Wanted: Starting pitchers for Twins

The pitchers who could save the Minnesota Twins aren’t ready

yet, and they may not be until 2014.

Alex Meyer and Trevor May arrived in separate trades over the

winter, bringing with them the kind of power arms and strikeout

mentalities that have been sorely lacking in the organization’s

pitching stock for years. Both have yet to throw a pitch in

Triple-A, and the Twins appear content to let them get some needed

seasoning in the minors this year before giving them a shot at the

big league rotation.

Kyle Gibson, a first-round draft pick in 2009, appears to be

closer to helping the beleaguered starting staff out. But he

struggled with his command in his first spring training after Tommy

John surgery and will start the season in Rochester as well.

With Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham at or nearing

the end of their primes, can the Twins afford to wait that

long?

”We had a lot of starting pitching problems,” Mauer said.

”It’s been well documented. We’re trying to fix that

problem.”

After six AL Central titles in nine seasons, the Twins have lost

195 games over the last two years, with their pitch-to-contact

starting staff the main culprits in last year’s 96-loss season.

With several high draft picks failing, general manager Terry Ryan

went outside the organization to bring in reinforcements. He traded

center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere in separate deals to

bring in Meyer and May, two big, strong, flamethrowers who were

highly regarded in Washington and Philadelphia.

That’s for the future.

When it comes to immediate help, Ryan went shopping in the

bargain bin. Veteran sinkerballer Mike Pelfrey is coming off Tommy

John surgery. Kevin Correia was demoted to the bullpen in

Pittsburgh last season. Vance Worley had arm problems of his own

last year. All three National League transfers have had rough

springs, and with Scott Diamond starting the season on the disabled

list and World Baseball Classic star Sam Deduno coming down with a

groin injury, the search for an ace continues.

Correia (6.30), Worley (6.35) and Pelfrey (7.45) all have high

ERAs this spring, which doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that

the group will be able to succeed where Jason Marquis, Carl Pavano,

Nick Blackburn and Francisco Liriano all failed last year.

While the names are different this season, the resumes are

strikingly similar. Like Marquis, Correia is a back-of-the-rotation

career National Leaguer who figures to have his location-based

approach challenged more extensively in the American League. Like

Pavano, Pelfrey is a solid, innings-eating veteran who is working

his way back from an injury. At 24, Worley is looking to recapture

the form that made him a promising piece of Philadelphia’s

star-studded rotation.

Bone chips in his elbow contributed to a 6-9 record with a 4.20

ERA last season, and Worley hasn’t been sharp this spring. But on a

team with few options, he is the favorite to be the opening day

starter. Worley is undaunted by coming over to pitch in the

slugger-heavy AL. Actually he sees more of an opportunity for

himself, Pelfrey and Correia to really assert themselves.

”I think most of us will be able to go deeper in the game,”

Worley said. ”I felt like that was something that hurt my innings

last year, too. It was an opportunity for a pinch hitter. You’re

out of the game, and it’s only the sixth inning. When it’s

something where the pitch count was down, you can maybe go seven or

eight innings. I think we’ll all be able to log some innings.”

The Twins need that more than anything. Their bullpen was a

surprising bright spot last season, but they were overworked thanks

to a starting staff that too often couldn’t get past the fourth

inning. For as solid as setup man Jared Burton and closer Glen

Perkins are on the back end, it doesn’t do much good if they never

get the ball with a chance to lock down a lead.

”We’ve got guys that can hit. We can score runs,” Twins

manager Ron Gardenhire said. ”We just needed to stay in the games

a little bit longer, and hopefully that’s what we’ve accomplished.

We’ll see.”

Gardenhire’s future may depend on it. The popular skipper is in

the final year of his contract, and another defeat-filled season

could mark the end of his 12-year run in Minnesota.

”You know what, you should be held accountable year by year,”

he said. ”I have no problem with that. I’ll go about my business.

It’s not going to change what I do, I don’t think.”

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski