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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