When Tommy Milone was demoted to Class AAA Rochester earlier this month, he was surprised and yet he said all the right things. He didn’t create a stir. He accepted the team’s decision and went to Rochester. He has, however, made a statement since he has been in Rochester. He has made a strong statement just how the Minnesota Twins would want him to, on the mound. On Tuesday night, he made his strongest statement yet.
If this were a court of law, Milone and his representation would step to the lectern with the following:
Exhibit A: In his first Rochester start (May 8), he threw 6.1 shutout innings. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out eight batters.
Exhibit B: In his second Rochester start (May 13), he threw 8.0 shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out 12.
Exhibit C: In his third Rochester start (May 18), he threw 9.0 scoreless innings, his first professional complete game shutout. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out 13.
Exhibit D: In his three Rochester starts (consolidated), he has thrown 23.1 scoreless innings. He has given up just 14 hits, walked two and struck out 33 batters.
I would say that is a pretty compelling argument for a return to the big leagues for Tommy Milone. There is no doubt that he is a big league pitcher. Simply, there is no reason for the 28-year-old southpaw to be in the minor leagues. Yet, that is where he finds himself. For now, at least.
Should Tommy Milone’s next start, Saturday or Sunday, be in a Red Wings uniform, or should it be at Target Field?
Well, this isn’t a court of law. There isn’t a jury of his peers, teammates, fans, observers. That decision is up to the Minnesota Twins front office, Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor. What they need to determine first is what type of roster alteration it would take to bring back Tommy Milone.
It’s easy to say that Tommy Milone deserves to be in the big leagues. What is more difficult is determining how to make it happen. There are many things to consider, so let’s dive into some of them.
The 29-year-old is currently 3-4 with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.29 ERA in eight starts. In 51 innings, he has walked five and struck out 35. Obviously after his historical 2015 season, he’s got a lot of leeway. That, and the fact that he’s signed through 2019. In other words, he’s not going anywhere.
The lanky right-hander will be arbitration-eligible after 2016 season. He is under team control through 2019 season. A year ago, he went 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in a very inconsistent first full season in 2014. Through his first eight starts of the 2015 season, he is 3-3 with a 2.98 ERA. In 48.1 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out 19. Many question whether he can remain successful with such a low strikeout total. That’s fair, but right now is not the time to take him out of the starting rotation.
Those two are certain to remain in the rotation. The next three could all be considered to take out of the rotation, though there are good, legitimate reasons to keep each in the rotation.
Nolasco was placed on the Disabled List after his first start. After some time off, he made one rehab start in Cedar Rapids. Since his return, he has gone 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA despite batters hitting .310 off of him. The numbers aren’t all that encouraging, and yet to the visual eye, he looked really good in his last start. The numbers don’t speak to the improvement, but in my opinion, the pitches he was throwing – especially a very good breaking ball – looked greatly improved. Then there is the financial side of the story. The 32-year-old Nolasco is owed another $25 million after this season. Because of that, the Twins should not shut the door on the possibility of him returning to what he was.
The 31-year-old is healthy for the first time in several years, and he is pitching quite well. He is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in his seven starts. In 39 innings, he has walked 15 and struck out 17. His peripherals are not great, and like Gibson, it’s easy to wonder how sustainable his success may be. He is in the final year of his two year, $11 million contract. He began the season in the bullpen, though he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen at all because of Ervin Santana’s suspension. He’s got the nice numbers, but in his three May starts, he has failed to complete five innings twice.
We clamored for Trevor May to be promoted much of the first half of the 2014 season. He spent the final two months with the Twins last year. This spring, he was the one sent to Rochester out of spring training. Like Pelfrey in the bullpen, May never made a start for the Red Wings. He didn’t make a start in AAA. When Nolasco went on the DL, May was summoned. The 25-year-old has pitched alright at times. Overall, he is 2-3 with a 5.15 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 36.2 innings in his seven starts. In his three May starts, he is 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA and opponents are hitting .309 off of him with a .851 OPS.
So What Should They Do?
I frequently hear and read that the Twins should consider what is best for the team’s long-term future. In fact, I’m sure I’ve said that many times in recent years. However, at this point, I’m kind of tired of only thinking long-term. I want the team to keep winning now, and do what is best for the team now. That’s not to say “forget about the future” just that it can’t be the lone factor.
One thing we know is that Tommy Milone should be in the big leagues. Although the three battled it out in spring training, it appears that this decision really comes down to Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May. I see four possible scenarios:
Scenario 1: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to start, Trevor May optioned to Rochester.
Scenario 2: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to start, Mike Pelfrey goes to the bullpen.
Scenario 3: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to pitch out of the bullpen.
Scenario 4: Tommy Milone remains in Rochester and continues to start.
In my opinion, Scenario 3 really isn’t a good option. Scenario 4 may be the most likely scenario to happen, though it’s important to start thinking about MIlone coming up.
What I think will happen? My thought is that Trevor May has the numbers to justify heading back to AAA Rochester to continue to work on the things that have worked for him in the big leagues. Still just 25, it would not hurt May.
What I would probably do? It’s hard to know without being in the clubhouse or being privy to everything. However, I think that the Twins should do what they did this spring. I think that Tommy Milone should be in the rotation. I think that Mike Pelfrey can become a really good contributor out of the bullpen. I would stick with Trevor May in the rotation for the time being.
When a player feels wronged about being sent from the big leagues down to the minor leagues, they can handle it several ways. They can mope and not perform. They can complain through the media, or even request a trade. I think most would agree that the best way to handle the situation is to do exactly what Tommy Milone has done. He’s taken the disappointment and pitched better than anyone could have expected. He has forced the Twins hand at this point.
What will the Twins do?
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