Slowey should throw Twins a bone to exit doghouse

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 13, 2011 - 10:16 PM

Making a below-value trade for the righthander would damage a club that will need a starter, if not this month by next April.

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Kevin Slowey

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

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Glen Perkins filed a grievance against the Twins at the end of the 2009, claiming the team had shorted him on big-league service time. The claim was the Twins had optioned him to Class AAA Rochester in late August, rather than making it a rehab assignment based on what Perkins said had been an ailing left shoulder.

The Twins and Perkins reached a settlement in mid-November, where the pitcher received some of the lost service time, but not enough to enable him to take the team to arbitration.

Perkins had a reputation for obstinacy that tested a few relationships in the organization. And now this -- a disagreement over an injury, followed by a grievance -- created a strong vibe in the media that Perkins was at the end of the road with his home-state team.

That vibe became stronger in late January when the Star Tribune's Joe Christensen interviewed Perkins and the pitcher said he "found out the hard way" about the business side of baseball during the service-time dispute.

This added to the irritation of manager Ron Gardenhire, which he made clear to reporters in Fort Myers, Fla., even before Perkins had reported to spring training.

That was on Feb. 19, 2010. And now, 17 months later, the Twins open the post-All-Star Game portion of the season and there's no pitcher the team's followers are more optimistic to see on the mound than Perkins, a 28-year-old lefty with a 1.87 ERA in 35 relief appearances.

There is a current situation with the Twins similar to the Perkins' case. The fellow in the doghouse with a lot of people in the organization is Kevin Slowey, a 27-year-old righthander with a .650 winning percentage (39-21) in 82 starts in the big leagues.

Slowey has pitched in only six games and totaled 14 2/3 innings for the Twins this season. He was on the disabled list from April 9 to May 7 because of a sore shoulder. He went back on the DL because of an abdominal strain on May 25 and is now with Class AAA Rochester, completing a rehab assignment.

Asked about Slowey on Wednesday, Twins General Manager Bill Smith said: "We're just trying to get him healthy and ready to go. He threw 71 pitches and went 4 2/3 innings last time out. He's pitching again Friday, and this time it's a full-go start."

And then what?

"I think we're all on the same page -- the player, the manager, the pitching coach, the organization -- that he's not a bullpen guy," Smith said. "And one of our challenges is we have five starters that have pitched very well."

Another challenge is that righthander Anthony Swarzak has done well in making four spot starts. "And he also can pitch out of the bullpen," Smith said.

On the surface, it would appear Slowey is dead-ended in the organization. He said as much in an interview last week with Sloane Martin at rochesterbaseballobserver.com.

Slowey said he had reached a consensus with Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson that "the right thing to do would be to find a place for me to start," and added: "I've proven to be successful there. I want nothing more than to succeed for the team I'm on, in whatever capacity it is."

In Slowey-speak, whatever capacity means starting, and Slowey doesn't see Rochester as the team he will be assisting. He wants a trade.

Which brings up this challenge: Does Smith really want to trade a 27-year-old starting pitcher at his lowest value?

OK, he has balked at pitching out of the bullpen. He's a know-it-all in the clubhouse. His condescending manner agitates media members who choose not to laugh at such things.

And, yet, here's a club with Scott Baker's right elbow acting up, and with Francisco Liriano likely to be traded this winter, and with Nick Blackburn's sinker rising lately.

Making a below-value trade for Slowey would damage a club that will need a starter, if not this month by next April.

There was a moment in Fort Myers this spring when Perkins went to Gardenhire and said, "This is where I want to pitch," and it became a beautiful friendship.

Slowey could become the new Perky. This doesn't have to be Dayton vs. the GOP. Slowey vs. the Twins could be fixed with one kumbaya moment in the manager's office, and everybody would be better off.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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