Slowey and Twins slipped up

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2011 - 7:01 AM

The Twins should have traded Kevin Slowey earlier and now he's forced a trade in a market that no longer values him.

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The Twins had trade offers for Kevin Slowey this spring, but won’t after his unwillingness to pitch in relief.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

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There is one and perhaps only one subject the Twins and Kevin Slowey can agree on:

Slowey shouldn't be here.

There is one second guess of the Twins' front office that everyone should be able to agree on:

Slowey should have been gone months ago.

To become the worst team in baseball, you've got to fail in a lot of areas. The Twins have done so, entering Tuesday's game with the worst ERA and fewest runs scored in all of baseball. If Twins baseball were a restaurant, it would not only give you salmonella, it would overcharge you, too.

No one winter decision or in-season move could fix all that is wrong with this team. One move, though, could have helped the Twins' woeful bullpen: trading Slowey this winter.

Tuesday, the Twins announced that Slowey will see a doctor this morning to check for a hernia. If he is found to be injured, he will be placed on the disabled list. If he is cleared, the Twins hope to send him to Class AAA to work as a starter.

Slowey is capable of being a quality big-league starter. The Yankees expressed interest in him this spring.

Had the Twins traded Slowey for a quality reliever, they would have strengthened their weakest link, rid themselves of Slowey's $2.7 million salary, and avoided one of the most pathetic internal dramas in recent history.

I've never encountered a player so disliked by so many at so many different levels in the Twins organization. His clubhouse lawyering and reluctance to work out of the bullpen have damaged a once-promising career.

Of course, you can go around the horn in assigning blame here.

The Twins knew one of their starters would need to be shifted to the bullpen, and they figured Slowey could easily adapt to the role of long reliever. He didn't.

Perhaps if the Twins had given him more time to adapt to the role in spring training, he would have performed better and stayed healthier once the season began.

The front office knew it had an inexperienced bullpen largely reliant on Joe Nathan's ability to pitch well in key situations a year after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. While Slowey offered insurance as a potential sixth starter and a long reliever, everyone should have foreseen his lack of adaptability. (Mea culpa: I stupidly expected a lot from him this season.)

Mostly, though, the blame goes to Slowey. Capable young pitchers should know that if they perform decently and maintain a good reputation, tens of millions of dollars await.

Instead of increasing his value by adapting to the needs of his team, Slowey burned bridges and cost himself money and esteem.

His trade value is lower today than it has ever been, and he should learn from that. The same teams that have no interest in him now are the ones he will have to someday deal with in free agency.

Tuesday night, Nick Blackburn pitched nine innings and threw 127 pitches to save a beat-up bullpen. Twins such as Eddie Guardado, Matt Guerrier, Matt Capps and Brian Duensing made themselves invaluable over recent years, earning the respect of their teammates by taking the ball, uncomplainingly, when asked.

Not Slowey. He has ingeniously forced a trade in a market that doesn't value him anymore.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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