Hartman: Rochester arms patch up rotation

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 31, 2012 - 6:49 AM

After calling up Scott Diamond, P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries, the Twins finally have had some quality starts.

After the Twins' 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, manager Ron Gardenhire said: "That's what it's all about. Baseball is a game of streaks and cycles. Right now we went through a tough cycle. Hopefully we'll work our way out of it and go through a really good cycle here and get back in the thick of it."

The Twins swept the three-game series from the Athletics and recently have received some good pitching from three new starters from Class AAA Rochester -- Scott Diamond, P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries -- and Francisco Liriano, who returned to the rotation from the bullpen and threw six shutout innings Wednesday.

"It's all about getting that starting pitching on the same page and the hitting on the same page and putting it all together," Gardenhire said. "You have to hit and pitch at the same time."

Yes, maybe things are going to change and the Twins' record of 18-32 will improve if the three newcomers from Rochester continue to pitch as well as they have so far.

Diamond, Walters and De Vries have accounted for five of the Twins' 18 victories since they were called up, and they have posted a combined 2.63 ERA for the major league club.

Diamond is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 31 2/3 innings and has given up eight earned runs on 35 hits with four walks and 21 strikeouts.

Walters is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 27 1/3 innings, with nine earned runs on 22 hits with 10 walks and 19 strikeouts.

DeVries is 0-1 but has a strong 2.70 ERA over 10 innings, giving up three earned runs, eight hits, six walks and striking out five.

On the other hand, the Twins' rotation from earlier this season -- not counting Scott Baker, who will miss the entire 2012 season after needing Tommy John surgery -- of Liriano, Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis and Nick Blackburn has a combined 7.07 ERA. That poor starting pitching, according to Gardenhire, is the big reason the team's record is 18-32.

True, Pavano and Blackburn have had arm problems and the newcomers have been up only a short time, but Pavano at 2-4 with a 5.46 ERA is the best of the veteran starters. Marquis posted an 8.47 ERA in seven starts and was released. Blackburn is 1-4 with an ERA of 8.37. Liriano was 0-5 with a 8.47 ERA before his start Wednesday.

Liriano got his first start since May 7 after being assigned to the bullpen. He demanded the chance to start again after refusing a request from management to go to Rochester. He surely pitched better Wednesday than he had all season.

Drew Butera caught all three of the former Rochester pitchers while with the Red Wings and has caught them some with the Twins.

"All three of the pitchers were doing well in Rochester, and they have continued to do the same since being called up," Butera said.

Also look for Liam Hendriks, the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year last year, to get another shot with the big league squad. Hendriks was sent down earlier this month after compiling an 0-2 record with a 9.00 ERA in four starts for the Twins. He since has posted a 3-0 record and 1.41 ERA in four starts since joining Rochester. Butera had nothing but good things to say about him.

Amazing change

On Aug. 20, 2010, when Lynn K. Holleran took over as director of the McNamara Academic Center for student-athletes, the Gophers football team under former coach Tim Brewster had 20-plus players on academic probation, with little chance to be eligible to play under Jerry Kill in his first year as coach during the 2011 season.

Kill was shocked to find out about the dismal academic situation he inherited and, with the help of Holleran and her great staff, actually pulled off a miracle. The truth of the matter is that Kill wondered if he had made a mistake in taking the Gophers job when he saw the extent of the academic problems.

But Kill went to work to correct the situation, with help from Holleran, and assistant coaches were assigned to individual players to make sure they attended class.

The result was that for the second year in a row, the football team didn't lose a single player because of poor academic performance. The squad of 93 players had a GPA of 3.06 this year.

Meanwhile, the Gophers men's hockey team had one of its best semesters in the classroom with a cumulative GPA over 3.0 as well.

The Gophers men's basketball team didn't reach the 3.0 GPA level, but every player had passing grades and will be eligible for next season.

One thing is for sure under the reign of outgoing athletic director Joel Maturi: If you want to compete in any sport, you go to class. And the recent results have been phenomenal.

Jottings

• Gardenhire was asked why Joe Mauer has not caught the past few games but has been the designated hitter: "He's a catcher. He takes beatings, foul tips, the whole package. But [by] being able to DH him a few days in a row then a day off [Thursday], he'll be refreshed. By Friday he'll be ready to go."

• USA Today recently carried a story about how college presidents lag behind college coaches in salary. Football coaches were being paid three and four times as much as the persons who ran the universities. As an example, former Florida and now Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer was paid $4 million while the school president's pay was $500,000. At the time of the survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, however, former University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks' salary was $748,000 and former football coach Brewster's pay slightly higher at $808,000.

• Standout Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones has been invited to try out for the USA Basketball men's U17 team on June 5-12 at Colorado College. The team will play in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship starting June 29 in Lithuania. Jones is playing for the Howard Pulley AAU team and is leading the squad in scoring at 20.8 points per game. The team has a 7-7 record against top national competition.

• Don Stolz, who has staged a number of great plays at his Old Log Theatre on Excelsior Bay, is now presenting a comedy about golf, love and life entitled, "The Fox on the Fairway." The show is running Thursday through Sunday through Sept. 1.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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