Entering the 2013 season, the biggest question mark for the Minnesota Twins was starting pitching. One offseason later, that may once again be the main area of concern for general manager Terry Ryan and his staff.
Ryan signed a pair of free agent veterans last winter in Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, and also traded away outfielder Ben Revere in exchange for two more pitchers. One, Vance Worley, was in the rotation to start the year but spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Rochester. The other, Trevor May, could be in the mix in the near future but was confined to Double-A New Britain during the year.
Statistically, the Twins had one of the worst starting rotations in all of baseball in 2012. The starters’ 5.40 ERA was second-highest in the majors; only Colorado (5.81) was worse. While Minnesota’s rotation has a better ERA in 2013 (5.09 through 148 games), it’s still the worst ERA in baseball for any starting rotation.
It’s understandable if the Twins were a bit envious of Tampa Bay as the Rays rolled out the talented trio of Chris Archer, Matt Moore and David Price in their recent three-game series this weekend at Target Field. The Rays are just one of several teams with a wealth of quality arms. The Twins hope to be in that position soon.
“No one ever has enough (pitching),” Ryan said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s not a team in the game that’s got too much pitching.”
Of the three offseason acquisitions, Correia has been the one constant for Minnesota. The right-hander’s 9-12 record won’t wow any outside observers, but his 4.31 ERA and WHIP of 1.413 is in line with what he’s done throughout his career. In fact, his ERA is nearly half a run better than the 4.79 ERA he sported during his All-Star year in Pittsburgh in 2011.
Pelfrey missed nearly all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In his first season with the Twins, Pelfrey started slow but has pitched better as of late. His velocity has seen a slight uptick as the year has worn on, and he put together a string of solid outings in August. But the consistency hasn’t been there from start to finish.
“We’ve kind of had to interchange so many parts of it and move them around,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of this year’s rotation. “Pelfrey’s definitely improved from the start to now and had a couple steps back here and there. Correia’s been the one solid guy, really, in my opinion. Correia’s been the guy that’s been there all year and given us an opportunity to win most of the games. … The rest of it’s been very inconsistent.”
That includes Scott Diamond, who was the Twins’ top pitcher in 2012 but certainly can’t claim that title in 2013. He was demoted to Triple-A late in the season but earned a trip back to the majors after pitching well in Rochester. Still, in 21 starts with Minnesota this year, Diamond is just 5-11 with an unimpressive 5.61 ERA.
As the Twins look ahead to next year and try to figure out which pitchers might be penciled into the rotation, Diamond certainly could be one of them. But unlike a year ago, he’s far from a shoe-in. And the left-hander knows there’s a job at stake as he makes a few more starts in the 2013 season.
“I can’t focus on that right now,” Diamond said after Thursday’s loss. “I’ve got to focus and look at it as still making that transition back up and doing what has made me successful here and what’s made me successful in Triple-A.”
Samuel Deduno was impressive in spurts and finished his season with a 3.83 ERA and an 8-8 record as he finally harnessed some of his control issues. Deduno, who will be 30 years old next season, will undergo surgery Wednesday on his right shoulder. He’ll be ready to go by spring training, where he could make a case to be in the 2014 rotation. The same goes for Kyle Gibson, who made his much-anticipated MLB debut this year but finished the season in the minors after posting a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts.
So is help on the way in 2014? If it is, it might not necessarily come from within the organization — at least not the type of pitching help Minnesota needs in order to truly turn things around. The 23-year-old May spent the season in Double-A New Britain before he was called up to Triple-A to help the Rochester Red Wings in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Twins are high on pitching prospect Alex Meyer, whom they acquired in a trade with Washington for Denard Span last offseason in their push to add more arms. But Meyer was injured for part of this year and made just 13 starts for New Britain.
Just like the future is bright with top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano in the system, Minnesota also feels it has some pitching help on the way — just not yet.
“Are those guys ready? If they were ready, they would have come up here,” Gardenhire said of the Twins’ minor league pitchers. “We have candidates. Lots of candidates. But are they the guys that are going to be able to turn you around? Are they ready to do that? I don’t think so. They can fill some spots, but everybody’s looking for pitching, and we’re no different than any other organization. We need pitching.”