In their first turn through the rotation this past season, the Twins sent out Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Liam Hendriks and Pedro Hernandez.
Opening the year with multiple backup plans already plugged into the starting five set the stage for a tumultuous campaign that exposed the organization's miserable starting pitching depth at the high levels.
Overly lengthy auditions for guys like Worley, Hernandez and Scott Diamond, along with painful redux performances from non-MLB talents like P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries, were all contributors in a season that saw Twins starters finish at the bottom of the majors in ERA, xFIP, WHIP and basically any other important category you could imagine.
With two signings in the books already, and with at least one more expected to come, the Twins are now actually building something resembling depth in their starting corps, so that if someone gets hurt or struggles they might actually have multiple palatable options waiting on deck to step in, rather than uninspiring emergency plugs. It's been quite a while since that has been the case.
With Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes already added to the mix to join Kevin Correia, and with many seeming to believe that one more veteran pitcher -- possibly Mike Pelfrey -- will still be enlisted, there may be only one opening available in the 2014 season-opening rotation. Terry Ryan has hinted that Samuel Deduno earned himself another chance, if healthy, with his strong performance in 2013.
That would round out the rotation, meaning that a group including Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Albers, Hendriks and Alex Meyer could be left on the outside looking in.
That's undeniably an intriguing group. Not all are certain to remain within the organization if they don't latch onto the 25-man roster (some, like Hendriks, will be out of options), but having a handful of pitchers with some history of MLB success -- or with legit prospect luster -- available in Triple-A would put the Twins in a very different position than they have been over the past three years.
Worley was the Opening Day starter in 2013. Diamond was the team's best starter in 2012. Albers impressed during his debut, Meyer is the organization's top pitching prospect and Gibson offers sizable potential despite a rocky start. Any one of those guys has the potential to bounce back or emerge as a legitimate quality option, giving the Twins a much comfier margin for error with the guys currently slotted to comprise the rotation.
Everyone wants to talk about the importance of adding an ace at the top, and that would certainly be nice, but having decent arms available to plug in at the back end if someone gets hurt or isn't performing can be almost just as important over the course of a 162-game season.