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Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes

TwinsCentric: Meyer should get a shot at starting

On Tuesday the Twins delivered some big news, announcing the long-awaited promotion of top pitching prospect Jose Berrios. He'll take the hill against the Indians on Wednesday night.

A day earlier, another of the organization's most highly-rated young arms was promoted from Triple-A, albeit to much less fanfare.

Despite a successful start to the season in Rochester's rotation, most believe that Alex Meyer will end up in the bullpen. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But if he's going to get a chance to maximize his value in the majors, there's no better time than now to give him that opportunity.
 

When the Twins sent Meyer to Triple-A in March, they decided they were going to give him one more shot as a starting pitcher. He spent the bulk of last year as a reliever and it appeared that might be his role going forward, but the promise he once showed as a starter has not totally been forgotten.

Granted, it's two starts (and one long relief appearance), but Meyer went to Rochester and did absolutely everything that could have been asked of him. The big righty pitched to a 1.04 ERA in 17 1/3 innings, notching 19 strikeouts and – most importantly – only four walks. In each of his starts he worked at least into the seventh inning with good pitch economy.

His sharp early performance draws a stark contrast against last year, when finding the strike zone was a constant challenge for Meyer from start to finish. Whether the 26-year-old has figured something out or is just on a nice run, it's worth taking a look.

Finding room for Meyer to make at least a couple starts shouldn't be hard. Kyle Gibson and Ervin Santana were both placed on the disabled list Tuesday, and while Berrios and Tyler Duffey will fill their spots for now, there's another purportedly healthy starter in the rotation who could be bumped.

Tommy Milone has failed to complete five innings in three of his four starts. Given his status as a 29-year-old with limited upside on a one-year contract, there isn't a whole lot to gain by continuing to run him out. Moving Milone to the bullpen as a long reliever would be prudent, especially with that unit taking a beating recently.

Give Meyer a few starts and see what he can do. The 7-14 Twins don't have much to lose. If he catches on, and approximates what he was doing in the minors in any way, it could be crucial toward rallying Minnesota back into the mix, and it would also be a monumental development in the big picture.

 

‚ÄčIf he scuffles, then a return to the bullpen and a full commitment to that path would be in order. But why not run him out there and find out what you've got? At this point, defining the roles and true capabilities of the young incoming wave should be the top priority of 2016 for the Twins.


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If you're making it out to Target Field for Jose Berrios' debut tonight or for the Tigers series this weekend, please consider picking up a Twins Scorecard, sold at booths in the concourse near the gate entries. They cost only $1 and you can keep score at the game, plus they always feature great content from independent writers curated by the Twins Geek. (As it happens, I wrote the stories both series this week.)

TwinsCentric: Duffey, starters and catchers

* It came a bit later than expected, and might be a little more short-lived than expected (for now), but Tyler Duffey made his 2016 Twins debut on Sunday, starting in place of Ervin Santana who was sidelined by a sore back.

Duffey drew the tough assignment of silencing a red-hot Nationals lineup as the Twins looked for just their second road win in 11 tries. The Doof did his part.

He wasn't always hitting his spots, and batters were showing more of a penchant for laying off his curveball compared to what we typically law last year, but the right-hander nevertheless turned in a fine outing. He pitched into the fifth inning with only one run allowed before a comeback liner from Matt den Dekker nailed him in the pitching shoulder and forced him out of the ballgame.

Duffey didn't appear to be in great pain and his removal was said to be precautionary. Hopefully that's the case because he definitely made an impression.

* Duffey looked like he belongs. That, along with the resounding success of Jose Berrios and Alex Meyer in Triple-A, means that two Twins starters who might otherwise have lengthier ropes to work through early struggles could be on the hot seat.

The poor performances of both Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone over the first few weeks have been troubling, but less worrisome when you look at their track records.

Gibson, who is 0-3 with a 6.10 ERA through four turns, has issued 12 walks with 11 strikeouts over his first four turns. That's horrible, obviously, but not really out of character for him in the first month of the season:

April 2014: 29 IP, 15 K, 14 BB
April 2015: 22.1 IP, 6 K, 12 BB
April 2016: 20.1 IP, 11 K, 12 BB

In 2014, he rebounded from the poor start to finish with solid overall numbers, and last year he ended up being Minnesota's best starter. It's not really an excuse, just a fact: Gibson has routinely displayed poor command early on for the Twins and has routinely figured it out.

Milone's issues this year have conversely been extremely uncharacteristic. He has typically fared roughly the same against opposing lineups his first, second and third times through – one thing that makes him better suited for starting than relief.

That has not been the case this year, to say the least.

Tommy Milone, career
1st time through lineup: .270/.325/.443
2nd time through lineup: .265/.306/.417
3rd time through lineup: .270/.309/.433

Tommy Milone, 2016
1st time through lineup: .111/.111/.111
2nd time through lineup: .400/.423/.720
3rd time through lineup: .571/.700/1.571

Given the extreme nature of his splits in a small sample this month, and his career-long trends, I'm inclined to chalk this up as a fluke over three starts.

It's reasonable to expect that both Gibson and Milone will get on track quickly. But the Twins don't have the luxury of being all that patient given their awful start, not to mention the presence of rotation reinforcements in Rochester that are proving to be ready.

* We have our early favorite for most inexplicable Twins roster decision of 2016. Over the weekend, the team outrighted catcher John Hicks, presumably to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for an impending David Murphy call-up. Hicks was quickly claimed by the Tigers, so he's gone.

Murphy was cut by the Red Sox in spring training and hasn't done anything at Rochester since signing a minor league deal a couple of weeks ago. If the Twins want a veteran outfielder on the roster, that's fine. The question is why on earth they would whittle down what little catching depth they have in order to make room.

Hicks, claimed off waivers from the Mariners in the offseason, is a somewhat intriguing player. He's 26, has a good defensive rep, and has shown offensive potential at times. He was also the only backstop on the Twins' 40-man other than Kurt Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy. With neither of those players looking remotely good right now, it's befuddling to say the least that the Twins would let Hicks go when they have far more expendable 40-man players like Pat Dean, who is fifth in line among lefty relievers.

Maybe other moves are coming that will make this one a bit easier to understand. I hope so. But as the Twins and many other teams have learned, catching talent is tough to come by these days.

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