Nine pitchers started games for Minnesota last year. And that was a good year. Most seasons, the Twins, like most teams in baseball, have closer to a dozen pitchers start ball games for them over the course of the depth-testing 162-game Major League Baseball schedule. So when a team starts to fret about having six experienced starting pitchers returning with only five slots available on the opening day roster, it is a bit of a head scratcher.
But that is just what has been occurring this spring down in Fort Myers, as the Twins try to sort out how to deal with their “problem” of starting pitching excess. Rumors have swirled that the Twins, unhappy with his lack of offseason conditioning, are entertaining offers for southpaw Francisco Liriano. Minnesota opted not to even attempt to lock Liriano up long-term this offseason, instead settling on a one-year compromise to avoid arbitration. Seeing as Liriano is the only starting pitcher on the staff with shut-down stuff capable of carrying the team for month-long stretches and, more importantly, in October when the light-weight lineups of the American League Central are in the team’s rear-view mirror.
After the Twins had to deal with daily questions concerning Torii Hunter’s impending free agency during the 2007 season, the front office has been quick, often too quick, to pull the trigger on moves to simply avoid public relations hits. Instead of hanging on to Johan Santana for one last run at the World Series with him, they traded him to the Mets for what has amounted to virtually nothing. They have overpaid several homegrown players that are fan favorites, highlighted by Joe Mauer taking a king’s ransom after just one season as a reliable power threat. Another deal just to avoid having to deal with a proven starter in the bullpen would demonstrate a complete lack of foresight.
To take the next step in the postseason, Minnesota needs to add another swing-and-miss starter to their rotation, not subtract one. And with a shaky bullpen, they may need to have a guy capable of pitching extended innings out of the bull pen just to get back there.
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Written by TS