Last year, Kevin Slowey was tagged by some to be the second coming of Brad Radke. His control and poise, they said, was absolutely phenomenal.
Well, halfway through 2008, and particularly in his last four starts, Slowey has lived up to the challenge. Sunday, he pitched a three hit shutout en route to giving the Twins (45-37) their fifth straight series victory.
Slowey is 3-0 in his last four starts, with a remarkable 0.93 ERA, 24 Ks, and 0.72 WHIP, all while walking only two batters through 29 innings. We haven't seen these numbers since Johan.
The thing that impresses me more is his poise. Twice Sunday he found himself facing Prince Fielder, one of the most formidable batters Slowey probably has ever faced, in dangerous situations.
And twice he went right after Fielder with inside-half fastballs that sent the Prince packing.
Slowey's no-fear attitude could have been deadly, especially against a Brewer team with about half the lineup with at least 10 home runs. Not so for Slowey, he pitched to all of them. And he's only allowed one HR in his last four starts--a remarkable stat for a pitcher who has had less than a year's worth of starts to work with.
With every start I see between Slowey, Baker, Blackburn, and Perkins, I see a devastatingly solid rotation forming. In 2009 and beyond, this could be the rotation to watch in the AL. And with Liriano on the rise, the Twins have the caliber of pitchers to finally, finally, have a playoff roster that can go far.
But, they have to get there first. Slowey and the rotation must keep it up; now that we see that they CAN pitch against the best and the worst, let's see them pitch consistently. One might find a turning point in the Twins' season, and more so in the Twins' progress going into next season, if they can manage a series win against the White Sox at the end of July.
There's a lot of baseball between now and then, but look for that series to be the defining series of the season if the Twins are still hanging in there--after their visits to Detroit, Boston, New York, and Cleveland.
No idea on this end who the 2009 Opening Day ace will be, but Slowey, with his patience, poise, and ultimately his resemblance of a Twins legend in Radke, could drop into that role. A remarkable June has shown the talent, and ultimately the potential, of Slowey's performance and future.
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