Twins rotation could be singing different tune after meetings

As Major League Baseball descends on Nashville for the next four days, Terry Ryan's main task will be trying to restore his team's starting pitching.

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Starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens struggled in 2012 but was an All-Star for the Atlanta Braves in 2011. Several teams appear to be interested in him, including the Twins.

Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE - Now that the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players has passed, the free-agent pool is full. And the Twins plan to jump into that pool as they attempt to craft a suitable starting rotation for 2013.

As the annual winter meetings kick off, the Twins are expected to contact many agents who represent starting pitchers. They are definitely interested in righthander Jair Jurrjens and lefthander John Lannan, who were non-tender casualties on Friday and became free agents. The question is how much it will cost to land them.

Jurrjens, 26, is 53-37 in his career and was an All-Star in 2011 when he went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Braves. He was unable to find that form last season, with injuries contributing to his decline. He spent most of 2012 in the minors and went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA in seven starts for the Braves.

Uberagent Scott Boras represents Jurrjens, and several other teams, including the White Sox, appear to be interested.

Lannan, 28, was a two-time Opening Day starter for Washington but found himself nudged out of a deep 2012 rotation. The ground-ball pitcher spent most of the season in the minors and went 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA in six starts for the Nationals. Lannan is 42-52 with a 4.01 ERA in his career and has thrown more than 180 innings in a season three times.

"The non-tenders, as you described them, add to the pool, so there is more quantity," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said on Sunday. "We're looking at everything that is out there. You have to keep every avenue out there if you want starting pitching."

The winter meetings are being held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, a 600,000-square-foot facility a few minutes from the airport. You are handed a map of the sprawling complex upon check-in, but you really need a GPS to find your way around. There are many areas to sneak off to and have a private conversation. Sometimes the path to a deal begins with a couple of team officials having a casual chat in a hallway or around a corner before heading upstairs to tell their GMs they might have a match.

Perhaps the Twins will use such channels to improve their rotation. They still need multiple starters after trading outfielder Denard Span on Thursday to Washington for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.

"I don't think you can put a number on it," Ryan said of the Twins' needs. "We will try to get as many as we can. And we're not going to get someone just for the sake of adding someone. It has to be someone who likes our situation and wants to help us get better."

In addition to inquiring about Jurrjens and Lannan, the Twins have other potential targets:

• Righthander Brett Myers: Worked out of the bullpen last season -- going 3-8 with a 3.31 ERA in stints with the Astros and White Sox -- but 249 of his 377 career appearances have come as a starter.

• Righthander Brandon McCarthy: Went 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA with Oakland in 18 starts before his season ended when he was struck in the head by a line drive.

• Lefthander Francisco Liriano: The Twins are considering bringing him back after dealing him to the White Sox in July.

The Twins also will check in with the agent for righthander Jared Burton. They would like to sign Burton to a deal to avoid arbitration but could delay talks while they pursue starters. Burton's agent, Dave Pepe, also represents righthander Carl Pavano, but indications are that Pavano will look for a job elsewhere.

The Twins have a one-track mind this week when it comes to adding talent to their roster.

"We're looking at starting pitching," Ryan said. "If anything else happens, it would have to be something that falls in our laps."

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