Kevin Correia has pitched in all but five of the current major league ballparks, and he’ll cross another one off his list Wednesday: Target Field, his new home.
“It’s exciting to go out there for the first time for a new team,” the former Giant, Padre and Pirate said. “You want to go out there and make a good first impression.”
And not just on Twins fans, either. Correia, like the other two new members of Minnesota’s rotation, former Met Mike Pelfrey and ex-Phillie Vance Worley, would like to establish that he can pitch in the American League after spending his entire career — 10 seasons, in Correia’s case — in the National League. That’s something plenty of other pitchers have found difficult.
“”It’s not really a whole new environment. There’s just a few different challenges,” said the 32-year-old Correia. Among them is the fact that Correia won’t have to swing a bat himself in AL games — and the reverse is true, too. “You don’t have that pitcher up there to let you maybe get a … I don’t want to say a ‘free’ out, but maybe an easier out than you would [otherwise].”
The designated hitter rule is largely responsible for the longtime disparity in offense between the leagues, but the effect became magnified about a decade ago, and conventional wisdom grew that National League pitchers would have a difficult time adjusting to the AL.
Many Twins fans became believers a year ago, when lifelong National Leaguer Jason Marquis, who had won at least eight games in seven of his previous eight seasons, bombed in a brief stint in Minnesota. After posting an 8.47 ERA in seven starts with the Twins, Marquis was released, signed with San Diego and went 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA the rest of the season.
Such an isolated instance, though, especially with a pitcher nearing the end of his career, in no way dampened the Twins’ interest in acquiring Correia, Pelfrey or Worley, according to Mike Radcliff, the team’s vice president of player personnel.
“You have to look at each individual guy, each pitcher’s makeup. Is he good enough, is his stuff good enough to be effective?” Radcliff said. “It’s a judgment that doesn’t have anything to do with the league.”
And thanks to interleague play, it’s easier to get an idea of how each pitcher performs against the other league. In Correia’s case, for instance, he actually has had more success against AL teams than NL, posting a career 3.79 ERA against American Leaguers, as opposed to a 4.68 mark against his former league. He’s also faced the Detroit Tigers, his opponent in his Twins’ debut, three times, and posted a 3.38 ERA against them.
“I’ve faced most all the teams in the American League at some point in my career. I’ve faced Detroit a couple of times in the last couple of seasons, so it’s not really a whole new environment,” Correia said. Facing Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez is daunting, he said, but no different from several lineups he’s faced.
“There’s not a lot of weaknesses. You’re not going to go out there and just pitch around a guy, because there’s another good hitter behind him,” Correia said. “You’re going to have to attack everybody and make good pitches to everybody. At some point, you’re going to have guys in scoring position with a good hitter up, and you’re just going to have to make a good pitch at an important part during the game if you’re going to have a chance to win.”
But that’s not an AL or an NL thing, he said. New league, new ballpark, new environment, “at some point, it’s all just another major league baseball game,” Correia said, “and I have to perform.”