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Starting in September

The Twins have 41 games to go which seems like a lot. However, there are just ten days before we reach September when rosters can expand. With the Twins moves yesterday, outrighting Nick Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Twins 40 man roster now sits at 38. This is great because that means that the Twins can add two players to the 40 man roster without dropping anyone else. Then again, there are a few players that could be removed without much heartache in Twins Nation.
Starting Pitching has been the Twins biggest concern all season. Really, it has been for several seasons, and it will be again throughout the offseason. That said, the Twins have to find out what they have on the 40 man roster for starters. As of right now, the Twins starting rotation is Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, Brian Duensing and Cole De Vries. We might be able to assume that Liam Hendriks will take Blackburn’s rotation spot, but at this point, we don’t know that for certain.

Below, I will outline what I would like to see the Twins do with their starting rotation in September, if not sooner:


Again, I think it’s important to understand the logic in what is trying to be accomplished. In my opinion, the Twins front office has to make some tough decisions for next year. Can they count on Liam Hendriks? Which of the starters should stay on the 40 man roster, much less go to spring training attempting to win a 5th starter job or a long-relief job.


To be able to see more pitchers, I would recommend a six-man starting rotation. I’d be against it under normal circumstances, but I think it’s important to see what several of these guys can do when asked to throw five to seven innings.


Well, one of my recommendations was going to be to get Nick Blackburn out of the starting rotation. Whether it was to the bullpen of released, I think we have all seen enough of his starts.

Cole De Vries
has shown me enough to likely stay on the 40 man roster and be able to compete for a 5th starter/long reliever/#6-7 starter job.

Brian Duensing
should be in the bullpen, regardless of how well he pitched last night. He has shown that he can start when needed. His roster spot is very safe as he is a tremendous left-handed reliever.


#1 – Scott Diamond – He has made himself into the one given for the Twins Opening Day starting rotation. He has thrown 162.2 innings so far in 2012 after pitching 162 innings last year. If you subscribe to the belief that a pitcher should pitch no more than 20% more innings than the previous season, that means Diamond should throw about 195 innings. Going to six starters will likely mean one less start and they can still monitor his innings because of extra relievers.

#2 – Sam Deduno – Yes, I know he’s got 36 walks and 30 strikeouts in 46 innings. But he also has a 4-1 record and a 3.33 ERA. I know that there’s like a 99.8% likelihood that his success is not sustainable, but let me live in that other 0.2% for another month. What if he can find a way to relax a little bit and reduce is BB/9 from 7.0 to 4.2 or so? What if? I am so intrigued by how nasty his stuff is and how much movement his pitches get. The Twins have nothing to lose in September, so why not give his ‘stuff’ an opportunity?!

#3 – Liam Hendriks – Yes, he has struggled with the Twins in a couple of stints this year. He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year last year when he split time between AA and AAA and then was pushed too quickly to the big leagues in September. This year, he was with the Twins quickly and probably wasn’t quite ready. However, in 16 starts with AAA Rochester this season, he is now 9-3 with a 2.20 ERA. In 106.1 innings, he has given up 76 hits, walked 28 and struck out 82. He’s just 23 years old and has the background of success and the mix of pitches necessary to believe that he will figure it out at some point.

#4 – Esmerling Vasquez – The Twins claimed Vasquez on the final weekend of the 2011 season. Just before spring training, he was DFAd to make room for Darin Mastroianni. He has been, arguably, the most consistent pitcher in Rochester this season. As a reliever, he is 5-4 with a 2.67 ERA. In 57.1 innings, he has given up 41 hits, walked 25 and struckout 50. However, he was recently moved to the starting staff, and in seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 3.16 ERA. In 37 innings, he has given up 27 hits, walked 11 and struck out 41. That doesn’t count a game that he came into with two outs in the 1st inning and pitched into the 9th inning. That K/rate of more than one per inning is certainly intriguing in an organization where that is a rarity.

#5 – Jeff Manship – Next spring, Manship will be out of options. Since making five starts for the Twins in 2009 (including his first big league win in a must-win, last weekend start against the Royals), Manship has made just one start for the Twins, and that was in 2010. However, as a starter in Rochester this season, he has gone 4-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 10 starts. In 51 innings he’s given up 47 hits, walked 19 and struck out 32. I would give him a five to six start opportunity in September before making a decision, either way.

#6 – PJ Walters – Although his overall numbers in seven starts for the Twins from mid-May through mid-June were not great, he certainly showed some glimpses. In his first four starts, he went at least six innings and pitched a complete game against the White Sox. But when the calendar turned to June, his struggles began. He didn’t go more than five in his first two starts, and then he didn’t get out of the first inning in a June 13 start against the Phillies. He hasn’t pitched in the big league since. He’s now working in his second rehab stint in Rochester, and went three innings and threw 59 pitches. Another start or two for the Red Wings and he should be able to make five more starts with the Twins.


Terry Ryan and his front office staff have some difficult decisions to make on many players as they plan for 2012. I think a good way to get a look at a few of them would be to go to a six man starting rotation. Guys like Cole De Vries, Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak will become very important as well because there will be short starts and innings to eat, in all likelihood. Five or six extra starts is probably too small of a sample size to make final decisions, but coupled with AAA reports, it’s something more.

What do you think of this plan? What do you think will or should happen, in your opinion?

Attached Image: PJ Walters 3.jpg
Photo by StarTribune.com

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