It might not have been the best negotiating strategy for Terry Ryan to invite super-agent Scott Boras into the general manager's suite during the Twins' 10-6 loss to the Tigers on Friday night at Target Field. Talk about leverage: Boras got to see first-hand just how desperate for starting pitching Ryan's team is.
Anthony Swarzak, awarded his first start since April 19 after nine increasingly successful relief stints, made a strong case for going back to the bullpen by retiring only eight of the 18 hitters he faced. Handed a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Swarzak gave up nine hits, most of them stinging liners, and six runs in just 3 1/3 innings, the third time in 10 days that a Twins starter has failed to complete the fourth inning.
"We needed a pitcher, we put him in there, and we took our shot," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the 26-year-old righthander. "... He didn't have his mojo going."
Part of the reason might have been illness; Swarzak felt sick before the game and took fluids intravenously, but insisted on making his start. Gardenhire sent the starter home once his night was over, in hopes of heading off the flu.
But sick or not, Swarzak simply repeated a pattern that has persisted his entire career: He is far more effective out of the bullpen. In 25 career relief appearances, Swarzak has posted a 3.70 ERA, but it balloons to 5.74 when he starts a game. This season, the discrepancy has been even more pronounced -- 3.06 ERA in relief, but 0-4 with an 8.35 ERA in four starts.
That pattern might force yet another rotation shuffle for a team that has used nine starting pitchers in the season's first seven weeks. "We'll talk it over tomorrow," Gardenhire said, "and decide where we go as far as our pitching."
Here's one place they probably won't go: back to Francisco Liriano. The lefthander took over for Swarzak and short- circuited any chance of a Twins rally by giving up four runs in 2 2/3 innings. Between the pair, Twins pitching allowed double-digit scoring for the third time in five games.
Hey, Boras, got anymore Stephen Strasburgs for the Twins to draft?
The frustrating part for the Twins is that their offense continues to show signs of rejuvenation, this time piling up six runs and 10 hits.
Denard Span had three hits, including a pair of doubles. Brian Dozier drove in two with a double, and Jamey Carroll drove in a pair of runs. The Twins have scored 21 runs in their three games against the Tigers this season, but Detroit has 20.
"We're still getting after it pretty good," said Gardenhire, who was ejected along with Carroll -- the 10-year veteran infielder's first career ejection -- for arguing a close play at first base to end the eighth inning. "We're just making it hard on ourselves."
That the Twins made the game relatively close while the Tigers feasted on their starters-in-exile was due to defense, or Brayan Villarreal's lack of it. The Detroit reliever, who took over for rookie Drew Smyly (2-1) in the sixth inning, committed two throwing errors and spoiled a potential double play by failing to touch first base -- all in the space of three batters.
The Twins took the two-run gift, but that only managed to narrow the final margin.