Posted on: May 23, 2011 12:14 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 12:35 pm
By Evan Brunell
Kevin Slowey is not long for the Twins, as it appears both pitcher and team agree on one thing: it's time to move on.
Slowey hasn't been terrible, nor has he been openly agitating to be traded. Rather, this is an instance of both sides realizing the fit may be gone. Minnesota converted Slowey to relief this offseason, choosing to go with a rotation of Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Scott Baker. One could easily make a case that Slowey deserves to be in the rotation over any of the latter three players. But the bottom line is that the Twins disagree, and the conversion to relief has not gone as planned for Slowey after starting his career with 82 starts, four relief appearances, a 4.41 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and sterling 1.5 BB/9. The 27-year-old isn't an ace, but he is absolutely someone that can soak up innings in the middle of the rotation, and that's something many teams would love to have.
"I honestly think the right thing [is to let Slowey start somewhere], and that's what we're trying to talk about now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on ESPN 1500 via the Minneapolis StarTribune. "We talked with Kevin, we're going to talk with Billy [Smith, Twins GM] when we get home and try to figure out the right thing for Kevin to make sure he keeps his arm in good shape and all those things."
Slowey is currently hobbled by a stomach ailment that will be looked at this week. Assuming all is clear, he'll be demoted to Triple-A to become a starter, although that's not quite the location Gardenhire is envisioning. Slowey, too, believes there's a chance he will be traded.
"I understand our situation here," he said. "I understand the starters we have here, and I understand that, even given past successes as a starter, this might not be the right fit for me anymore."
Compounding the problem of freezing Slowey out of the rotation is his inability to transition to the bullpen. Slowey has struggled in the conversion, needing extended time to warm up and posting a 4.91 ERA in 14 2/3 innings. While his walk rate is even lower than his career marks, his strikeout rates have dipped significantly as well. Of course, you can't glean too much information from just 14 2/3 innings, especially since Slowey has already hit the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder. However, it's obvious Slowey hasn't been able to adjust to his new role -- which Gardenhire says has affected the bullpen as a whole. The bullpen currently is 28th in baseball with a bullpen ERA of 5.33
"I can't adapt," Gardenhire said. "He has to adapt as a player. I can't say [someone] is going to get knocked out in the third, so you start throwing in the third so I can have you ready for the fifth because you need that much time. I can't manage like that.
"And he told me [Saturday] he is having a hard time and doesn't think he can do it."
There are plenty of teams that would love to add Slowey to their rotation. You have the typical rebuilding clubs that could use a shot in the arm, such as the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Mets. But you also have contending clubs -- both small- and big-market -- that could use his services. The Athletics, Cardinals, Yankees and Red Sox spring to mind, and there are no shortage of other suitors.
It won't be difficult for the Twins to find a trade partner. What will be difficult, and will prove the hangup in any trade, is what Minnesota will get back for Slowey. His trade value has been killed by an unsuccessful transition to the bullpen, an injury and now admissions from both sides that a trade may be for the best. That will hamper the quality of names the Twins are offered, and they won't move Slowey until those names improve. That could mean that a few more weeks may have to go by for Slowey to prove in Triple-A he's ready to start, and for teams to grow more desperate. Of course, it's hard to get any more desperate than a team like Oakland.
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Posted on: April 29, 2011 2:28 pm
By Evan Brunell
What a surprise.
After Liriano coughed up seven runs in three innings Wednesday to balloon his ERA to 9.13, the writing was on the wall: shape up or ship out.
We've been talking about our options with him, and the first option is trying to get him right and relaxed out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano to 1500 ESPN Friday. The left-hander seemed on the way back to 2006 levels after injury and ineffectiveness sapped two years of his career. Last season, Liriano posted a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts, but so far this year has given up 27 hits and four home runs while walking 18 against just 18 strikeouts. That's a recipe for disaster, and the Twins have begun thinking about alternatives as the 27-year-old just can't seem to get anyone out.
"There's times when he looks totally dominant and he'll go an inning or two like that, but then he just kind of starts misfiring, and I think once we get ahead he just kind of backs away a little bit. So, if it's a confidence thing, then we've got to really work hard to get it there, but if not, we're going to have to make a decision and see where we go from there," Gardenhire added.
Minnesota has already started preparations, as the club is stretching out Kevin Slowey. Slowey, a former starter, was shifted to the bullpen to begin the year but quickly went down with a shoulder strain. He's been working his way back since and will throw 65 to 70 pitches in his next rehab start before returning to the roster. That will allow Liriano another start in Chicago against the White Sox to prove himself. If he can't, Slowey will likely step into the rotation.
"It hasn't been good," Gardenhire said. "I keep talking with [pitching coach Rick Anderson], and Andy says he believes there's a lot of confidence missing in there. I know Frankie said he just couldn't feel the ball the other day. But the other guys are throwing the same ball in the same weather, and he's misfiring pretty much a lot this year."For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 4:57 pm
By Evan Brunell
The last-place Minnesota Twins, sporting a 5-10 record that is tied with several other teams for least amount of victories thus far, are scrambling to find answers.
Of course, a major answer is currently on the disabled list, as star Joe Mauer has been felled by a debilitating viral infection. The Twins have also had to deal with a closer crisis, as Joe Nathan has already been demoted from the job after struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. The team also has to withstand the loss of starting second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka is out over a month after breaking his leg. And then of course, Justin Morneau is still working his way back from a concussion that knocked out the last several months of 2010. Morneau is receiving his second straight day off Monday after playing in a doubleheader Saturday, so it's clear he isn't quite right yet.
That's a whole lot of bad luck for the Twinkies.
"We understand the importance of every game," GM Bill Smith said to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. "You can lose a division in April just as easily as you can lose it in September. You can win it in April just as easily as you can win it in September. We've got to right the ship, and we're going to get our guys back on track."
The problem with this is that the Twins have a thoroughly unexciting squad, even when Mauer and Nishioka return. The cost of trying to acquire "Twins" players is that the club is often left with punchless players who get by on grittiness and defense. (Or in case of the outfield, no defense and a solid offensive game but with glaring deficiencies.) Nick Punto personified this aspect for years as he hit .248/.323/.324 in 2,707 plate appearances over seven years. That works out to 387 PA a year, which is a ton of at-bats to get, and he had two years with more than 500.
Punto's moved on to St. Louis, but his legacy lives on as the lineup Sunday indicates. Matt Tolbert led off the game, with Alexi Casilla following. Skip the power spots and you have Danny Valencia as the starting third baseman, and although he was out of the lineup, Denard Span is the team's starting center fielder.
And the career batting lines of those named?
Tolbert (pictured) is 29 years old with a career line of .246/.304/.349 in just 474 plate appearances. Casilla, 26, has a career .246/.302/.323 line in 1,108 plate appearances, while Valencia is 26 as well and has an impressive .294/.346/.426 mark in 381 plate appearances. However, Valencia had a hot 2010 in a 322-PA stint and his minor-league totals from his time in Triple-A are markedly less impressive. Out of the names mentioned thus far, Valencia has the most capability of sticking in the lineup, but the lack of power in his bat limits his value. Lastly, Span is 27 and is rather promising and a more than viable leadoff hitter as his .290/.367/.394 career line in 1,854 PA boasts.
And those players are actually valued by the team.
Granted, Tolbert probably exits the lineup once Nishioka returns and his ceiling is a bit higher, but that's still an awful lot to compromise on offense -- and the fact Tolbert led off the game tells you everything you need to know about both the team's struggles and the fact that Tolbert was their best option with Span out of the lineup.
While the club has Jim Thome as a power bat, he is merely a part-time player as the Twins try to milk all they can out of Delmon Young who has yet to justify his hype. Minnesota also has Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer for the middle of the order, but Cuddyer is slipping and Kubel is trying to shake off a poor 2010.
No one's saying these Twins can't contend. After all, they're coming off back-to-back division titles. That said, the Twins have made several curious moves the past few years, ranging from acquiring Matt Capps despite his exorbitant salary and demoting Kevin Slowey from the rotation to the bullpen to start Nick Blackburn, a worse pitcher who somehow lucked into a lucrative contract extension. Speaking of the Capps acquisition, it forced the Twins to go cheap on the rest of the relief squad given the dollars tied up in Capps and Nathan. Going cheap on middle relief is actually not a bad thing at all, but the pitchers Minnesota chose are hardly exciting, and the bullpen is now an Achilles' heel given Nathan's poor performance.
Although the Twins still have a good ballclub and will contend for the division before it's all said and done, this is a team thin on depth and power. For Minnesota to contend, the saving grace will have to come from the rotation which has an impressive blend of starters. In addition, Slowey could always return to the rotation and top prospect Kyle Gibson should make his debut by season's end.
Posted on: April 9, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: April 9, 2011 8:30 pm
By Evan Brunell
The Twins have placed starter-turned-reliever Kevin Slowey on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain after feeling soreness in the shoulder Monday. He's logged 3 2/3 innings for the Twins so far with a 2.45 ERA and should prove successful out of the bullpen after his removal from the rotation, which was a mistake in the first place. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire believes that the transition may have had something to do with the soreness. While relievers throw less overall pitches an outing, they are expected to bounce back faster and be ready to throw -- whether in the bullpen warming up or in a game -- multiple days in a row.
"That's something Slowey is going to have to learn probably, to warm up a little better and take it a little easier rather than try to rush," Gardenhire said, according to the Associated Press. "A learning experience."
Slowey, for his part, is unsure.
"I'm certainly not a medical professional so asking me to figure out or extrapolate what caused it, I think, wouldn't be very fair for me to say what caused it," Slowey said. "All I know is we got an MRI done and the doctors said they don't think it's anything serious. They do recommend taking some time and then going from there."
To replace Slowey, the team has promoted reliever Alex Burnett from Triple-A. Burnett saw extensive time in Minnesota last season, pitching 47 2/3 innings but posting a 5.29 ERA with 23 walks and 37 strikeouts. The Twins already have a poor bullpen in front of Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, so this won't help matters for a club already reeling from losing starting second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka for a bit over a month.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 4:45 pm
By Evan Brunell
Why is it merciful? Because Slowey deserves to start, and it is the Twins' loss to choose players such as Nick Blackburn over Slowey, who has a sterling 1.50 career walk rate per nine innings, paired with a 6.86 K/9 mark. While his 4.41 career ERA isn't great, it looks a lot better with a 4.32 xFIP and he could easily dip below 4 in the National League. Heck, as a 26-year-old, he still has the talent to do so in the AL.
Slowey is a flyball pitcher, so best profiles in a park that plays to his tendencies. If he can land in such a place -- Seattle is one possible destination -- it would be to his benefit. The Mariners are looking to improve their starting pitching depth and could offer up reliever Brandon League in a deal for Slowey. Working against this is the fact League is slated to open the year as closer with David Aardsma out to injury. The M's may not want to turn their bullpen into a motley crew, but frankly, if it's between League and Slowey and a poor bullpen, Slowey's the choice.
Any deal involving Slowey will require relievers in return as the Twins lost Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes. The club does have Joe Nathan returning and Matt Capps functioning as setup man, but the rest of the bullpen is in dire straits.
Other teams currently in need of a starter include the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Blue Jays and White Sox, but some are only interested in internal options as their starting pitching depth is temporary, such as the Dodgers or White Sox. However, even for those teams, Slowey would be an intriguing add as it is not every day you get a young right-handed starter with spotless command and a track record.
The Blue Jays in particular have been linked to Slowey, but given Toronto has Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco on the verge of landing on the disabled list, it's unclear if the Jays are interested in compromising their relief depth.
Bet on the Twins entering the season with Slowey, but it would be a surprise if he wasn't moved by July to a team in need of a starter. The Padres could end up the best fit, as they have a cavernous park and could possibly have relievers to deal.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 10:34 pm
Slowey is thought to be available in trade as he is battling Scott Baker for a spot as the Twins' No. 5 starter. The 26-year-old had a 4.45 ERA last season in 155 2/3 innings and has yet to show the durability to go 200 innings off of 32 starts.
Slowey, however, is very stingy with command and has solid strikeout numbers, so a breakout is possible but only if he can learn to limit his hits and last longer in games. Meanwhile, Baker reached 200 innings pitched in 2009 as a 27-year-old and while isn't stingy with his control to Slowey levels, has a career BB/9 of 2.1. Pair that with a 7.1 K/9, and Baker easily outdistances Slowey as the better pitcher.
The Blue Jays would be willing to part with relievers in any deal, which may not interest the Twins given they have a large portion of the payroll tied up in closers Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, but the middle- and backend of the bullpen could use some help.
Minnesota may have quite the demand for Slowey: the Athletics may be on the hunt for a starting pitcher as none of their options are making a case for the No. 5 spot. The Cardinals, of course, are trying to replace Adam Wainwright while the Yankees could also have interest. Slowey is young, cost-controllable and has shown he can hang in the majors with potential to grow. That's a valuable commodity to have, and teams in need of young pitching -- the Pirates spring to mind -- certainly will call as well.
Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 12:59 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Blackburn has been told by manager Ron Gardenhire that he's earned a spot in the rotation, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, leaving Slowey and Scott Baker to compete for the fifth spot. Gardenhire said he'd like to add top prospect Kyle Gibson to that list, but doesn't believe the front office will let him.
According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Twins are open to offers for Slowey (pictured). Slowey, 26, was 13-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 28 starts (and two relief appearances last season. Slowey is making $2.7 million this season and has two more years of arbitration remaining and is 39-21 with a 4.41 ERA in his four years in the big leagues.
Slowey has made two starts this spring, allowing four hits and three runs in five innings. On Friday, Slowey threw three scoreless innings.
Baker, 29, had arthroscopic elbow surgery in October and is scheduled to make his second spring appearance on Monday. He gave up two hits and a run in 1 2/3 innings in his first outing. Baker is in the third year of a four-year, $15.25 million deal, with a team option for 2013. Last season he was 12-9 with a 4.49 ERA and he's one at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. He's 55-42 with a 4.32 ERA in his six seasons with the Twins.
Slowey's age and contract situation make him more attractive to other teams.
Gibson has made two outings this spring, giving up three hits and two runs in two innings. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched at three levels last season, going 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA, with the bulk of his work (16 of 26 starts) coming at Double-A, where he was 7-5 with a 3.68. He made three Triple-A starts, going 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA there.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:56 pm
By Matt Snyder
Nick Blackburn will be in the starting rotation for the Twins this season, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday (Minneapolis Star-Tribune ), meaning Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are in a head-to-head battle for the fifth and final spot. The news came after Blackburn threw three perfect innings against the Rays.
Wednesday, Brian Duensing was given a spot by Gardenhire, making him the third member of the rotation behind ace Francisco Liriano and re-signed Carl Pavano.
Blackburn went 10-12 with a 5.42 ERA last season in 161 innings, but had offseason surgery to clean up his elbow. He's looked sharp in the spring, especially with his sinker.
Duensing went 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA last season. He closed in the rotation, starting 13 of his last 14 appearances after he joined the rotation. As a starter, he was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA. His 85 2/3 innings meant he averaged about 6 2/3 innings per start, and that was after coming out of the bullpen for the first part of the season.
The Baker vs. Slowey battle shows just how deep the Twins are with starting pitching. Baker is just two seasons removed from an 11-4, 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP campaign. Last season, he battled inconsistency -- and minor health issues -- to a 12-9 mark with a 4.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Slowey is one year removed from a season where he went 10-3, but his ERA was 48.6 and WHIP was 1.41. He was 13-6 last year with a 4.45 ERA, but has had issues getting knocked around, as he's allowed 10 hits per nine innings throughout his career. His control is solid, though, as he only walked 29 guys in 155 2/3 innings last year.
Baker was 5-0 in his last 10 starts last season and, like Blackburn, underwent a procedure to clean up his throwing elbow in the offseason.
Baker has a slightly better track record than Slowey, but that doesn't always decide the winner in spring training battles. Either way, the Twins have six legitimate major-league starting pitchers. Many teams would surely trade places.
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