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  • Tommy Milone: Making A Statement


    Seth Stohs

    When Tommy Milone was demoted to Rochester earlier this month, he was surprised and yet he said all the right things. He didn’t create a stir. He accepted the team’s decision and went to Rochester. He has, however, made a statement since he has been in Rochester. He has made a strong statement just how the Minnesota Twins would want him to, on the mound. On Monday night, he made his strongest statement yet.

    Image courtesy of Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY

    If this were a court of law, Milone and his representation would step to the podium with the following:

     

    Exhibit A: In his first Rochester start (May 8), he threw 6.1 shutout innings. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out eight batters.

     

    Exhibit B: In his second Rochester start (May 13), he threw 8.0 shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out 12.

     

    Exhibit C: In his third Rochester start (May 18), he threw 9.0 scoreless innings, his first professional complete game shutout. He gave up six hits, walked none and struck out 13.

     

    Exhibit D: In his three Rochester starts (consolidated), he has thrown 23.1 scoreless innings. He has given up just 14 hits, walked two and struck out 33 batters.

     

    I would say that is a pretty compelling argument for a return to the big leagues for Tommy Milone. There is no doubt that he is a big league pitcher. Simply, there is no reason for the 28-year-old southpaw to be in the minor leagues. Yet, that is where he finds himself. For now, at least.

     

    Should Tommy Milone’s next start, Saturday or Sunday, be in a Red Wings uniform, or should it be at Target Field?

     

    Well, this isn’t a court of law. There isn’t a jury of his peers, teammates, fans, observers. That decision is up to the Minnesota Twins front office, Terry Ryan and manager Paul Molitor. What they need to determine first is what type of roster alteration it would take to bring back Tommy Milone.

     

    It’s easy to say that Tommy Milone deserves to be in the big leagues. What is more difficult is determining how to make it happen. There are many things to consider, so let’s dive into some of them.

     

    Phil Hughes

     

    The 29-year-old is currently 3-4 with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.29 ERA in eight starts. In 51 innings, he has walked five and struck out 35. Obviously after his historic 2014 season, he’s got a lot of leeway. That, and the fact that he’s signed through 2019. In other words, he’s not going anywhere.

     

    Kyle Gibson

     

    The lanky right-hander will be arbitration-eligible after 2016 season. He is under team control through 2019 season. A year ago, he went 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in a very inconsistent first full season in 2014. Through his first eight starts of the 2015 season, he is 3-3 with a 2.98 ERA. In 48.1 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out 19. Many question whether he can remain successful with such a low strikeout total. That’s fair, but right now is not the time to take him out of the starting rotation.

     

     

    Those two are certain to remain in the rotation. The next three could all be considered to take out of the rotation, though there are good, legitimate reasons to keep each in the rotation.

     

    Ricky Nolasco

     

    Nolasco was placed on the disabled list after his first start. After some time off, he made one rehab start in Cedar Rapids. Since his return, he has gone 3-0 with a 4.11 ERA despite batters hitting .310 off him. The numbers aren’t all that encouraging, and yet to the eye, he looked really good in his last start. The numbers don’t speak to the improvement, but in my opinion, the pitches he was throwing – especially a very good breaking ball – looked greatly improved. Then there is the financial side of the story. The 32-year-old Nolasco is owed another $25 million after this season. Because of that, the Twins should not shut the door on the possibility of him returning to what he was.

     

    Mike Pelfrey

     

    The 31-year-old is healthy for the first time in several years, and he is pitching quite well. He is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in his seven starts. In 39 innings, he has walked 15 and struck out 17. His peripherals are not great, and like Gibson, it’s easy to wonder how sustainable his success may be. He is in the final year of his two year, $11 million contract. He began the season in the bullpen, though he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen at all because of Ervin Santana’s suspension. He’s got the nice numbers, but in his three May starts, he has failed to complete five innings twice.

     

    Trevor May

     

    We clamored for Trevor May to be promoted much of the first half of the 2014 season. He spent the final two months with the Twins last year. This spring, he was the one sent to Rochester out of spring training. Like Pelfrey in the bullpen, May never made a start for the Red Wings. When Nolasco went on the DL, May was summoned. The 25-year-old has pitched all right at times. Overall, he is 2-3 with a 5.15 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 36.2 innings in his seven starts. In his three May starts, he is 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA and opponents are hitting .309 off him with a .851 OPS.

     

    So What Should They Do?

     

    I frequently hear and read that the Twins should consider what is best for the team’s long-term future. In fact, I’m sure I’ve said that many times in recent years. However, at this point, I’m kind of tired of only thinking long-term. I want the team to keep winning now, and do what is best for the team now. That’s not to say “forget about the future”, just that it can’t be the lone factor.

     

    One thing we know is that Tommy Milone should be in the big leagues. Although the three battled it out in spring training, it appears that this decision really comes down to Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May. I see four possible scenarios:

     

    Scenario 1: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to start, Trevor May optioned to Rochester.

     

    Scenario 2: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to start, Mike Pelfrey goes to the bullpen.

     

    Scenario 3: Tommy Milone comes up to the big leagues to pitch out of the bullpen.

     

    Scenario 4: Tommy Milone remains in Rochester and continues to start.

     

    In my opinion, Scenario 3 really isn’t a good option. Scenario 4 may be the most likely scenario to happen, though it’s important to start thinking about MIlone coming up.

     

    What I think will happen? My thought is that Trevor May has the numbers to justify heading back to AAA Rochester to continue to work on the things that have worked for him in the big leagues. Still just 25, it would not hurt May.

     

    What I would probably do? It’s hard to know without being in the clubhouse or being privy to everything. However, I think that the Twins should do what they did this spring. I think that Tommy Milone should be in the rotation. I think that Mike Pelfrey can become a really good contributor out of the bullpen. I would stick with Trevor May in the rotation for the time being.

     

    Summary

     

    When a player feels wronged about being sent from the big leagues down to the minor leagues, they can handle it several ways. They can mope and not perform. They can complain through the media, or even request a trade. I think most would agree that the best way to handle the situation is to do exactly what Tommy Milone has done. He’s taken the disappointment and pitched better than anyone could have expected. He has forced the Twins' hand at this point.

     

    What will the Twins do?

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    Milone's AAA numbers are incredible!!! I thought he was just a soft-tossing lefty who struck almost no one out. I get there's a big difference between MLB and AAA hitters, but what Milone is doing, dominating like he is, can stand up anywhere. He handled the demotion like a stud and didn't go whining to the media like others have been known to do.

     

    As to what to do, I'm with you Seth in adopting a "win now" mentality. The Twins have a winning record for the first time in like a billion years. The roster needs refinement, not an overhaul. May is struggling. He should go down.

     

    That said, I hate the mentality of a player's contract determining playing time. Nolasco has been terrible since getting to Minnesota. On performance alone, he's the no-doubter for demotion. Would the fans really revolt because the 2nd-biggest FA signing in the team's history gets demoted because THE TEAM ACTUALLY WANTS TO WIN GAMES as opposed saving face on the contract? I sure hope not.

     

    The only reason I say May goes down is because he is young enough to actually benefit and learn from the trip. Apparently Nolasco can only pitch in Cedar Rapids and Pelfrey might just take off and never show up.

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    I am one of those who wants to do what is best for the future, but also if the winning trend continues for another month, I want to try to win NOW.......................so with that said, I would personally bring up Milone, temporily keep starting May, and send Pelphrey to the bullpen(our bullpen pretty much sucks right now) and you know someone will come up lame in the  next few weeks, then you let Pelphrey start again.......................or if May has another 2 or 3 game stretch of poor performance, you can then demote him and Pelphrey back to starting and bring up a DIFFERENT bullpen arm. There is my 2 cents :)

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    I'd be fine with either scenario one or two, but I'm guessing that the Twins opt for scenario four in the short term giving each May and Pelfrey one more start each.

    I think you are correct in in the short term, and if either fails in their next start, i think things could change with in the week.

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    It's crazy how Milone is pitching so well... is there any way he could transition into the bullpen?

    This is because I think May needs to stay in the rotation. Of the 4 guys who have started the most games, May has the lowest FIP at 3.40. I'd rather see Pelfrey gone, but he's not doing too poorly. 
    The Twins will have to make somebody unhappy with their next moves (or lack of moves).

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    What about a scenario #5: Dangle Milone on the open market and see what you can get? A lefty starter  has to to be attractive to some pitching starved clubs.

     

    They wouldn't get much for him, maybe a C-level prospect, if that. He's more valuable pitching well than he would get in trade. Now, if he did that in the big leagues for a couple of months, maybe they could get a B-level prospect.

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    I am pretty excited about just how dominant that Milone has been. It is not just a great era, but absolutely dominant too. I too pause with the first two AAA starts, as it seems that crafty soft tossers minor league numbers can be deceiving. Seems That most soft toss guys numbers don't translate well to the big leagues, whereas guys with stuff/velocity can actually improve their numbers. My first thought was just another Andrew Albers or Scott Diamond- nothing to get excited about. But, its been three starts in a row of beast-mode, and he has my attention.

     

    I figured the Twins are eyeing May as the guy to send down, but that would disappoint me a little. As Danchat stated, his FIP is great and if you have watched the games he has passed the eye test....his defense- not so much. He has had some really bad luck that has turned into runs in all of the games that I have watched. He honestly looks like our best pitcher when I watch him this year. Although, Hughes hasn't looked bad and has been unlucky too. I have enjoyed, but not bought into the Gibson and Pelfrey numbers. 

     

    Maybe they just wait it out for another rotation or two, to see who falters and if Milone can keep it up.

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    I'd hate to do it because I like the guy, but right now I'd DFA Duensing, replace him with Theilbar. Send down Pressly, tell him to work on his change up. Pelfrey to the pen, Milone to the rotation.

     

    Duensing may not be "done," as one guy put it, but it looks like he's lost his command. Maybe he can get it back at some point, but right now he's getting killed out there.

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    Hughes, Gibson and May are the three who are most likely to be part of the medium-term future. (To me, medium-term means the next 2-3 years.) Nolasco, Milone and Pelfrey are less important and I'd trade one or more of them if there's any worthwhile player(s) to be obtained in return. The problem with a trade is the Twins are more in need of pitching than position players and it's difficult to upgrade pitching by trading pitching unless you get a young prospect and get lucky.

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    Milone has done what you ask anybody to do when sent to the minors, whether its Hicks, Vargas, or Milone, and thats work hard, get some good results, and force the Twins hand.

     

    Nolassco, because of his longterm contract, keeps starting until his results are putrid. I think it boils down to a choice between May and Pelfrey, if either one falters in their next start, they're the odd man out. Pelfrey to the pen or May to AAA, Milone up.

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    I've always thought that a good team's starting rotation should have at least one southpaw and Milone is probably the best in our organization at this point, but on the other hand he could probably be very good as a middle reliever and as a LOOGY, especially following a hard-throwing right hander. I would think he'd be a significant upgrade there over Duensing or Thielbar. I'm sure TR and PM have considered all possibilities, so it will be interesting to see what action they take.

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    Nitpicky item for the mods: Doesn't this thread belong in the Minor League Talk section?

    First off, not really because we are talking about the ML rotation and how/if Milone fits in there. Or in the bullpen. And what corresponding moves to make.

     

    Second, it's a gray area and could go either way since Milone is in AAA so it's up to the moderators' discretion.

     

    Third, try not to bring up moderator issues in thread. PM one of us. Since you are new, perhaps you don't know how? Just click on the open envelope icon up top right to get to your inbox.

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    This is likely to go south as soon as he returns to the majors. Sorry. Pelfrey to the bullpen is better, yes, but I wouldn't get too carried away about a few dominant starts in AAA for Milone.

     

    All Hail the new King of AAAA pitchers...

    Hail to thee O Tommy Mi-Lone-E!..

    (At least until thee Fail in MLBee)

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    Of the list, the only scenario that makes sense [as far as a return to MLB] is #2.  #3 is the dumbest, followed shortly by #1.  #4 is most likely to happen.  The "why" is simple:  There doesn't seem to be much of a vision in the Front Office.  Seriously, how can you create a logjam with the likes of Nolacso, Pelfry, Stauffer and Boyer?

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    Honestly, Milone's current AAA performance is more or less what you should expect from a healthy 28 year old with almost 100 MLB starts and who excelled in this same league four years ago (1.0 BB/9, 9.4 K/9, 2.28 FIP).

     

    I guess it is encouraging to know that he's healthy, but I don't we can expect him to be significantly improved upon his return to MLB, or suddenly more able to fill a bullpen role.

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    That said, if they think Milone could reliably deliver 6 IP per start with a 100 ERA+, as he did in Oakland, it might be good to swap him into the rotation for someone.  Pelfrey to the bullpen, pushing out a scuffling reliever, is probably the best use of resources at the moment -- see if Pelf can become a more consistent plus contributor out of the pen, and further develop May (who probably doesn't have a whole lot to gain with more AAA time, given his ceiling probably isn't much higher than Milone's, honestly).

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