This excerpt is from an article originating at Zone Coverage. Click here to read it in full.When Devin
Smeltzer was summoned to make a spot start after Michael Pineda was placed on the injured list last Sunday, he became the first pitcher outside of the team’s established rotation to make more than two starts in 2019.
Kohl Stewart has made two starts and Lewis Thorpe has made one. Through 100 team games, 95 of them were started by one of Jose Berrios, Martin Perez, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi or Pineda.
Last Sunday was game 111. Make that 105 of 111, then.
That means that 94.59 percent of the team’s first 111 starters were made by one of that quintet. If that seems like a lot — it’s because it is. Only the Cincinnati Reds (95.45 percent) had a higher rate of starts made from their top-five pitchers in the rotation, and like the Twins, that’ll go down with Trevor Bauer being added into their top five.
By the way, it’ll probably come as no surprise that the Los Angeles Angels are by far the lowest, with their top-five guys making just 54.87 percent of the starts. The next worst team? The Toronto Blue Jays — nearly 20 percent ahead at 71.05 percent.
And it’s not just about making the starts for Twins pitchers. Amidst all the uproar — and deservedly so — about the sagging bullpen of late, it’s worth noting that the rotation has to get the game to the point where the bullpen can even have the chance to blow it. Through last Sunday, Twins starters with fifth in MLB in ERA at 3.77. They were fifth in MLB and second in the American League in innings pitched per game, and third in fewest pitches per inning as well.
All of those numbers — plus the team’s historic offense — pretty clearly spits out a team that’s 24 games over .500 even despite their struggles since the All-Star break.
But what makes a rotation go? Or more importantly, how do you keep pitchers healthy? It’s an age-old question that even the Twins don’t necessarily know the answer to — even despite the fact that they’ve proven to be pretty good at it over the long, or perhaps more accurately, medium-haul.
“Credit goes to our pitching coaches, medical staff, strength and conditioning staff as well as to our pitchers,” said general manager Thad Levine.
“Some of it is luck,” said Gibson.
“I think you have to give Rocco, Wes and Hef a lot of credit for how they’ve managed our pitchers and certainly our bullpen as well,” said team trainer Tony Leo.
“We put a strong emphasis here on recovery and the weight room,” said pitching coach Wes Johnson.
“I think everybody (is) just doing their work, really,” said Odorizzi.
“It’s been a really good run that we’d like to continue as best we can,” said manager Rocco Baldelli.
Each of these seems to hint at a larger idea, so let’s see what else these key performers had to say about how this starting staff has been able to stay so durable.
Odorizzi was the first subject approached, and he immediately revealed an answer perhaps not easily seen on the surface — but very easy to digest.
“We have a group of guys here who understand what it takes to get through a full season, and that’s something only experience can bring,” Odorizzi said. “How you need to manage yourself as the season goes on, that sort of thing.”
True enough; this is the most experienced Twins rotation in quite some time. Pineda will almost certainly go over 800 career MLB innings when he makes his next start. Odorizzi’s closing in on 1,000 himself. Gibson is over 1,000 and Perez is a couple starts away from 900.
And Berrios, the baby of the group, has thrown nearly 550 MLB innings — and is prodigious for his workouts to keep himself in shape. “Jose is really, really good at recovery,” Johnson said.