Twins have hope for future starting pitching surge
The Minnesota Twins have remade their rotation after a rough time last season and they'll have at least three new guys in the five-man group.
The real solution is probably a few years away.
Two prospects acquired by trade this offseason, Trevor May and Alex Meyer, are waiting in the wings. Former first-round draft pick Kyle Gibson is closer to contributing, but he's coming off ligament replacement surgery on his throwing elbow and will likely be on an innings limit this year. So while they might not be of much help to the Twins in 2013, if at all, there's hope again for strong starting pitching that any team needs to contend for a title.
''Hopefully when you get there, get with the big club, you have that core that's been playing together and you know how to build off each other,'' said May, who will live with Meyer during spring training. ''It's all about getting on runs and stringing wins together. With a group of core guys that all works together, it's that much easier. It's exciting to be a part of something that seems like the organization is really excited about and all the fans are really excited about. So why not be excited about it?''
After the Twins finished 66-96 and 63-99 the last two seasons, their minor league affiliates have slowly been restocked with some star-caliber talent. Many analysts have ranked their farm system among the best in the majors. The top 100 prospects list produced by MLB.com had six Twins on it, including Meyer (No. 40) and Gibson (No. 49).
So even though they're essentially auditioning for 2014 and beyond, this trio won't escape scrutiny when spring training officially begins Wednesday. General manager Terry Ryan said he wasn't worried, saying they all seem to have their ''heads screwed on straight.''
Manager Ron Gardenhire said he'll keep a close eye on May and Meyer, particularly, so they don't try too hard to impress their new team.
''That'll be the first thing my pitching coach will tell them and I'm going to tell them: `We don't want you out here to throw it 95. Don't try to throw it 105. Do the work. Watch. Keep your eyes open, your ears open, and keep your mouth shut. Pay attention to the veterans, let them do their thing, and learn,''' Gardenhire said, adding: ''Then we'll see at the end of spring training, when I'm knocking on Terry's door, trying to keep them both.''
Gibson, the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Missouri, almost certainly would've been in the rotation last year had he not been recovering from Tommy John surgery. But because of the injury, he's pitched only 28 1-3 innings in live games since July 2011, down the stretch last season as he worked his way back to Triple-A Rochester.
''We've got to make sure we don't have setbacks,'' Ryan said. ''He's done a nice job of getting where he's at, and we're doing to bring him to spring training and see if he can make this club.''
There won't be a pre-set limit on Gibson, Ryan said, but rather a monitoring of the way he performs on the mound. Gibson said he'd be happy to pitch out of the bullpen, if that's what the Twins decided was best.
''It's just one of those things I can't worry about too much,'' he said. ''It's exciting to think about getting that call-up at some point this year, but at the same time, I've got a lot of things that I still have to work on. The Twins have told me the whole time, `Whenever you're ready, we'll call you up.' I've just got to trust in that and just keep working hard.''
Meyer is probably the furthest away, less than two years removed from his college career at Kentucky. He was drafted by Washington with the 23rd pick in 2011 but didn't make his pro debut until last spring. Meyer, who finished last season at Class A Potomac, was traded to the Twins for center fielder Denard Span. He spent time in the offseason substitute teaching in his small Indiana hometown.
''I'm not a big leaguer right now, so you're not on MLB Network seeing your name getting thrown around,'' Meyer said. ''So when I got the phone call, I was surprised at first. But I think it's a good thing for me in my career. Washington's got a lot of young pitchers who are pretty talented, not that there's not here, but hopefully I can come in and do my job and we'll see what happens.''
May, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, was acquired from Philadelphia with right-hander Vance Worley for center fielder Ben Revere. May, who has 647 strikeouts in 524 1-3 minor league innings, spent last season with Double-A Reading. He's already learned to carry the rising star label, being part of a group of Phillies pitching prospects dubbed the ''Baby Aces.''
''It's always a double-sided coin, because being traded you've got to leave all the guys you just played with the last five years with the organization that drafted you,'' he said. ''The game's a business. It's kind of an honor to be traded for, because someone must think highly of you. I'm excited to start in a Twins uniform.''
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