Saturday, January 26, 2013
In Twins rotation, experience, competition is up
MINNEAPOLIS -- With 195 losses over the last two years, the Minnesota Twins have a lot to fix. Starting pitching is on top of the list, and revamping the rotation might be the most complicated repair in the majors.
The Twins focused on the future by trading not one but two center fielders to acquire a couple of potential aces, but they also had a 2013 rotation to address. So they began, naturally, by increasing the competition.
None of the new guys were hot-stove headliners, but they're banking on at least more consistency that Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley can bring to a group whose 5.40 ERA was the worst in the AL last season. Scott Diamond is the only one of 12 pitchers who took at least five turns in the rotation last year who has been guaranteed a place this season.
"I kind of read a little about how they don't think Correia or I were sexy pick-ups, I guess because we don't really strike a lot of guys out," Pelfrey said on Saturday at the team's annual fan festival. "Any way you want to look at it, whether it's a groundout or strikeout, as long as you're getting people out, we'll take it."
Pelfrey added: "I think we can get this thing turned around and get a lot more consistency in keeping them in ballgames. From my understanding, this offense is going to put up some runs."
Correia lost his spot in Pittsburgh's rotation last year, but he has won an average of almost 12 games over the last four seasons.
Pelfrey went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA for the New York Mets in 2010, but he's coming off elbow reconstruction surgery and made only three starts last year. He said he'll be ready to throw at full speed when spring training begins on Feb. 13.
Worley has only 46 career starts, all with Philadelphia, but he went 17-13 with a 3.56 ERA over those appearances.
All of those statistics, of course, were in the National League. They'll have to face a regular diet of designated hitters now.
"It's a different offensive league than it is over there. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't happen in that league when you've got nine guys whacking away. So it's different. But if you can pitch, you can pitch," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins signed Pelfrey for $4 million, a modest sum in today's market for starting pitching. They gave a two-year, $10 million contract to Correia, a 32-year-old who struck out only 89 batters in 171 innings last season.
"I've been fairly healthy my entire career, so I pride myself on staying on the field and trying to help us win most of the times I go up there," Correia said. "I think if you can do that throughout the season, you can have a productive year and help the team win."
The Twins arguably invested the most in Worley by trading Ben Revere, a potential Gold Glove outfielder who stole a team-high 40 bases last year in only 124 games. Worley, whose picked up the nickname "Vanimal" for his work ethic in the weight room in college at Long Beach State, will have the benefit of pitching at spacious Target Field instead of tight Citizens Bank Park.
"In Philadelphia, it was tough pitching there because the ball really flew. And here I know I've got a pitcher's park to work with. I'm not going to be afraid to throw the ball in the strike zone. I'm not afraid anyway, but at least now I know don't have to look and see it go 20 seats deep," Worley said. "Now it's going to be just a regular popup."
That leaves holdovers Nick Blackburn, Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno, Liam Hendriks, Esmerling Vasquez and P.J. Walters auditioning for probably one available spot. Top prospect Kyle Gibson also is in the mix, but he's coming off elbow ligament-replacement surgery that sidelined him for most of 2012. Rich Harden, once a rising star with Oakland only to be hit by injury after injury, was signed to a minor-league contract. Brian Duensing will probably be in the bullpen.
"I know I don't have a guaranteed spot. I don't think I deserve one. It's my job to try and win one," said De Vries, who went 5-5 with a 4.11 ERA.
Said Walters: "We had tons of guys here last year, and the only guy who got called up ahead of me who started was Diamond. He's already there, so my job is to go take his job this year. However I have to do that and go out and pitch well, that's all I can do."
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