We're sitting over here at Xcel Energy Center, and for some reason we started looking for signs that the Twins starting pitchers are getting better.

Guess what? They are. Sort of. When you subtract Mike Pelfrey from the equation.

Pelfrey, as we all know, was a hot mess all year before going on the disabled list. But the other four mainstays -- Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia and Kyle Gibson -- were also collectively fighting it early in the season as well.

In their first seven combined starts, that group of four went a total of 36 2/3 innings and allowed 27 earned runs. That's a 6.69 ERA, and just a shade over five innings per start.

In their last 16 combined starts, that group went a total of 99 1/3 innings and allowed 53 earned runs. That's a 4.80 ERA and a little over six innings per start.

That 4.80 figure would still rank 28th in MLB right now among starters. But it means that while the team's offense has predictably cooled off some after a scorching start, the pitching has at least improved to the point that it's not as much of a liability.

If Sam Deduno can fortify the other spot (he pitches Tuesday) while the rest of the staff continues to shave runs off its awful start, the rotation could still be downright decent.

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