One of the issues that's been raised about the Twins rotation is the lack of a true No. 1 starter. Some people argue that the No. 1 starter is only the No. 1 starter on Opening Day. But a team with aspirations of doing more than merely advancing to the postseason should be able to match up better than the Twins did in 2009.
You can make an argument for ordering the four right-handers -- Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and Kevin Slowey -- in ways totally different than mine.
1. Blackburn: He's proven himself to have a big heart and guts for big games, even if his stuff has gone mysteriously south for uncomfortable stretches.
2. Slowey: The best chance to be a true No. 1 if he can regain the command he sometimes showed before his wrist injury.
3. Pavano: Typical middle-of-the-rotation veteran starter.
4. Baker: There are times he looks like a No. 1 starter (the first time through the order) and other times when he looks like a rookie (the guy who throws too many pitches and gives up too many big innings). He conquers those issues and Baker can make the leap toward the top. Sometimes I wonder if I'm a little tougher on Baker than I should be.
So what about the fifth spot?
Does Gardy give the early nod to Brian Duensing (3.64 ERA in 84 innings) based on what he showed toward the end of lat season? Often times, the late-season flashes of a young pitcher don't bear fruit, but Duensing was pitching in big games and turned in some big outings. That set him apart from Jeff Manship and Armando (17.18 ERA) Gabino.
Does Francisco Liriano get a(nother) shot? As had been pointed out this week, Liriano's 2010 contract has been structured so that he can earn incentives out of the bullpen. But I have to think that the Twins still see visions of 2006 when his name comes up.
(Update: Just remebered to look in Gardy's doghouse. What will it take for Glen Perkins to reemerge? Thanks for the catch, jamax.)
Can Mike Maroth make a comeback? The veteran lefty has been out of the majors since 2007 and has a 5.05 career ERA with Detroit and St. Louis. I'm not impressed. And then there's Anthony Swarzak, whom everyone liked after his first few starts -- until he became a friend to hitters throughout the American League and lost his spot in the rotation and in the majors. What lessons did he learn?
I think Duensing is the guy to beat. But with this thing called outdoor baseball coming back to Minnesota this year, there could be more times that call for the Twins to dip deeper for an extra starter -- and I'm wondering how that will shake out.
Also, now that Milwaukee has signed lefty pitcher Doug Davis, I'm wondering if that eliminates an option for the veteran Jarrod Washburn that will allow his negotiations to resume with the Twins. Kind of a Crede-type situation from '09, complete with Scott Boras (of all people) as the agent unable to cut a better deal.
Here's a Twins roster to work with. Have at it.