The recent Yankees trip and that dastardly visit to Boston a few weeks ago might have been nothing but torture to Twins' fans, but it's also put us in our place.
While the Twins have performed just fine on offense—with the exception being the Bronx disaster—the Twins' pitching staff has remained mediocre or worse. What's more, while Gardy fine-tuned the lineup this week (specifically, moving Go-Go outta the #1 spot), the bullpen and rotation staff hasn't been touched. Zip. Nada.
The Twins haven't touched the rotation since sending Boof to the bullpen in May, and they haven't realigned the bullpen since releasing Rincon.
Not bad if you were to think the Twins have the league's premier pitching staff. But that's not so. The Twins are 9th in Team ERA (4.31) and 13th—second to last—in opponent BA at .286.
The Twins' complete lack of oversight about Livan Hernandez might be most perplexing. It is remarkable that they are willing to put up with an ERA north of five just for the "veteran factor." I mean yeah, this is the Twins. But when you have the guy sitting in AAA Rochester who just got done pitching seven scoreless innings with three hits, chomping at the bit to get up here, surely we can pretend that Scott Baker is the veteran on the staff?
Another moment that may have cost the Twins this season was the demotion of Bobby Korecky. He came up for the injured Punto and ended up out-relieving some of the other members of the bullpen. After his shaky debut, Korecky threw 8.1 innings in the bigs, giving up just three runs (3.24 ERA) and striking out six. Of course, there was pretty much no way the Twins could have kept him up, needing a roster spot for Punto. But it's the thought that counts, and it was thanks to him that the Twins beat Texas that legendary night.
The Twins have two priorities for the trade deadline if they want to try and contend this year. Actually, scratch that. They have two priorities if they want to contend at all.
1. Get Lirano up in the rotation at whatever the cost. He is ready. I would stage a boycott of Twins games pretty soon if he's not on the roster. I almost don't care anymore whose spot he takes, here's hoping Blackburn goes bust on his next one. I think some people may have forgotten how dangerous Franchise is. If you need a reminder, go watch that Astros-Twins game, Liriano v. Clemens. It was priceless seeing the young phenom.
2. Get another respectable set-up guy. The Twins have been fiddling around with a bullpen full of nothing for much of the year. Guerrier is the highlight of the bullpen, and even he is less than consistent this year. The Twins should try and put together a package for Fuentes or another reliever. (They won't, of course.)
Minnesota also needs a new situational lefty. There were only so many years that Dennys Reyes filled that spot effectively, and I think his time has passed.
The Twins' lack of action in rejuvenating the pitching staff is gut-wrenching, and it is a key contributor in why it is Chicago, and not the Twins, who are in first place in the Central.