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Should the Twins Consider a Six-Man Rotation?

The following question is asked in jest. Well, maybe in jest. Alright, maybe it is a legitimate question. Is the AAA Rochester starting rotation better than the Minnesota Twins starting rotation?

Right now, the Twins rotation is in a state of flux.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson - USA TODAY Sports
Phil 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.
Here are some of the other starting pitching options:
  • 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.
In my opinion, now that the Twins are not contending and we’re into August, it is important that the remainder of the season be about evaluation of certain players. For some, it is about whether they should remain on the 40 man roster in the off-season. For some, it is determining if they can be a big league starter or more likely be moved to the bullpen. For others, it’s just about keeping them strong and healthy the rest of the way.

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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42 Comments

Great stuff! I agree with this pretty much completely.

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Mike Frasier Law
Aug 01 2014 08:24 AM

If your question were whether I thought this would happen, that is an easy no. But I like the idea. Is it feasible to do what you suggest - meaning, are there any 25 and 40 man roster issues with it?

    • Dantes929 likes this
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mike wants wins
Aug 01 2014 08:30 AM

Move KC to the pen....much easier solution, imo.

 

KC to bullpen, Pino and Darnell down, the three M's in the starting rotation. That's what I would do.

 

When Nolasco is healthy, either shut down Meyer, or move him to the pen.

    • Dantes929 and Linus like this

I completely agree with you Seth!  This plan would, I believe, give a lot of the top pitchers in the system an opportunity to get their collective feet wet and see what we have for next year.

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clutterheart
Aug 01 2014 08:51 AM

Release/Trade Pino & Johnson - I doubt either are with the team next year

Trade Correia - he won't be with the team next year so whats the point?

 

Hughes

Gibson

Meyer

May

Milone - see what we have

 

Leave Nolasco on the DL for rest of year

When Meyer hits his inning limit, use Darnell

Is the DH part of the bench?  13 man pitching staff = 3 man bench+DH

 

I would do a 6 man rotation because most of the pitchers are young or have some injury concerns.  Take a little bit of the load off of them so they end the season strong.

 

Hughes - various small issues with the Yankees and only 140 IP last year

Gibson - a rookie with 150ish IP last year

May - 160 ish innings last year

Meyer - on a big innings limit - bring him up and let him get a taste of the majors before moving him to the bullpen in Sept

Nolasco - elbow issues (TJ waiting to happen)

Milone or KC or Pino or I don't care who #6 is

 

Of note the Twins have 11 games in 10 days in the middle of August.

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

Burton is better than Corriea.  I would DFA Corriea and keep the 5 man rotation. and in September I would have Darnell in the pen.  Meyer does not need to be here if he isn't starting.  the Twin are not going to call him up to be in the pen.

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DAM DC Twins Fans
Aug 01 2014 08:57 AM

Long term don't like 6 man rotations--too long between starts.  Short-term maybe.

 

I would go with Hughes, Gibson, Milone and May on regular basis and rotate 5th spot with Meyer, Johnson and Darnell.  Shut Nolasco down for year--and try to trade him during offseason.  Same with Correia.  Take what little we can get. 

 

I would give Deduno a couple of starts in August because we need to know whether to keep him on the 40 man roster--Twins need rosters spots for the group that becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter.

If your question were whether I thought this would happen, that is an easy no. But I like the idea. Is it feasible to do what you suggest - meaning, are there any 25 and 40 man roster issues with it?

 

Looks very straightforward.  Everyone in that August rotation is already on the 40, and Meyer's addition to the 40 in September would be compensated for by the removal of Burton/KC/Hammer.  In September, there is no limit on the active roster of course (aside from the 40-man limit), so no issues there.

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this
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mike wants wins
Aug 01 2014 09:09 AM

No reason for Deduno to be on the 40 man next year:

 

Hughes, Gibson, Nolasco, Pelfrey, May, Meyer, Milone, Darnell, Johnson, Gilmartin, Berrios, Pino....

 

even if you just cut Pelfrey, that is 11 pitchers.....and I am sure there are other AAA/AA guys that could be on that list.

I suggested this option some time ago, after others said we had to wait to move Correia before we could call up Meyer/May.  No rule against a 6-man rotation (although it would probably be sub-optimal for a contending team).

 

Of course, at this point, with our AAA starters all healthy and Milone added to the mix, we really don't need to keep Correia around and happy as insurance -- if he's not claimed on waivers, send him to the bullpen or grant him his release so he can hopefully latch on somewhere else, maybe even get his foot in the door somewhere for 2015.  We have so many more interesting names to start games at this point, and not much time left to see them in 2014.

Just to make sure... I don't think a 6-man rotation is something that the Twins should do all year long. I'm just saying maybe in August and I think certainly in September. 

 

Also above someone mentioned shutting down Nolasco and then trying to trade him. The only way anyone would even consider trading for him is if he pitches, and pitches effectively in late August and September. Of course, if he pitches well then, why trade him?

 

And yes, 40 man rosters can easily be made available when necessary.

    • Oxtung likes this
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jorgenswest
Aug 01 2014 09:18 AM
We saw the lack of flexibility the Twins had with their bench last night.

With 13 pitchers, there are three options on the bench assuming everyone is healthy. That isn't enough. They need another CF. Joe Mauer will return. They need to work to getting back to 12.

There are spots for May, Meyer and Milone right now. There have been all July. It isn't lack of openings that have kept the Twins from evaluating them for next year.

Here is another thought. DFA Correia and Burton today. Option Pino and Darnell.

Bring up Meyer, Milone, May and Farris. Meyer and Farris need to be added to the 40. The timings need to work to match rotation spots, but Farris can certainly take Correia's spot today.

Evaluate the three in the starting rotation. Evaluate Farris in a super utility role. He is only one year older than Nunez. Reports are that he is a versatile defender that is more than adequate defensively. He may be a better option in that role than Nunez. It would be good to find out. Meanwhile, Hicks can get time in AAA.
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 01 2014 09:26 AM

This was something I've been kicking around mentally as well.  I think it's the right idea for the remainder of the season.  Give some of those guys a few starts to see what you have.  If they do well, you might see them being valuable trade assets for teams looking for cheap, cost controled, MLB ready pitching.

Use a 5 man rotation but keep rotating Pino and Darnell through AAA when they need an extra starter. I don't want Hughes and Gibson to go too long between starts.

Many years ago (at least 20) Jim Kaat offered the following suggestion: Create a rotation of 9 pitchers. Each pitcher pitches 3 innings every 3 days. Which 3 inning section they pitch would change as well. Since the MLB rules are such that the starter would never qualify for the win in this scenario. If the team carries a lead going into the 7th inning then the third pitcher would be eligable for a save. You'd have to consider what to do for extra innings, possibly moving to the next days pitchers. If you keep a couple of extra guys around to do the extra inning work and to move in if someone has a really bad day your still at 11 pitchers and 14 position players.

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mike wants wins
Aug 01 2014 09:49 AM

Many years ago (at least 20) Jim Kaat offered the following suggestion: Create a rotation of 9 pitchers. Each pitcher pitches 3 innings every 3 days. Which 3 inning section they pitch would change as well. Since the MLB rules are such that the starter would never qualify for the win in this scenario. If the team carries a lead going into the 7th inning then the third pitcher would be eligable for a save. You'd have to consider what to do for extra innings, possibly moving to the next days pitchers. If you keep a couple of extra guys around to do the extra inning work and to move in if someone has a really bad day your still at 11 pitchers and 14 position players.

 

I've been saying this for the last 2 years. Especially if a team can't find good SPs......like the last few years. Won't ever happen, thought.

I like this idea a lot. It's definitely time to start looking at what they have for next year.  As mentioned, it's harder to do in August, but makes total sense in September. 

 

As for the piggy-backing starters idea, I think having May/Meyer do this would be a great promotional tool for the Twins.  But there shouldn't be any issue with May being able to handle a workload, and I don't see any issue with putting Meyer in the bullpen like they began the MLB career of Johan Santana.

 

The interest in the team as it sits right now is basically non-existent to casual fans, doing these things will spark some interest in the final months of the season.  The Vargas callup is a good start, but the pitching is what we really want to see.

To the people who want Pino and Johnson DFA'd...

These guys are the depth for our starting pitching. Starting pitchers get hurt. Look how many teams in the MLB have hurt starters. There is no reason to DFA these two guys. They should be in AAA during 2015 so we can use them if/probably when a starter gets hurt.

 

However, I agree with dumping Correia and Burton. Neither will be here in 2015, so there's no point to be here now. At this point, Correia is blocking our young starters. Pino and Johnson aren't blocking them because they can be sent down at any time. The only thing blocking May and Meyer is the person who could call them up.

To the people who want Pino and Johnson DFA'd...

These guys are the depth for our starting pitching. Starting pitchers get hurt. Look how many teams in the MLB have hurt starters. There is no reason to DFA these two guys. They should be in AAA during 2015 so we can use them if/probably when a starter gets hurt.

 

However, I agree with dumping Correia and Burton. Neither will be here in 2015, so there's no point to be here now. At this point, Correia is blocking our young starters. Pino and Johnson aren't blocking them because they can be sent down at any time. The only thing blocking May and Meyer is the person who could call them up.

 

 

This is spot on - its always good / necessary to have depth at AAA in the form of experienced starters that can take a few spot starts for the big league club in case of injury.  Does not mean they are at all in the long term plans for the big club's rotation.

 

Having said that, Corriea needs to be moved now, take whateever you can get. - same with Burton.  Milone, Meyer and May for the rest of the year.

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GoGonzoJournal
Aug 01 2014 11:13 AM

I wouldn't have minded if the Twins went with a six-man rotation the whole season. Maybe the extra day off between starts would have kept Pelfrey or Nolasco off the DL, and Deduno could keep making starts instead of throwing wild pitches with runners on in a relief role.

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Hosken Bombo Disco
Aug 01 2014 11:52 AM

A six man rotation could be the answer for a while. We have a lot of healthy guys who can make a case to be starting. Only thing is getting Meyer's starts in August before his inning quota. Or bullpen. I wouldn't mind seeing Meyer debut in a tie game in the 7th or 8th either -- a high pressure situation but without any postseason positioning at stake. 

I hate that Logan Darnell gets a start tonight. 

I would hate the extra game between starts for Hughes and Gibson. 

Although I didn't like the signing of Correia and hated watching his labored starts.  He is what was advertised.  He was a solid #5 starter. 

Hughes, Gibson, Milone, Pino and Johnson is good enough. to finish it out.

 

We just had 3 quality starts and one win against light-hitting KC.  The problem is with the bats, not the arms.

We just had 3 quality starts and one win against light-hitting KC.  The problem is with the bats, not the arms.

Royals series aside, we have a team OPS+ of 92 on the season, and a team ERA+ of 94.  There are problems on both sides of the ball.

    • Oxtung likes this

Does anyone know if there's such a thing as an "injury settlement" in the major league baseball CBA if a player calls it a career in the middle of a contract?  I know there is in football.  Thinking in terms of Pelfrey.


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