Blog Entry

Twins must sort out starters

Posted on: January 24, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:57 am
 
Brian Duensing
With the return of Carl Pavano, the Twins are faced with a problem any team would like to have: too many proven starting pitchers.

Minnesota heads into spring training with six pitchers who each won at least 10 games last season: Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing. All but one had both a winning record and an ERA under 4.50 (Blackburn, at 10-12, 5.42).

So who goes to the bullpen? That's not a decision the Twins have to make just yet, and might not have to make at all, because there are some unknowns. Blackburn and Baker both had arthroscopic elbow surgery after the season, and though both are projected to be fully ready to start spring training, there's always the possibility of a setback. Slowey also dealt with some injuries last season.

But if all six are good to go on opening day, who's the odd man out of the rotation? Duensing (pictured) has the most relief experience, making 40 appearances out of the bullpen last season, but the Twins liked what they saw from him down the stretch as a starter, when he went 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA. He also gives them a second left-hander to go with Liriano. Blackburn was the statistical weak link last season, but advanced stats (for example, a 4.62 xFIP) show he might have been better than his record, and should be due for a bounceback. Slowey's 39-21 record as a starter is going to buy him the benefit of the doubt.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he's not complaining about his "problem."

“Hopefully they all stay healthy, and it’s a tough decision,” Anderson said.

-- David Andriesen

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