The status and outlook of the rotation is bound to be the biggest storyline for the Twins down the stretch and into the offseason. Clearly, there is no unit on this roster in a greater state of flux.
As a new feature here on Twins Daily, we thought we'd start taking periodic glances at the starting pitching depth chart to provide a big-picture look at what the club currently has and what's in the pipeline. We'll post updates every few weeks, adjusting for performance swings, injuries and roster additions/subtractions.
The top five guys are the ones currently in the Twins' rotation. After that, it gets a little subjective, but this is the pecking order as we see it. Feel free to voice your own opinion on these rankings, and on how far the team is from fielding a respectable rotation in 2013.
1. Scott Diamond. The surprise of the year continues to excel. He's turned in five straight quality starts and posted a 2.95 ERA overall in 128 innings. How long can he sustain his success with one of the league's lowest strikeout rates?
2. Sam Deduno. His "effectively wild" approach has held up thus far, as he's managed a 4-1 record and 3.33 ERA despite tallying more walks than strikeouts. Hard to expect that to continue, but right now he's got a pretty airtight case as the team's second-best starter.
3. Brian Duensing. His extreme vulnerability against right-handed hitters makes him a far better option in the bullpen, but Duensing is a solid pitcher and he has quietly turned in a 3.77 ERA in four starts since rejoining the rotation at the end of July.
4. Cole De Vries. A recent "sad but true" tweet from Patrick Reusse: "Every time Cole De Vries retires a big-league hitter I'm surprised." In spite of his lackluster stuff, the righty has decent peripherals and continues to squeak by. He turned in a solid outing against the punchless A's last night.
5. Liam Hendriks. The rookie returns to the rotation on Wednesday night after Nick Blackburn's surprising DFA earlier this week. Hendriks hardly could have been worse during a couple earlier stints with the Twins, but has been nearly untouchable in Triple-A with 76 hits allowed in 106 innings. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this low-pressure late-season audition; he could rise fast on this list.
6. Anthony Swarzak. He's clearly better suited for his current relief role, but I have to believe Swarzak would be the first guy Ron Gardenhire would call upon if he needed another starter at this moment.
7. Esmerling Vasquez. Like Deduno, Vasquez is an erratic right-hander in his late 20s who limits hits but hands out tons of walks. He probably deserves a chance but it's not clear the Twins are willing to deal with two such pitchers in the their rotation at once.
8. Nick Blackburn. The club's decision to remove him not only from the 25-man roster but the 40-man roster is a sign that they've soured on him badly. Still, he's under contract for $5 million next year so if he shows signs of life in Triple-A he'll probably get another chance.
9. Kyle Gibson. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, the former first-round pick has looked very sharp in 11 rehab outings between rookie ball and Single-A. He'll need to carry that to the upper levels before he's viewed as a legitimate option for the big-league rotation, but so far all signs are positive.
10. Pedro Hernandez. Acquired in the Francisco Liriano trade, Hernandez is a classic Twins pitch-to-contact type and thus far he's allowed 23 hits in 15 innings for Rochester since coming over. He might get a glance in September just because, but he's got much to prove before entering the mix for next year. Plus, he left last night's game in Triple-A with an injury.
Once you're done here, head to Twins Daily where you can find:
* Discussion of Hernandez's aforementioned injury.
* Seth's take on the starting rotation for September.
* Cody Christie's look at the year in Twins trading cards.
* Puhhhh-lenty of complaining about the Twins' medical staff in the wake of the news that Carl Pavano is done for the year.