The Twins normally wait a couple months into a season before considering permanent roster changes.
“We may have to end up speeding up that timetable some,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.
An 8-20 record in early May can force a team’s hand.
“We’re not playing too well,” Ryan said. “Consequently, we are going to have to start making some difficult decisions for our players, whether it is their near future or distant. It is not going good enough for us to wait. We are going to have to make some decisions.”
Some of those decisions were already put in motion. The Twins on Thursday placed pitchers Tommy Milone and Casey Fien on waivers, according to a person with knowledge of the move.
Fien had been tied for the team lead among pitchers in appearances, but had a 7.90 ERA in 14 games. He gave up 21 hits and 12 earned runs, including five home runs, in 13 2/3 innings. Milone started the season in the rotation, but was 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts and one game of relief.
The only Twins pitcher with more than one victory is closer Kevin Jepsen. By comparison, the three White Sox pitchers who are scheduled to face the Twins this weekend in Chicago have a combined record of 14-1.
Aside from sending Byron Buxton down to Class AAA Rochester to discover his game, the Twins’ previous moves have been done mostly because of injuries. Ryan’s patience expired after Wednesday’s 16-4 loss to Houston, during which Brian Dozier blasted a three-run homer for the Twins’ only highlight.
Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked after the game about how his team has responded to the growing number of defeats.
“It’s a game that you gotta take it personal,” he said. “For myself, and on down the line, everyone needs to kind of see where we are at and see what we have done and what’s our role been in putting us in this position at this point.”
That position has them one-half game ahead of Atlanta for the worst record in baseball. That position is the result of an 0-9 start that, disturbingly, has been answered with a 4-11 run over their past 15 games.
That is not the way to shake off a poor start to the season. Ryan’s patience appears to have expired while waiting for the players on the field to turn things around.
And Ryan is open to exploring deals in order to shake up the roster.
“Yeah, both,” Ryan said. “You have to look within or outside.”
Ryan said he wouldn’t be afraid to dip down into Class AA Chattanooga for help, which possibly means hard-throwing relievers Nick Burdi or J.T. Chargois could be on his radar. Perhaps outfielder Max Kepler could be brought up from Class AAA Rochester and given a long look.
A year ago at this time, the Twins were 15-13 and beginning to heat up during a torrid month of May that shot them back in contention. It took 50 games then for the Twins to lose their 20th game.
That means in order to match last year’s 30-20 record they would have to reel off 22 consecutive wins. The Twins have had two win streaks all year — including one of two games, which barely qualifies as a streak.
“I know I have to look at some things myself and hopefully these guys realize that too,” Molitor said. “Some guys have had some nice first months, but not enough. Talk about character and all of that, but you have to play better, too.”
The offense was abysmal during the 0-9 start but has improved some since, averaging 4.5 runs a game in 19 games since the opening skid. The offense hasn’t taken off yet, partially because two key players — Dozier and third baseman Trevor Plouffe — have started out slowly. And Plouffe spent 15 days on the disabled list.
But it’s been the pitching that has deteriorated during their 4-11 tailspin.
During that period, the staff ERA has been 5.36. They have allowed 90 runs on 149 hits, including 23 home runs. Their team ERA has grown from 3.38 to 4.51, 22nd in baseball. the more you look at it, the more it looks like a disaster.
The bullpen order has been reshuffled, partially because of the shoulder injury sustained by closer Glen Perkins in April. But righthander Ryan Pressly has been pressed into service in the eighth inning while Kevin Jepsen closes and Trevor May and Fien tried to get back on track while pitching earlier in games.
The rotation has been in upheaval because of injuries to Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson and Milone’s demotion to the bullpen. Ricky Nolasco has been better than expected, going 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA.
Hughes, trying to bounce back after a down 2015 season (11-9, 4.40) has been worse, going 1-5, 5.85. On Wednesday, he gave up three runs in the first inning for the second straight outing and has allowed nine first-inning runs over his past four starts.
When other mistakes happen, like on Wednesday when Eduardo Nunez dropped a routine pop fly and Miguel Sano threw wildly toward home plate after catching a fly ball — the Twins look overmatched and outclassed. It is not the way this season was supposed to go.
Which is why Ryan appears to be ready to act and salvage the season.
“I have always liked this team and the character on the club,” Ryan said. “We’ve got some veterans. We’ve got some middle-of-the-road guys, and we’ve got some young ones. I thought we would be OK, but we’re not. Right now we have to face reality. We’re in bad shape. We’re in a difficult spot, and we can’t let it keep going.”