Ryan could also swing a trade, similar to those he pulled off last winter to bring Alex Meyer and Trevor May, two prospects the organization hopes form the top of the rotation starting in 2016 or so. But the major league roster has few obvious trade chips this time, and trading minor-league prospects is something the Twins always are loathe to do.
The usual suspects
That leaves the Twins’ own farm system as a primary provider of pitching — and the short-term outlook isn’t good.
“Do we have arms ready to step in next year and make this rotation? No,” Gardenhire said bluntly. “We’ve got candidates, lots of candidates, but are they the guys who are going to turn you around? Are they ready to do that? I don’t think so. … If they were ready, they’d have come up here already.”
He’s probably right about that, considering that aside from Pelfrey and Correia, every Twins starting pitcher this season also pitched for Class AAA Rochester at some point. The Twins have scoured their own system for major league-ready talent, have tried nearly everyone, but have found nobody who throws hard, strikes batters out and is consistent and reliable.
That’s not true in the lower minors, where rookie-level Elizabethton had the best staff in the Appalachian League, where Cedar Rapids was teeming with promising arms, where fourth overall pick Kohl Stewart will begin his pro career in earnest next spring.
But for 2014? Cross your fingers.
Kyle Gibson will be given another shot, this time with more appropriate expectations, after his 10-start tryout flamed out with a 6.53 ERA.
“The experience I got, even though there was quite a bit of failure, it’s something I can learn from,” Gibson, the Twins’ No. 1 pick in 2008, said gamely. “Attacking is one thing that’s been a struggle for me, just getting strike one and strike two as fast as possible. Getting ahead of hitters and controlling at-bats.”
Deduno is all but certain to be projected as a starter, now that the shoulder ache that ruined his last couple of starts before surgery has been taken care of in arthroscopic surgery. He’s the one true strikeout pitcher the Twins possess in the rotation, though it’s combined with some wildness.
Anthony Swarzak has had a terrific season as the Twins’ long reliever and likely will get another look. His darkhorse candidacy has a notable supporter. Swarzak “is getting overlooked a lot,” catcher Joe Mauer said.
“The last couple of years, he comes in there and does a great job, attacking hitters and giving us a chance to win.”
After that, however, the Twins must trust that the usual suspects find a new pitch, develop better control or create better velocity. The status quo isn’t good enough for pitchers such as Scott Diamond, Pedro Hernandez and Liam Hendriks. Or Worley, the Twins’ Opening Day starter, who washed out with a 7.21 ERA.
“It’s a building process,” Gardenhire said. “It’s trying to find a few more good arms to get us through our system. We’ve got good arms, but they’re not ready yet. We have to find more arms, more guys to compete — guys who can be top-of-the-line starters, not just everyday Joes.”