Should the Twins Consider a Six-Man Rotation?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY SportsPhil Hughes was tremendous from mid-April until mid-June, but he has really struggled the last month. Kyle Gibson has had a solid first, full season in the big leagues, alternating very good performances with some really rough ones. Ricky Nolasco is on the disabled ist after being brutal for the season’s first two-and-a-half months. Mike Pelfrey went on the disabled list early and won’t be back in 2014. Kevin Correia has been pretty good over the course of his last dozen starts after nearly pitching himself out of the rotation. Yohan Pino has been adequate, if mediocre, in his half-dozen starts after ten seasons in the minor leagues. Logan Darnell made his first MLB start opposite Chris Sale, and gets to do the same tonight in Chicago.
Meanwhile, down in Rochester, Trevor May appears ready for a shot in the big leagues. Alex Meyer has had terrible control and command most of the year and yet has put up very strong strikeout numbers and ERA. Sean Gilmartin was promoted to the Red Wings where he has been fine. Kris Johnson is one of the best pitchers in the International League. Mark Hamburger is a former big leaguer who has worked his way back to AAA and is getting an opportunity to start and is doing well.
On Thursday, the Twins acquired lefty Tommy Milone from the A’s in exchange for outfielder Sam Fuld. He has had a sub-4.00 ERA in his 70+ big league starts over the past four seasons yet found himself in the A’s minor leagues because of their ace acquisitions in the last month.
As the news of the trade sunk in, I have had one prevailing thought running through my mind. Could the Twins employ a six-man starting rotation? And, who would be in it? And, how would the bullpen look?
Let’s just consider a few of these variables.
Until rosters expand on September 1st, rosters can have just 25 men. We would not want a 14-man pitching staff . That would require a three-man bench. With 13 pitchers, the bullpen would still have just seven members and the bench would have just four options.
Let’s start with the current starters in the rotation. Here are the candidates:
- Phil Hughes – currently in the rotation, has a big contract through 2016.
- Kevin Correia – currently in the rotation, couldn’t be traded by deadline. Could be dealt (or DFA'd) in August, though his ability to eat innings could prove important.
- Kyle Gibson – currently in the rotation, would like to finish the season strong and add innings.
- Yohan Pino – currently in the rotation, earned MLB debut at age 30, has been adequate.
- Logan Darnell – currently in the rotation, 25-year-old lefty has been solid at Rochester much of the season.
- Ricky Nolasco – currently on the disabled list, could soon be sent on a two-game rehab stint before returning to rotation.
- Mike Pelfrey – out for the year after surgery.
- Kris Johnson – one of the best pitchers in the International League, has struggled in three big league starts.
- Trevor May – Assume he would be up with the Twins by now if not for his calf injury. Threw 77 pitches on Wednesday. Could make one more AAA start to build to 100 pitches.
- Alex Meyer – Has a good ERA and leads the IL in strikeouts this year, but he is walking too many and at times is inefficient with his pitches. Throw hard. Has the pitches to be great.
- Tommy Milone – Has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Is 32-22 with a sub-4.00 ERA. Doesn’t throw hard at all, but he has made it work in the majors.
I humbly submit this pitching staff for August:
Starters: Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone, Trevor May, Yohan Pino
Relievers: Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar, Anthony Swarzak, Ryan Pressly, Sam Deduno
Conspicuously absent from the bullpen is Jared Burton. Ideally, he could be traded in August, even if the Twins pick up the amount of his buyout. If not, he could be DFA'd. With six starters, it’s important to have a few guys who can eat two or more innings. Duensing, Pressly, Swarzak and Deduno can do that. Later in the month, it would be great to see Kevin Correia traded (or DFA'd) to open up a roster spot. (Note that it would be great for Twins fans, not so much for Correia, of course.)
Then in September:
Starters: Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone, Trevor May, Ricky Nolasco, Logan Darnell
Relievers: Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Alex Meyer, Ryan Pressly, Sam Deduno, Michael Tonkin, Yohan Pino, Kris Johnson (Jared Burton, Kevin Correia – if they are still there)
By September, Ricky Nolasco should be back. It will be important to get him a handful of starts to go into the offseason strong and comfortable that he can succeed again. As you can see, I’d move Pino to the bullpen as another long relief option. You could, with the expanded rosters, have Darnell and Meyer piggyback each other in starts, maybe each throwing four innings, as both are part of the future. Kris Johnson’s role as a big leaguer could be in the bullpen at this point, and it would be good to see him in that role for a few weeks to determine if that is a real option for him.
I am certainly not advocating a six-man rotation throughout a big league season as a rule. I’m saying that now that the Twins are not contending, it’s important to protect some arms while also getting to see some other arms in roles. It’s much more difficult to do in August when the roster is limited to 25, but in September, I think it makes the world of sense.
I believe in giving guys opportunities, not just the top prospects, but also the guys who have paid their dues. I think September will be an important evaluation time for the front office on several players and that they need to use that month and the expanded rosters to find out what they have. It will be just a part of the evaluation, but an important part.
What do you think? Is a six-man rotation feasible? What would you do?
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