sense.

1 comment:

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