Baker grabs fifth spot in rotation over Slowey

Slowey goes to the bullpen, but a trade is not out of the question.

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JUPITER, FLA. - The Twins' starting rotation has been settled. Righthander Scott Baker is in, and righthander Kevin Slowey is the odd man out.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire revealed Tuesday that Slowey has been told that he will begin the season in the bullpen, taking him out of the running with Baker for the final spot in the five-man starting rotation.

That means the Twins will defend their American League Central Division title with the following five arms: Righthander Carl Pavano, lefthander Francisco Liriano, righthander Nick Blackburn, lefthander Brian Duensing and Baker.

The quintet combined to go 63-40 last year, with all five pitchers winning at least 10 games.

While some will lament the lack of a true ace, Pavano said it's still an accomplished group that can get better.

"Once you've done it once you can do it again,'' he said. "So taking that mentality a step further will just make you better and improve you. It was not a fluke that we were all successful last year. I don't think anyone thinks it was a fluke, especially us pitchers. We know what we are capable of doing; we just have to stay confident with it.''

Slowey was 13-6 last season and has done enough to be part of a major-league rotation. But the Twins are relatively deep in starting pitching. So deep that there's a chance that rookie Kyle Gibson, the top pitching prospect in the organization, could break in during the season. Gibson's presence has led to speculation that the Twins could use Slowey as trade bait to get better elsewhere.

Then again, Slowey might be needed to slip into the rotation, too. Nine different pitchers made starts for the Twins last season.

Slowey was unavailable for comment on Tuesday

"We are going to get him ready to come out of the bullpen,'' Gardenhire said.

The Twins decided that they wanted righthander Slowey to begin walking, talking, breathing and thinking like a reliever. So they informed him now so he can get used to the role before the regular season begins.

"We talked about it yesterday,'' Anderson said. "And he says, 'We'll I would like to get started right now.' I said, 'That's why I told you this quickly, because we can get you in tomorrow night for an inning and warm you up quick and give you time to talk to [Joe] Nathan and [Matt] Capps about how do you do it.'

"That's giving him plenty of time to do that and that is a good thing.''

Baker is 1-3 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts in camp. He fell a little bit behind early in camp because of a setback coming off elbow surgery during the offseason. In an interview following his outing on Sunday in Dunedin, Baker was confident he's ready for the season.

"It takes a little longer to get loose still,'' he said, "but once I get loose and get the blood moving I feel pretty good.''

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