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  • Do the Twins View Swarzak as a Starter?

    Because 87 of his 92 appearances for the Twins over the last two years have come out of the bullpen, it can be easy to forget that Anthony Swarzak was exclusively a starter in the minors. A pretty good one, too.

    After being drafted in the second round out of high school, Swarzak rose quickly, reaching the majors at age 23. He has been crushed as a starter in the big leagues, but he's only made 28 career starts -- less than one full season's worth. Could it be that the Twins aren't ready to give up on him as a potential rotation option?

    Back in mid-December, Swarzak tweeted the following:

    All I can say is my arm is feeling saucy for it only being dec 17th ... Last years goal was 100 IP... This year 200 IP
    ó Anthony Swarzak (@ASwarzak51) December 17, 2013

    The comment didn't seem especially noteworthy at the time; like many young relievers, Swarzak would like a shot at starting and he was setting his sights high. But recently, on Sunday, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press dropped this tidbit:

    Both @ASwarzak51 and @BrianDuensing52 were told to prepare for a spring run at rotation. For AS, I'm told that's still the "hope/plan"
    ó Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) January 12, 2014

    The last part makes it sound like the Twins prefer Swarzak as a starter, which would be somewhat surprising since the righty thrived in a full-time relief role last season, proving invaluable as an inning-eating long man. With so many short starts, the team leaned heavily on him as Swarzak logged an MLB-high 96 innings out of the bullpen.


    Beyond the rubber-arm factor, Swarzak pitched really well in relief. He posted a 2.91 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, ranking second and third in the pen respectively, and while his K-rate was average, that puts him above the majority of Twins pitchers.

    I have long felt that Swarzak was among the team's most underrated players, and last year I would have loved to see him get a chance over the likes of Pedro Hernandez and P.J. Walters. At this point, I would still probably prefer him to Vance Worley or Andrew Albers.

    But with entrenched veterans now comprising nearly the entire rotation, and with both Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno lacking options, Swarzak would have to be no higher than seventh in line for a rotation spot.

    That seems like an odd switch to make when last year he was one of the bullpen's most valuable assets.

    Maybe the Twins really believe he can turn a corner and distinguish himself from a sizable group of fringe starters contending for that fifth and final rotation spot. More likely, they're trying to build as much initial depth as possible (injuries can strike fast in spring training) and they feel that having him prepare as a starter will help condition his arm for a workload similar to last year.

    Clearly, Swarzak would like to start. And you can make a pretty good case that he's earned the chance. But now that the Twins have gone out and purchased some established pitching depth, he's going to face a steep uphill climb trying to prove he can help the team as much in a starting role as he can relieving.
    This article was originally published in blog: Do the Twins View Swarzak as a Starter? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 26 Comments
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      Just say no to Duensing. That ship has sailed. I'd love to see Swarzak get a shot. If he can beat out Deduno, I'd be fine with them switching roles.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      I feel like his success is what Hendriks might see in his future. Frustrated that the Twins just blatantly gave up on him at such a young age.

      If the Twins want to give him a legit shot at it, I'd be fine with the move. What I wouldn't want (which is what will happen) is him to start in the pen and then jump back and forth a few times and not have success so they scrap the idea. If they want to try him at starter, let him start. Shoot, let him switch roles with Gibson to start the year. Wouldn't be the worth thing to let Gibson come out of the pen a little bit and build confidence to start the year. If Swarzak fails you could then switch them back. Not much harm done in that scenario.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      That the Twins are considering him to start shows how little faith they have in their returning starters
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I don't know if this is just psychology or what. If you really want a guy to pitch well in long relief, make him prepare to be a starter and keep that carrot in front of his nose.
    1. wabene's Avatar
      wabene -
      I agree with letting him prep as a SP for all the reasons mentioned; as a carrot, get ready for long relief and in case of injuries. P. Hernandez, A. Albers, Duensing, PJ, and Hendrix, enough already. Not enough talent for mlb, sorry. Swarzak has talent let's see what happens. As for the others so glad we have signed enough mlb talent to push them out. If Diamond and Worley don't make a strong case, cut bait.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      That the Twins are considering him to start shows how little faith they have in their returning starters
      Of the three returning starters in the rotation, two are veterans being paid to start. The other is a young pitcher whose had major league success.

      Frankly, I'm with Nick. The guy, at best, is 7th in the pecking order, I'd rather they start to work him in more towards late-inning situations and see if they can't generate some long-term value in him that way.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Perhaps it's less to do with finding a guy for the 5th starter spot and more about opening up the possibilities for the long man in the bullpen.

      Maybe the Twins aren't entirely sure they could trade Worley/Diamond/Deduno but still don't want to lose them to waivers. Swarzak almost surely has some trade value and it would only be higher if league-wide perception is that he is a swingman.

      Of the bullpen arms, Swarzak and Duensing seem the most likely to get traded. Both are in arbitration and the Twins have said they have no intention of working out multi-year deals with either. Seems odd they have no intention of working out multi-year deals with two pitchers they reportedly like as a number five pitcher. Unless this lip services is simply trying to make them more attractive to other teams.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      I'm just assuming the guys that finish 6 and 7 for the starting jobs are the long-relievers. This group includes Duensing and Swarzak. Diamond and Duensing compete for a lefty role. Worley, Deduno, Diamond, Gibson and Swarzak compete for the #5 job/long-relief role.

      I also wonder how much trade value Swarzak has. Maybe not much, but I'd think more than Worley.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      I don't see it happening mostly because I would think the Twins would like to give one last shot to our out of options guys Worley/Diamond/Deduno.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      I propose an 8 man rotations called the 2 by 4. Pair up your 8 starters and have them both prepare for starting. Most guys do their best work the 1st and 2nd time through the lineup right? So why not capitalize on that by planning to have your staters only go 4 or 5 innings with another starter to come on in relief and finish it up. It would be more effective if all of our starters were a little different. So you have 8 starters that pitch 4 innings every 4 or 5 days. Then you have your stud relievers in Perk/Burton/Fien to close it out. It's foolproof and you know it.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      Diamond and Duensing compete for a lefty role.
      Unless Diamond undergoes a splits transformation, there isn't much competition there. Diamond doesn't do well getting lefties out.

      I don't see, if the pitching we signed actually helps out, why we'll have more than one long reliever. Hence why I think sliding him closer to a 6th/7th role might be beneficial for everyone.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      I'm just assuming the guys that finish 6 and 7 for the starting jobs are the long-relievers. This group includes Duensing and Swarzak. Diamond and Duensing compete for a lefty role. Worley, Deduno, Diamond, Gibson and Swarzak compete for the #5 job/long-relief role.
      You don't want your lefty who was your best relief pitcher in high leverage situations in 2013, be your long man, you want him to be the set up lefty. I just don't get all the non-appreciation that Duensing gets sometimes (and I am not talking about Jeremy here, just a general comment)

      I think that based a. on their performance in 2013 and b. on their contact situation in 2014, both Duensing and Swarzak earned the right to compete for that last spot. And, as horrible as some people think that Duensing has been as a starter, he has pitched better than Diamond.

      Career as a starter:
      Duensing: 23-24, 4.18 FIP, 4.11 xFIP, 1.428 WHIP (.320 BABIP), 5.9 K/9, 2.38 K/BB
      Diamond: 19-27, 4.46 FIP, 4.33 xFIP, 1.405 WHIP (.304 BABIP), 4.2 K/9, 1.92 K/BB

      So, in other words, if you want a lefty in the rotation, the one who has succeeded the most in the majors as a starter within the current group is Duensing.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      I'm not inclined to read anything into this. Teams across the league are instructing long relievers to prepare as if they were starters. If the Twins believe that Swarzak or Duensing have more than the most remote shot at being in the rotation, their FA activity seems to contradict it.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I agree with most things that have been said. One point hasn't. Depth. Twins have 8 starters. In no particular order--Hughes, Nolasco, Pelfrey, Correia, Deduno (if healthy), Diamond, Duensing, and Swarzek.

      Having all 8 prepared to start means that from May to August you have depth to cover the inevitable injuries and doubleheaders without dipping into the minors (unless Meyer is ready--and that is doubtful because he lost too much time in 2013). To me this is telling Albers and Gibson to pick it up or your chances to be in the show are over.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      I agree with most things that have been said. One point hasn't. Depth. Twins have 8 starters. In no particular order--Hughes, Nolasco, Pelfrey, Correia, Deduno (if healthy), Diamond, Duensing, and Swarzek.
      What about Worley (not that I'm excited about him)?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      To me this is telling Albers and Gibson to pick it up or your chances to be in the show are over.
      No. And comparing a former top prospect and first round pick who has not yet reached his peak to a career independent league guy, does not make much sense. Gibson (and Worley, for many of the same reasons) will be given many opportunities; Albers not that much.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Swarzak had an ERA+ of 139 last year. That would lead the starting staff. But, last year was his first major league season with zero starts. The previous year, he started 5 games and his ERA+ was 82. His ERA during those 5 starts was over 8. It was just around 4 as a reliever. If I were the Twins coaches, I would keep him in the bullpen and hope he doesn't regress too much to the mean.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      It's just barely possible that getting a few starts in ST may up the trade value of Swarzak and/or Duensing. So after the Tanaka dust has settled and the rest of the big names have landed somewhere, a team still looking for a number 5/6 starter may offer something useful in exchange.

      Now before going all figgy pudding, note the difference between "just barely possible" and "likely," please.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Marta Shearing View Post
      Just say no to Duensing. That ship has sailed. I'd love to see Swarzak get a shot. If he can beat out Deduno, I'd be fine with them switching roles.
      Deduno doesn't throw enough early strikes to be a good reliever. He's either a starter here, or a starter somewhere else.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Its possible that Swarzak is just figuring things out - it takes some guys a while. He really pitched well last year and I think it is wise of the Twins to see what he can do as a starter. We may have a Jeff Samardja on our hands as that was his path and is now a valuable starter. Swarzak certainly needs to pitch in a more important role - either starting or set-up
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