The struggles of Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker have made the rotation a big problem for the team.
The record definitely shows that starting pitching has been a big problem for the Twins.
Carl Pavano has been the only consistent winner. And among the other four starters only Francisco Liriano, who blanked the Indians for seven innings in Wednesday's 6-0 victory at Target Field, has a better record than last year.
Fortunately for the Twins, the Tigers have gone into a big slump, losing seven in a row before Wednesday's game. And the Twins had the good fortune to steal a victory Sunday to beat the American League Central-leading White Sox three out of four, otherwise they might be even further behind Chicago than they are.
But it's pretty obvious this team will have to add a starting pitcher if they are going to repeat as division champions.
Last August, the Twins picked up Carl Pavano in a trade with Cleveland, and he helped guide a rotation that also included Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Brian Duensing into the playoffs. This year, Blackburn, Baker and Kevin Slowey have been ineffective enough so that manager Ron Gardenhire has indicated he might drop one or two of them from the rotation. Blackburn is the first to lose his starting role as Duensing will replace him this weekend.
Even though Liriano has a better record than last season, he went from June 11 until last Friday without winning a game. Last year at this time he was 4-9 in 19 starts with a 5.33 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .268, on his way to losing his spot in the rotation. This season, he is 8-7 with a 3.54 ERA and an opponents' average of .257. And he's third in the American League with 133 strikeouts.Blackburn loses spot
Blackburn has been the most ineffective of the returning starters, and Gardenhire had little choice but to take him out of the rotation.
At this time last season, Blackburn was 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA. After getting knocked out of Sunday's game against the White Sox after five innings, he is 7-7 with a 6.53 ERA.
"We all know that this is a cyclical game," Blackburn said. "You do your best out there and just leave it at that and lately that hasn't been good enough, so I'll keep working at it. I think just being consistent down in the zone is really key for me."
Pavano, 11-6 with a 3.40 ERA, has been a big help to the struggling starters.
"Carl's very wise and pulls us aside and say, 'Listen, it's nothing I haven't gone through myself, and just keep going,' " Blackburn said.
Slowey was 10-3 last year with a 4.86 ERA until a wrist injury forced him to have season-ending surgery last July. Currently he is 8-5 with a 4.94 ERA, saving his spot in the rotation with a decent outing Tuesday.
As for Baker, he was 8-7 with a 5.04 ERA at this point last season. Now he is 7-9 with 5.15 ERA. Baker had a strong second half in 2009, so he is due for another turnaround.
The record of the starting pitchers at the Twins' Class AAA farm team in Rochester, N.Y., was a combined 14-47, so there's no help there.
Twins General Manager Bill Smith admits the Twins are talking to teams about a deal for a pitcher but he adds, "We aren't going to give up the future."
It's no secret that teams want top prospects such as Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson and Wilson Ramos in return, and it's unlikely the Twins would part with any of them.Morneau still out
Twins players begin a seven-game road trip tonight in Baltimore, and they are very concerned about their teammate, Justin Morneau.
The star first baseman has missed 11 games because of a concussion. And the Twins are not going to rush Morneau back into uniform until they are sure he is 100 percent. He has a history of concussions as a youth hockey player and because of a beaning from Seattle's Ron Villone in April 2005.
"He's making progress, but he's not ready to be back on the field yet," Smith said. "So we're going to take our time and give him whatever time he needs to make a full recovery.
"I don't think you can rush a head injury. You've got to be careful with it, and so we're going to try and do all the right things."
No doubt many people remember how a concussion ended the career of ex-Twins third baseman Corey Koskie.Jottings
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn't report to the mandatory minicamp, saying he was attending a day in his honor in his hometown in Texas. But it is interesting that his salary for this season is $3 million, a lot less than running backs not in his class. For the 2011 season, Peterson will make $10 million. And wide receiver Sidney Rice will be paid $550,000 this year and he could be a free agent at the end of this year. However, because a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been reached, no one knows for sure what things will be like on the free agent front in the NFL for 2011.
The Twins, going into Wednesday's game, had the second-best attendance in the American League with an average of 39,493. The Yankees led the way at 45,901.
The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas wrapped up Sunday. Timberwolves guard Wayne Ellington was 16th in scoring, averaging 15.8 points. Former Wolves first-round pick O.J. Mayo, who is playing for Memphis, was 21st at 15.5. Former Gophers guard Lawrence Westbrook played five games for the Wolves, averaging 3.8 points and 1.2 assists in 15.2 minutes.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org