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Three-Bagger: Slowey, Gibson and May

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: June 18, 2013 - 10:21 PM

* The Marlins announced this week that they've demoted Kevin Slowey to the bullpen to make room in their rotation for Nathan Eovaldi. Twins fans will recall how splendidly the last attempt to convert Slowey to a reliever turned out.

On some level, unless you're one of the many local scribes who openly despises him, you've got to feel for Slowey. He has actually been pitching reasonably well this year; at least, as well as could be expected of him. He's had a few clunkers, especially lately, but his 4.10 ERA is respectable and his 64-to-14 K/BB ratio in 79 innings is rather impressive. Even with a 5.40 ERA over his last four starts, he has still managed 27 strikeouts with only two walks during that span. That his peripherals have remained so strong seems to suggest this stretch is more a bump in the road than an unraveling for the right-hander.

Yet he can't even stick in the starting five for the worst team in baseball. He must really be an obnoxious dude, or something. Interestingly, the manager who demoted him this time is Mike Redmond, who caught Slowey for three years in Minnesota.

If not for the bad blood, Slowey would be exactly the kind of guy the Twins should be targeting in trades as next month's deadline approaches. He's young enough to have upside, he's (arguably) undervalued and he wouldn't cost a whole lot to bring in.

But of course, given the history there, the entire notion in this instance is laughable.

* The case of Kyle Gibson is growing more and more peculiar. He continues to fire great innings in the International League, where he has posted a strong 3.26 ERA . For all the talk about a lack of "consistency," Gibson has earned a quality start in five of his last six outings, and seven of his last 10. He has completed six-plus innings in five straight outings. He is holding opponents to a .233 average and .297 slugging percentage.

That's dominant. Gibson is more than deserving of the big-league promotion he has been yearning for since he came so close two years ago, before all of this Tommy John business unfolded. He is proving, again and again, that he is fully recovered, and that he is beyond a shadow of doubt one of the five best pitchers in this organization.

And yet, he's been surpassed for rotation spots by Liam Hendriks, Pedro Hernandez, P.J. Walters and Samuel Deduno. And now we're hearing rhetoric about how there's no room, because who could you possibly remove from this unstoppable group?

Look, I understand that the starters have been performing better of late, but give me a break.

Astonishingly, we're even receiving hints that 27-year-old journeyman Andrew Albers, who prior to this year was not a prospect, might be at the front of the line in Rochester.

Possibly Gibson still has some things to learn and work on, but he has earned the chance to do so at the major-league level. It's hard to see an argument that his preparedness for next year wouldn't profit from some experience against MLB hitters and the opportunity to work with Rick Anderson.

Instead, for whatever reason, the Twins appear content to let Gibson use up his limited innings facing inferior minor-leaguers.

* While it's patently absurd to proclaim at this point that the Twins are "getting fleeced" certainly the returns on their big offseason trades haven't been especially favorable thus far.

Vance Worley pitched horribly for two months before being bumped to Triple-A, where he's getting knocked around and averaging a pitiful 4.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Alex Meyer battled command issues before landing on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.

But Trevor May, the third pitcher yielded in the center fielder swaps, has been healthy and took another big step forward Tuesday night in New Britain. Facing the Erie SeaWolves, May pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just four hits while striking out nine. The most encouraging sign: he threw 70 of 100 pitches for strikes and issued only one walk.

That marks only the second time in 14 starts this year that May has not handed out multiple walks. Control has been the enduring hurdle for this talented 23-year-old, whose swing-and-miss stuff has helped him rack up 714 strikeouts in 595 minor-league innings. He entered last night's start with a 4.7 BB/9 rate that was identical to last year's disappointing figure, but if he can make even moderate ongoing improvements with his consistency and command, he could end up being the prize of this past winter's haul.

As things stand, May holds a 3.56 ERA and with his recent run of success (1.74 ERA and 25/6 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings over his past three starts) he might be establishing himself as a candidate for a midseason promotion.

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