After watching their lineup get decimated by injuries last season, the Twins were hoping they'd have better luck keeping position players healthy in the new campaign. So far, so good in that regard. There have been no broken bones, no bilateral leg weakness, no reemergence of concussion symptoms.
Unfortunately, pitching has been a different story. The Twins lost Joel Zumaya, their projected top right-handed setup option, and Scott Baker, their potential No. 1 starter, before either threw a pitch in the regular season. Nick Blackburn will miss at least his next start due to shoulder soreness and Glen Perkins has been shut down temporarily due to a strained forearm.
These injuries are especially unfortunate in that they are hitting players at the top of the depth chart rather than the bottom.Baker, Zumaya, Perkins and Blackburn are established MLB talents that the Twins were counting on to carry weight on a questionable staff. Attempting to fill holes with the same marginal pitchers who were rejected during spring training isn't likely to pay dividends.
Instead, the Twins should take advantage of an opportunity afforded to them by their status as a retooling American League cellar-dweller.
Up until the end of April, waiver claim priority is dictated by last year's records, meaning that the Twins get first dibs on any player waived by an AL club. At the beginning of May, the waiver order determinant flips over to this year's records, but the Twins should remain near the top of the list at that point unless they start rattling off wins over the next couple weeks.
This is an auxiliary benefit of Minnesota's excessive losing in 2011 and early in 2012 that should not be overlooked. At this point in the season, many intriguing names tend to pass through the waiver wire as teams make early roster adjustments.
There simply aren't many pitchers on the Twins' staff that Terry Ryan should be unwilling to expose to waivers if it means making room for a young hurler with some upside. Two such examples that have been discussed on the Twins Daily forum recently are Rich Thompson of the Angels and Michael Bowden of the Red Sox.
Thompson, 27, is a right-hander who posted a 3.00 ERA and 9.33 K/9 rate for Los Angeles last year, though a decrease in velocity this spring contributed to his being designated for assignment. Bowden is only 25 and was a Baseball America
Top 100 prospect in three consecutive seasons from 2007-09.
These are just two examples of players with more ability than numerous members of Minnesota's current staff, and there are bound to be more hitting the wire in the coming weeks. The Twins certainly aren't in a position to be looking for short-term bullpen fixes, but if they can bring in a young player with a chance to fill a need for years to come, that would be a big win.