Twins rotation off to rough start in 2014

Twins starter Kevin Correia gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings as the A's took the first game of the three-game series by an 8-3 final.

Ann Heisenfelt/Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The big emphasis for the Minnesota Twins this offseason was to improve the starting pitching. By signing a pair of veteran free agents, the Twins felt they did just that.

Through seven games of the 2014 season, however, Minnesota has yet to see the dividends. That includes Monday’s home opener against Oakland, where starter Kevin Correia gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings as the A’s took the first game of the three-game series by an 8-3 final.

"I just kind of threw a couple bad pitches in situations where I had a chance to get out of a jam," Correia said. "I need to kind of make an adjustment and make a better pitch."

Minnesota’s starters had problems going deep into games last season, which taxed the Twins’ overworked bullpen. Correia’s short outing on Monday means that Minnesota’s rotation averages just under 5 1/3 innings per start through the first seven games. The combined ERA of Twins starters jumped to 6.32 following Correia’s six-run outing.

It’s only a week into the season, but it’s been a rough start to the year for the Twins rotation.

Athletics 8, Twins 3

"We know we have good pitchers. We know these guys can pitch," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "We know they’re going to get outs. Right now, it’s a little bit of a struggle the way they’re throwing the ball. They’ve had some good innings. Obviously their performances are going to get better."

Added Correia: "It’s so early. At this point in the year, there’s no trends. There’s no way you can look ahead and see what’s going to happen."

Prior to Monday, Correia was the only Twins pitcher with a quality start. He did that when he gave up just two runs in six innings of work against the White Sox on Wednesday in a 7-6 loss. The Twins were one of just three major league teams (along with Baltimore and Cleveland) with only one quality start heading into Monday.

Correia did nothing to alleviate that in front of an announced crowd of 35,837 fans at Target Field. After a flawless first inning, the Twins right-hander surrendered a pair of runs in the second. Oakland left fielder Yoenis Cespedes doubled to left to score Brandon Moss for the game’s first run, and Cespedes came around to score two batters later on a single by Josh Reddick.

Things only got worse for Correia in the third inning. He walked Jed Lawrie and served up a double to Josh Donaldson, and both players came around to score on a base hit by Moss to give Oakland a 4-1 lead.

Prior to Lawrie’s walk, the Oakland shortstop hit a deep fly down the right field line that went just outside the foul pole. After the umpires took several minutes to review the play, the original call was upheld as a foul ball. Following a few warmup tosses during the review, Correia then walked Lawrie on the next pitch.

It was the second time this year a replay has taken place during Correia’s outings, but he wasn’t about to use it as an excuse for his performance Monday.

"It would be nice if it was a little quicker, but that wasn’t I think even a new replay rule. That’s one that we had last year," Correia said. "It’s just something we’re going to have to get used to."

Correia’s day ended in the sixth inning. Derek Norris took him deep to left for a solo homer and a 6-3 A’s lead. Eric Sogard singled one batter later to chase Correia after 97 pitches, 59 of which went for strikes.

Minnesota has yet to have a starting pitcher go deeper than six innings. Correia and newcomer Ricky Nolasco — who signed a four-year, $49 million deal this offseason — are the only two starters to go six innings, and Correia did so last week on just 82 pitches.

For a starting staff that pitched a major league worst 871 innings in 2013, getting deeper into games will be essential in 2014. That hasn’t happened yet, but Minnesota’s pitchers aren’t worried.

"We haven’t really gone, as starters, as deep into games as we should be. That’s obviously going to change," Correia said. "Usually the beginning of the year is a little different. No one’s really gone over 100 pitches, so they’re a little more cautious usually. The weather’s a little colder. We’re still also getting a feel of being out there and being more efficient.

"I plan on this staff being able to throw quite a few innings, and hopefully we’ll take a lot of pressure off the bullpen."

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