* Vance Worley made his first start for Class-AAA Rochester on Monday after being demoted last week. Facing Lehigh Valley, the Triple-A affiliate for his former organization, Worley delivered a five-hit shutout.
Before we go making proclamations about the Twins' Opening Day starter's ills being miraculously cured, it bears noting that his peripherals were less than stellar; he threw only 74 of 119 pitches for strikes and issued four walks against four strikeouts. Really, the biggest change was that balls put into play were turning into outs rather than hits, which tends to happen against minor-league competition.
Nevertheless, the shutdown effort undoubtedly provided some much-needed confidence for Worley, who has been battling through the most tumultuous stretch of his professional career. Hopefully he can continue to build on this success and quickly work his way back up.
* The acquisition of Worley is one of many offseason decisions that haven't worked out especially well for the Twins thus far, but we also should recognize that a few of the team's moves have indeed paid dividends. One such example is the signing of Kevin Correia, who picked up his fifth win on Monday by holding the Brewers to three runs over six innings.
The Correia contract was widely panned when it was inked in December, and I was as vocal as anyone in my criticism. The right-hander brought over a poor track record from the National League and Terry Ryan's insistence
about Correia being "better than the numbers" was met with great skepticism given this club's past efforts in the free agent pitching arena.
We're not quite a third of the way through the season yet, but to Ryan's credit, Correia has to this point been as advertised (by the Twins, not the numbers). He's striking out fewer hitters than ever -- unsurprising for a 32-year-old lifelong NL guy coming over to the Junior Circuit -- but still he's been the lone bright spot in an otherwise disastrous rotation, with a 3.96 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. On a staff whose members have frequently struggled to get through even five innings, Correia has completed six or more in seven of his 10 starts.
Most of the veteran's past trends have remained in force; the biggest difference for him in a Twins uniform has been markedly improved control. In his career, he has averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings, but this season he's handed out just 10 free passes in 63 2/3 innings for a 1.4 BB/9 rate. The Rick Anderson effect?
Despite my lingering doubts regarding Correia -- and pitchers who allow tons of contact in general -- I have maintained an open mind and must admit that I enjoy watching him pitch. He works quickly and seems to have a good plan for each hitter. He's not afraid to show some emotion out there. He fails to execute his pitches occasionally -- Monday's three-homer outing serves as a fine example -- but he bounces back and gets after it. In many ways, his game reminds me of Carl Pavano's.
Those are the things that Ryan saw in Correia. Whether these strengths can continue to keep the the hurler afloat, in spite of his extreme contact tendencies, remains to be seen. For now I'm happy to give the Twins' brass some props amidst the justifiable venom being spewed toward their overall handling of the rotation.
* Another decision I had major doubts
about was Minnesota's commitment to Pedro Florimon as starting shortstop this season. Here was a guy with a marginal track record, passed on by every organization in baseball less than a year ago, and now the Twins were plugging him in as their starter at a crucial position with no feasible backup plan.
Through these first two months of the season however, it hasn't been hard for me to see why the organization values him. Florimon's game is still raw in many respects, but he's an athletic ballplayer with an outstanding arm and some intriguing offensive abilities. This was all on display in Monday's win, when he went 2-for-4 with a double at the dish and started three double plays in the field.
Florimon's hitting line stands at .255/.328/.368, which is hardly spectacular but perfectly adequate for a defensive specialist hitting toward the bottom of the lineup. His ability to make things happen on the bases (6-for-6 on steals) adds another dimension. He'll never be a big asset as a starter, but I've come around on the idea that Florimon could be a legitimately decent stopgap for a few years. This would be big for an organization that lacks both short- and long-term solutions at shortstop.
As with Correia, it'd be no surprise if Florimon's flaws and history eventually caught up with him, but for now: kudos Twins.