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TwinsCentric: The fifth starter

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: January 15, 2013 - 11:28 PM

In less than four weeks, a sizable contingent of pitchers will report to Ft. Myers for spring training, with eyes on claiming a spot in Minnesota's rebuilt rotation. Rarely has it been so unclear at this point in the offseason who would comprise this vital unit.

We can safely assume that, barring injury, three of the five spots will be occupied by Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Kevin Correia. Beyond them, the situation becomes much murkier.

I'll go ahead and surmise that as long he holds his own in exhibition play, Liam Hendriks will claim one of the slots. He got some major-league experience last year, he seemingly has little to prove in Triple-A and we've seen plenty of quotes from Twins brass this winter indicating that he'll have every chance to earn a job.

If that proves true, we've still got one final spot that is very much up in the air. Since team officials have expressed that they're done making additions unless someone – as they put it – falls into their lap, it will likely be a spring competition between players already in the mix.

Certainly the Twins will expect Mike Pelfrey to be in their rotation at some point, given that they paid him $4 million, but he'll be just over nine months removed from Tommy John surgery when he shows up in Florida. He'll undoubtedly be limited early on and it's hard to imagine he can do enough to prove he's ready for an MLB job at the start of April.

I got the sense that the Twins would have loved to see Nick Blackburn step up and claim one of the spots, which makes sense since they'll be paying him $5.5 million, but he'll be going under the knife for yet another arm surgery on Wednesday and will be in a cast for six weeks, pushing him out of the equation.

The name I keep coming back to is Kyle Gibson. He hasn't pitched in the majors and has yet to experience sustained success at Triple-A, but the Twins are very high on him and after following up a rehab stint last year by pitching in the Arizona Fall League, he should be physically prepared.

But the Twins have emphasized their desire to take it slow with Gibson, leaving one to believe he might require at least a few weeks in Triple-A to prove his readiness.

Once you get past these names, the crop becomes pretty inspiring with a bunch of pitchers who should clearly be in the bullpen (Brian Duensing) or in Triple-A (Cole DeVries, Sam Deduno), and a good performance in a handful of spring outings should hardly convince anyone otherwise. Quite simply, the Twins need to hope that Gibson or Pelfrey (or both) provides overwhelming evidence that he should be there. Based on early scheduling, the team could choose to go with four starters for the first couple weeks of the season, which might increase their odds by giving them more time to prepare.

Who do you feel should be the frontrunner for that fifth spot?

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Kansas City 2
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Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
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Oakland - J. Samardzija
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Buffalo 10
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St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
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Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
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Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
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Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
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Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
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Arizona 9:30 PM
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Pittsburgh 20
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(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
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Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
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Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
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SMU 6
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Navy 24
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Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
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Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
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(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
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(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
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Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
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Purdue
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Rutgers
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(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
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UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
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Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
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(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35

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