Previewing the Minnesota Twins' 2013 Projected Starting Pitching Rotation
The Minnesota Twins finished the 2012 season 66-96, a mere three-game improvement from the previous year when the team narrowly avoided 100 losses. A major concern has been starting pitching—or lack thereof—which remains the case heading into 2013.
Scott Baker was supposed to help stabilize a struggling rotation last year, but was placed on the 15-day disabled list on March 31 and was eventually shut down for the entire season when it was reported he required elbow surgery to repair a damaged flexor pronator tendon.
Uncertainty at starting pitching continued throughout the year, with the Twins trotting out 12 different starters over the course of the season. Here's a look at the players that took the mound in 2012, ordered by total number of games started:
|Cole De Vries||16||5-5||4.11||1.21|
|Brian Duensing ||11||4-12||5.12||1.40|
|Carl Pavano ||11||2-5||6.00||1.40|
Of these 12 players, only five are on the team's current 40-man roster, with both Duensing and Swarzak listed in the bullpen (via official site).
Nick Blackburn is currently recovering from wrist surgery and will miss the start of the season. He was originally considered a candidate for the fifth starter in the rotation.
Samuel Deduno signed a minor league contract with the team, as did P.J. Walters and Esmerling Vasquez. Of these players, Deduno is the most likely to be called up as a starter. He pitched well in 2012, although he'll need to work on control—he walked 53 batters in 79 innings pitched.
Through trades and other personnel decisions by Terry Ryan, the mix of starting pitchers for the Twins will have some unfamiliar faces. The following is a preview of the projected starting rotation.
1. Scott Diamond
2012 Statistics: 27 GS, 12-9, 3.54 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Scott Diamond emerged as the ace of the Twins' starting rotation in 2012, providing a sense of stability for an otherwise wavering collection of pitchers. He broke into the majors on July 18, 2011, after replacing the oft-injured Scott Baker. In his first career start, Diamond lasted 6.1 innings and surrendered three earned runs in the loss.
The Canadian-born pitcher started 2012 in the minor leagues before being called up to start on May 18, 2012. After pitching 7.0 innings of shutout baseball in the win, Diamond never looked back. He added a complete-game shutout to his resume later in the season, separating himself from his peers.
Diamond will need to bring that momentum into 2013 if the Twins plan to have success. The left-handed pitcher is currently recovering from minor surgery he underwent in December to remove bone chips in his elbow.
He has been throwing from 55 feet, working his way back to facing live hitters. Currently listed as day-to-day, Diamond is expected to be the Opening Day starter for the Twins if healthy.
2. Kevin Correia
2012 Statistics: 28 GS, 12-11, 4.21 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Kevin Correia signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Twins this past offseason, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates the previous two years. He has been a .500 or better pitcher in his last four seasons, going 46-43 with a 4.51 ERA. In those seasons—two with Pittsburgh and two with San Diego—he has started no fewer than 26 games each year.
Correia is the definition of an innings-eater, lacking great strikeout ability with a pitch-to-contact approach. The right-hander only posted 89 strikeouts last year with 171 innings pitched. His best strikeout total came in 2009 with the Padres, where he put up 142 strikeouts in 198 innings.
The Twins signed Correia to add some stability to a group that only had one pitcher start 20 or more games in 2012 (Diamond, 27). If the former Pirate can keep the ball down in pitcher-friendly Target field, he may be able to limit the volatility of the team's starting rotation.
3. Vance Worley
2012 Statistics: 23 GS, 6-9, 4.20 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
Vance Worley was dealt to Minnesota in the Ben Revere trade, sending the Twins' outfielder to Philadelphia for Worley and starting pitcher Trevor May. Nicknamed the "Vanimal," the right-hander was drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2008 draft.
Considered a top pitching prospect for Philadelphia, Worley was 11-3 in 2011, with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. He posted 119 strikeouts in 131 innings pitched. However, Worley regressed in 2012 after landing on the disabled list for bone chips in his elbow. He started the season 3-2 before being shut down and finishing with a 6-9 record.
Hopefully Worley's experience with bone chips in his elbow is not indicative of Scott Diamond's upcoming season. With the strong performance in 2011 and a year removed from surgery, the former Phillies prospect has good upside for Ron Gardenhire's team heading into 2013.
4. Liam Hendriks
2012 Statistics: 16 GS, 1-8, 5.59 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Liam Hendriks was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent in 2007. Steadily working his way through the minors, Hendriks was the 2011 Twins Pitcher of the Year, posting an 8-2 record and 2.70 ERA at Double-A New Britain. He had 81 strikeouts in 90 innings, allowing 18 walks.
The Australian-born right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Rochester in July 2011 and had a respectable 4-4 record with a 4.56 ERA. He struck out 30 batters in 49.1 innings pitched, with just three walks. Hendriks was called up by Minnesota in September 2011, throwing 23.1 innings for an 0-2 record and 6.17 ERA.
The 24-year-old bounced around Triple-A and the majors for most of 2012. He exemplified the frustrating pitch-to-contact theme, a concept pitching coach Rick Anderson is removing from his vocabulary.
We'll have to wait and see if the mindset change translates into different results for Hendriks and others in the Twins' pitching rotation. The team gave up the second-most home runs (198) in all of the majors in 2012, trailing only Toronto (204).
5. Mike Pelfrey
2012 Statistics: 3 GS, 0-0, 2.29 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Mike Pelfrey signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Twins in December 2012. Originally selected No. 9-overall in the 2005 draft by the New York Mets, the 6'7" right-hander has posted impressive numbers in his seven-year professional career.
Pelfrey has a career record of 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA. His best year came in 2010, when he was 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA. He pitched a career-best 204 innings with 113 strikeouts.
Despite coming off Tommy John surgery in 2012, the 29-year-old had previously thrown at least 180 innings in four straight seasons, causing Terry Ryan to like his chances for the Twins. According to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
"We like the guy's stuff," Ryan said. "We like his makeup. We think he fits in here well. We brought him on certainly to be one of our starters."
Pelfrey has been ahead of schedule in his recovery, making his spring debut 10 months after surgery on Feb. 26. While the result was far from perfect (1.2 IP, 3 ER, 2K), the former Met is progressing well and becoming a team favorite in the clubhouse.
6. Cole De Vries
2012 Statistics: 16 GS, 5-5, 4.11 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Cole De Vries was a surprise standout for the struggling Twins in 2012, getting called up by the team on May 22 to replace Jason Marquis. Despite a low win total (1-4), he had good numbers in 46.2 innings, striking out 37 with a 4.24 ERA—he walked just seven batters.
A well-known local player, De Vries played for Eden Prairie High School and the University of Minnesota. The 6'2" right-hander was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent in 2006.
As the current odd man out, De Vries is among a handful of pitchers who will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Other options include Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Samuel Deduno.
The Twins also signed former Athletics pitcher Rich Harden to a minor league contract, after he missed all of 2012 with a shoulder strain. He could emerge as a wild card for the Twins, as could prospect Kyle Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in November 2011.
Either way, the 2013 season is shaping up to be filled with heightened expectations for a pitching staff that has been unreliable the last two years. With some promising new faces added to the fold, the Twins are optimistic for their revamped starting rotation.
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