Jose Berrios started for the Rochester Red Wings on Tuesday. He pitched seven shutout innings with one hit, two walks and six strikeouts. It was his third straight outstanding effort.
Tommy Milone started for the Twins in Chicago on Thursday. He allowed nine hits and five runs in 3⅓ innings. In two starts since rejoining the Twins’ rotation, Milone has totaled seven innings, with 15 hits and nine runs (six earned).
Milone had cleared waivers and was sent to Rochester on May 5. He was dominant there as a starter, which means Class AAA lineups are much more likely to chase 88-miles-per-hour fastballs off the corner than big leaguers.
Twins followers have seen enough over three seasons to understand that when Milone is throwing his best he can be a mediocre starter in the major leagues. And when he’s throwing less than that, you get seven innings in two starts.
Berrios had the first four big-league starts of his career from April 27 to May 16. The first three were not much. The fourth was horrendous and got him sent back to Rochester.
Milone is 29. His velocity is such that he has no choice other than to be a “nibbler.” Berrios is 22 and remains the organization’s top hope as a young starter.
The Twins offered arbitration to Milone this winter and signed him for $4.5 million. This was done with the idea the lefthander could be an adequate bottom-of-the-rotation starter for a team that would contend for one of the American League’s five playoff positions (as the Twins had done in 2015).
The Twins were defeated by Texas 3-2 in 10 innings on Friday night. This put them at 25-54, the worst record in the major leagues and 14½ games removed from fourth place in the AL Central.
Add it up and there seemed to be no sense in continuing to give starts to Milone in this lost season, when they could be going to Berrios, perhaps with reinvigorated confidence after his recent good streak in Rochester.
The fact that it makes no sense might be the reason the Twins passed on the chance Friday to end things with Milone to make room for Miguel Sano.
That’s because very little the Twins have done for the 2016 season has made sense, starting with the decision to spend $24.85 million to bring in South Korean home run champion Byung Ho Park as a designated hitter.
The Twins were bringing back Sano on Friday from his rehab assignment. And it was obvious that Park and his .191 average would wind up in Rochester to open up the DH role for Sano and others.
This was a chance, though, to actually get manager Paul Molitor an extra position player for the Texas series. Bring in Sano, send Milone down the road, and then add Berrios to the roster on Tuesday to take that place in the rotation.
The Twins didn’t do that. They made it a straight Sano-for-Park swap, and then after Friday’s loss, Molitor said, “Tommy Milone is starting Tuesday.”
This could not be Molitor’s decision. You watch Milone dancing to those 3-2 counts and camera shots in the dugout make the manager look as if he wants to poke himself in the eyes, Three Stooges-style.
And now Tommy’s starting Tuesday?
Terry Ryan and Co. can’t really think there will be a money-saving market for Milone if he offers up 5⅔ effective innings some time this summer. They can’t be that deluded.
Maybe they were distracted on Friday for dealing with larger failures than Milone’s $4.5 million — namely, the investment in Park and the idea of Sano as a 270-pound right fielder.
The possibility a slugger who struck out 161 times facing 89-miles-per-hour fastballs in South Korea could gear up to handle big-league pitching seemed remote when he was signed.
Park hit a bunch of home runs early when pitchers hung breaking balls to him, but once they started working on him, #ParkBang turned into #ParkWhiff.
I remain convinced the Twins brought in Park to serve as the DH to take away that option from Sano. The big kid gained weight and got to 270 after becoming the Twins’ DH for the second half of 2015.
“If we tell Miguel he’s going to be in right field that could get him to work out seriously in the offseason” — that had to be the theory of someone in the front office.
On Friday, Miguel-in-right field was mercifully put to rest. Sano was in the lineup at third base. And this is now the plan:
Sano and Trevor Plouffe trade off at third, Plouffe relieves Joe Mauer at first, and the player not in the field serves as the DH.
Dang, if only the Twins had decided on that simple plan last winter, and found a wiser use for those millions directed at a DH who was always a long shot to hit on this side of the Pacific pond.