Can Twins starting rotation be fixed?

The Twins can't afford to ignore any avenues in a quest for reliable starters for a deficient rotation.

hide

The Twins need more dependable starters such as Scott Diamond, a May call-up who has 12 victories and 200-plus innings pitched.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A team's chance to win is always closely tied to that day's starting pitcher. And, on most days this season, the Twins have been overmatched.

Their starting pitchers entered the final weekend of the season ranked 29th in baseball in ERA, innings pitched, opponents' batting average and opponents on-base-plus-slugging percentage. And let's throw in another stat. Opponents have had an 80 percent success rate in stolen bases against Twins pitchers.

Opponents have scored 124 runs against the Twins in the first inning, the most of any inning. They have scored 109 in the second inning -- the second-most of any inning. The Twins have been blown out of games early, which renders their running game useless and allows opposing pitchers to get into a groove.

"It's just so much more fun to see a starting pitcher go into the sixth inning," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Only four Twins teams (1994-96 and 2000) have had a starters' ERA worse than the Twins' current ERA of 5.46 .

So everyone knows what the No. 1 offseason priority is: Fixing a starting rotation that was among the worst in the majors and one of the poorer ones in Twins history.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked how the Twins can remodel their rotation in a day and age in which teams hold on to good pitching.

"The old fashioned way, we will end up having to earn it," Ryan said. "We'll have to go find it, we have to develop it, trade for it, we got to sign it, we got to look at the international market. There are no shortcuts in finding starting pitching. It is not going to be easy."

Who can they get?

It's unrealistic to expect the Twins to turn up a David Price or Roy Halladay during the offseason. Ace pitchers rarely hit the trade market.

What's more realistic is to find a couple of pitchers who can give them 180-200 innings. If they can throw that many innings, they are doing something right.

Since 2009, Carl Pavano is the only starter to give the Twins 200 innings. Pavano was expected to be the horse of the staff again this season, but his shoulder problems ruined that.

"Sure, you would love a horse to give you eight or nine innings every night," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said, "but if you get a starter just to keep you in the game we'll be that much better. A guy you can pencil in every fifth day for seven innings."

When the Twins were competitive in the AL Central from 2002-10, their rotation included those kinds of pitchers. And they came from various backgrounds. Brad Radke was drafted and developed. Eric Milton, Joe Mays, Francisco Liriano and Rick Reed arrived in trades. Johan Santana was a Rule V draft pick. In 2010, the last year the Twins won the division, Pavano led a homegrown staff.

"Those are the types of guys you are looking for during the course of the regular season," Ryan said. "All that does is make the bullpen better, makes your defense better and wins games for you because you know what you've got."

The Twins appear to have some resources to deal for such a pitcher. They have two center fielders on the major league roster in Denard Span and Ben Revere, and Span has been rumored in trade talks for pitching in recent years. The Twins could package Span with a prospect in order to land a quality pitcher or nearly-ready prospect.

Ryan is willing to sign free agents but said last month that the offseason market will be thin and he doesn't like to commit to the amount of years it would take to sign top pitching.

That would appear to take him out of the running for Zack Greinke and perhaps Edwin Jackson. Shawn Marcum and Anibal Sanchez could appeal to the Twins.

Keep in mind what the cost of average pitching is on the free-agent market. Pavano is making $8.5 million this season. Someone like Jeremy Guthrie -- a career 54-77 pitcher -- could get that much, or more, as a free agent this offseason.

The best avenue for the Twins to improve their rotation look to be through a trade.

"If we had a couple guys who give you a chance we could win a lot of games," Anderson said. "We won those years [early-to-mid 2000s] with [solid starters] and a heck of a bullpen, and we've got the makings of a good bullpen now."

The Twins have aimed low with free-agent starters, with poor results. Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson have been signed in recent years. The last free-agent starter to contribute the entire season was Kenny Rogers in 2003. They need to aim higher if they want to fix this problem.

In house help?

As the Twins nose-dived in the Central this season, they used 12 different starters. Some showed flashes of talent. But besides lefthander Scott Diamond -- a Rule V pick, by the way -- no one has emerged.

Righthanders Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno, Liam Hendriks or others could develop into reliable starters, but the Twins know they can't go into 2013 with a rotation full of projects. They nee innings.

Ryan indicated last month that he's open to re-signing Pavano, who will likely test the free-agent market. Scott Baker, who is out for the year because of Tommy John surgery in April, has a $9.25 million contract option that probably won't be picked up. But the Twins likely will try to sign him to something more reasonable for someone coming off surgery. Baker, 32, is in his prime and was 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 2011 when he began having elbow problems.

"I really thought the last couple of years he was coming into his own to be a quality major league pitcher," Anderson said. "He was another one going good before the elbow started bothering him."

The Twins will give righthander Nick Blackburn a chance to make the 2013 rotation. Blackburn has battled injuries the past couple of years and was 3-4 with a 7.39 ERA when he was sent down to Rochester. He's due to make $5.5 million next season. The Twins won't be able to trade him and won't eat the contract, so he will come to camp looking to have a bounceback season.

Prospect Kyle Gibson, who has recovered from Tommy John surgery and will pitch in the Arizona Fall League, could enter the picture. The former first-round pick will be looked at in spring training but might open the year at Rochester.

"I'm excited to see him," Anderson said.

It doesn't matter to the Twins this offseason if a starter comes out of the trainer's room, off another roster, from the free-agent market, in the lottery or from under a rock. They will examine every avenue available to bolster the rotation.

"That's my job," Ryan said, "and I've got to go find it."

  • Sunday: Joe Mauer • Today: The starting rotation, can it be fixed? • Tuesday: Analysis of 2012 farm system • Wednesday: Look ahead to 2013 payroll

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 16 4th Qtr 11:14
Pittsburgh 20
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
TBA 1/3/15 7:15 PM
TBA
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 65 4th Qtr 6:17
Portland 86
Toronto 88 4th Qtr
Denver 87
Phoenix 57 3rd Qtr 10:13
LA Lakers 61
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
UMBC 55
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
UCLA 50 FINAL
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 30 2nd Half
California 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
UCLA 67
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Twins' offseason moves so far?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close