Kevin Slowey was getting bad-mouthed so much behind the scenes by the Twins’ on-field brain trust in 2011 that even Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer felt empowered to rip him.
When a player receives that treatment on a Twins’ telecast, it is safe to assume that his days with the club are nearing an end. As it turned out, Slowey was given away that December to Colorado for Daniel Turpen, a minor-league pitcher.
Slowey pitched so poorly in 2011 that he had to go, but I’ve always found it ridiculous to hear some people suggest that he was almost an evil presence around the team.
He was a big admirer of his own intelligence and condescending in dealing with people, including reporters. But there are people who are tough to get along with, and there are actual bad guys. Slowey fit into the first category, not the second.
One reason for the hostility toward Slowey from many in the organization and the Minnesota media at the end in Minnesota might have been the hope there was for him at the beginning. He started off as a personable kid as a 22-year-old rookie in spring training of 2007.
This was the lead of a Slowey column I wrote in mid-March of that year:
FORT MYERS, FLA. – There were three pitchers going through bullpen sessions simultaneously Monday morning. Kevin Slowey was in the middle, with Ramon Ortiz to the left and Carmen Cali to the right.
When Ortiz or Cali made a comment in Spanish, Slowey would respond in kind. This is convenient, because when you're as verbal as Slowey, one language might not be enough…
"I was pretty quiet for the first week," Slowey said. "I found out the people here are such good guys - from the stars to the last guy - that I started being myself."
Which would be: extroverted.''
Slowey made his big-league debut that year with 11 starts, two relief appearances, a 4-1 record and a 4.73 ERA.
The Twins traded Johan Santana after that season and Slowey seized a place in the rotation. From 2008 through 2010, he was 35-20 with a 4.36 ERA in 406 2/3 innings.
Actually, it was 2 ½ seasons, since he missed the second half of 2009 with an injured right wrist that required surgery. Slowey was 10-2 with a 4.04 ERA in late June, before trying to pitch through the sore wrist and having a pair of three-inning starts in which he was pounded.
Slowey was 13-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 2010. Nick Blackburn was 10-12 with a 5.42 ERA. Scott Baker was coming back from injury. When training camp opened, the Twins said that Slowey, Blackburn and Baker were competing for two of three openings in the rotation.
Baker was making a large salary. The Twins weren’t going away from him. So, when manager Ron Gardenhire prematurely ended the competition – announcing on March 5 that Blackburn would be in his rotation – Slowey was miffed.
And he was justified in that, considering the numbers for the two right-handers. Slowey’s status became official on March 22, when Gardenhire gave the fifth spot in the rotation to Baker.
“We’re going to get Slowey ready to pitch in the bullpen,’’ the manager said.
All Hades broke loose after that, with Slowey balking at the bullpen assignment, getting sent out, and finish 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in that disastrous season. Then came the trade.
It took former Twins catcher Mike Redmond, now Miami’s manager, to rescue Slowey and give him a shot this season. He pitched three scoreless innings – out of the bullpen – to beat the Twins on Wednesday.
He had to enjoy that. And as flawed as was Slowey’s thinking in 2011, it was no worse than was the Twins in turning a pitcher who had been an asset over the course of the three previous seasons (35-20, 4.36) into a pariah.