Thursday, March 10, 2011

Starting Pitching Asset or Dilemma?

As Spring Training continues for the Twins in Ft. Myers one big question appears to be what to do with the starting pitching. Carl Pavano who re-signed during the off season has already been annointed as the Opening Day Starter by Manager Ron Gardenhire. After that while there are decent arms behind Pavanao there are even more questions.

Let's start with the number 2 pitcher, Francisco Liriano, who started last seasons playoff series against the NY Yankees. Liriano who was arbitration eligible in the off season was a target of the Twins for a long term contract as he appears to have put his Tommy John surgery behind him. Negotiations never really got off the ground however as Liriano and his agent were reportedly looking for a 3 yr deal in the $36 mil range. Liriano ended up signing a 1 yr deal for $4 mil + and has been the subject of trade speculation since his contract demands became public. Many people have him eventually being dealt to the Yankees as they are in dire need of starters after losing out in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes and the retirement of Andy Pettite.

The 3rd and 4th positions have been locked down according to Manager Ron Gardenhire although the order has yet to be established. Brian Duensing who last year split time between the pen and the rotation with equal effectiveness and at times dominance is one candidate. Duensing does however have durability concerns as he has spent the majority of the last couple years in relief and has not been stretched out for an entire season. Additionally he appeared to tire and melt down in his only post season appearance against the Yankees. Nick Blackburn who has shown when healthy that he can control a game and has been a big game pitcher in the past for the Twins is also a lock. Blackburn was injured the 2nd half of last year which resulted in reduced effectiveness and a mid season demotion to the minors. His injuries were treated over the winter and he appears to be the Blackburn of old down in Ft. Myers.

That leaves Scott Baker who not that long ago was at the top of the rotation and Kevin Slowey. Baker appears to have the inside track to the final spot if he can overcome his injuries and get back on track. Slowey who has battled injuries and inconsistency the last couple seasons has just not developed into the kind of pitcher he has the potential to be and that Gardy expects him to be at this point in his career. In fact in recent days Slowey has also been the target of trade speculation with the loudest rumors indicating a possible destination of Toronto, although this is NOT confirmed.

Pushing everyone although likely to start the season at AAA Rochester is Kyle Gibson. Gibson who was a late 1st round steal for the Twins a couple years back after falling in the draft due to injury concerns appears to be healthy and at times has nasty stuff. Gibson split time last season between AA and AAA and is ready to make the jump.

However things shake out it appears as if it will be an interesting end to Spring Training and the start of the regular season. Too much starting pitching is not something most teams have to worry about and gives the team some options as the season progresses.

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