Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
One of the already-too-old themes of the 2014 season has been the idea that Sam Deduno should be brought into games at the start of an inning because of the unpredictability of his pitches. I've heard it talked about, maybe, 1,234 times already this season. And it makes sense.
So far, Deduno has pitched six times in relief -- the last four times he's entered in the middle of an inning, and he has usually made things worse before they've gotten better.
Here's my issue: Kyle Gibson had nuthin' Tuesday night. He'd given up five runs on eight hits and two walks through the first three innings, even if one of them was the ridiculously called hit on the pop-up that Pedro Florimon missed during the three-run first inning. (The conventional wisdom was that the ball was "lost" in the Tropicana Park roof, but Ron Gardenhire said after the game that Florimon just missed the ball. If you want to debate Gardy's sincerity on that one, you can do it with someone else.)
The Twins rallied from that 5-0 deficit to 5-3 on the home runs by Brian Dozier and Chris Colabello in the fourth.
That would have been a fine time for the Twins to practice what they've been chattering about and get Deduno in the game to open the Tampa Bay fourth.
Instead, Gibson gave up two singles before Deduno came in -- and fell behind 7-3 (the eventual final score) when the first batter he faced, Matt Joyce, doubled. Deduno gave up only one more hit and one walk during the rest of his four innings.
Last Tuesday, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons handled a similar situation differently at Target Field. His starter, Brandon Morrow, was struggling badly and the Jays trailed the Twins 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth. Morrow had given up four hits and four walks and -- with a runner on third and Joe Mauer coming up -- Gibbons replaced Morrow with a left-hander who retired Mauer to get Toronto out of the inning without more damage.
Toronto rallied to win 9-3.
The details are different, but the issue is how aggressive a manager should be about pulling a struggling starter early in the game.
In this case, Gardenhire had a chance to act of what he's talked about doing. And he didn't do it. If he really, really, really wanted to stay with Gibson for some reason, Gardy could have brought in someone else to get through the fourth and had Deduno start the fifth. With 13 pitchers on the roster and an off day on Monday, it wasn't a question of having the arms available.
The next time we hear about this Deduno issue, I hope it's when he's opening an inning instead of replacing a starter who has already dug a deeper hole for the Twins.
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