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Carl Pavano has been the only healthy starter since Opening Day, but his record is only 7-11.

Gus Ruelas, Associated Press file

L.A. ANGELS 4, TWINS 1

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2012 rotation is in flux

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III
  • Star Tribune
  • September 5, 2011 - 8:58 AM

ANAHEIM, CALIF. - It's been a long, unproductive season for the Twins starters, possibly a historically unproductive season.

No Twins starter has double-digit victories. With four-fifths of the original rotation injured, there's a chance that the Twins won't have a starter with at least 10 victories for the first time in a non-strike year. The 1981 Twins were the only team without a 10-game winner, but that season was cut to 109 games.

Lefthanders Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano have nine victories each. But Duensing has a right oblique strain and is out indefinitely. Liriano has a sore shoulder, and the Twins plan to discuss this week whether he will pitch again before the season is over.

The only healthy starter from Opening Day, righthander Carl Pavano, is 7-11.

Wins aren't the best way to evaluate a pitcher, but when no one on a staff has 10 in September, it shows how crummy the season has been.

"It's been frustrating to have what you think is a good rotation and have all kinds of crazy stuff go on," pitching coach Rick Anderson said.

A glance at the standings and a further peek inside the trainer's room explains where the Twins are with their starting rotation.

Scott Baker, out with a right flexor strain, could be available in a week. He is 8-6. Fellow righthander Nick Blackburn, however, continues to be bothered by a right lateral forearm strain. He has been shut down for the year and moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for minor leaguers.

On Saturday, Duensing left the game in the second inning because of his oblique strain.

Starting pitching is usually a Twins strength, but their starters ended Sunday with a 4.56 ERA that was ranked 26th in baseball. Part of it could be that an unreliable defense behind them that has led to more pitches thrown. But the struggles of some will lead to more competition for rotation spots next season.

Lefthander Scott Diamond and righthanders Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak will get good looks as starters in September -- possibly until injured starters get healthy or possibly for the rest of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire has said starting pitchers this season could wind up strengthening the bullpen next season. It doesn't take a lot to see Blackburn and Duensing could be on the hot seat for 2012.

"What you're seeing right now is a bunch of kids getting up there, getting major league experience," Gardenhire said. "[That means] more depth, and so when you go into spring training, you are going to have a lot of competition with guys who, if they throw the ball good here in September, they are going to put their stamp in the mix for the rotation and the bullpen."

Diamond (1-2, 4.82 ERA in three starts) and Swarzak (3-5, 4.14 ERA in 22 games, including six starts) have earned additional looks.

Righthander Kevin Slowey, once out of the picture, held the Angels to two runs over seven innings Sunday before leaving the game because of a slightly sore hamstring. It was his second seven-inning outing in a row.

Hendriks began the season at Class AA New Britain but moved to Class AAA Rochester for nine starts and now will get a look Tuesday when he starts against the White Sox.

There have been no indications the Twins will look outside the organization for a front-line starter, which they could really use. Texas lefthander C.J. Wilson is among the best of the upcoming free-agent class.

Starting pitching is another item on the Twins' offseason to-do list.

"Are there concerns about our rotation next year? Absolutely," Gardenhire said. "We have a lot of things to figure out."

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