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Starting Pitching Issues and Options

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As PJ Walters walked slowly off the field with a trainer in the top of the first after failing to get an out through the game’s first four batters thoughts immediately jumped to the Twins’ starting rotation. Scott Diamond will be on the mound on Thursday in the series finale versus the Phillies. Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn are back in the rotation after missing starts. Carl Pavano is on the Disabled List. PJ Walters will have an MRI on his shoulder on Thursday. Who will make upcoming starts for the Twins and is there any help in the Rochester starting rotation?

Here is a look at the Twins and Red Wings upcoming schedules:
Day Twins Starter Red Wings starter
Thursday, June 14 Scott Diamond Luke French
Friday, June 15 Francisco Liriano Liam Hendriks?
Saturday, June 16 Liam Hendriks? Cole De Vries
Sunday, June 17 Nick Blackburn Matt Maloney
Monday, June 18 No Game Scheduled Sam Deduno
Tuesday, June 19 ? Luke French
Wednesday, June 20 ? Liam Hendriks?
Thursday, June 21 ? Cole De Vries
Friday, June 22 ? Matt Maloney
Saturday, June 23 ? Sam Deduno
Sunday, June 24 ? Luke French

We have all heard that it appears that Liam Hendriks (turned 23 in February) will be called up to start for the Twins on Saturday. In fact, if you look at Yahoo! Sports schedule, it lists Hendriks as the Twins scheduled starter for Saturday. However, as of late Wednesday night, Hendriks had not yet been informed that he would be promoted. As he is also scheduled to start for Rochester on Friday, he will have to be told on Thursday. Hendriks is currently 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA with the Red Wings. In 46.1 innings, he has given up just 29 hits, walked 13 and struck out 42.

Let’s make an assumption that Hendriks will start for the Twins on Saturday, the Red Wings will need a starter for Friday. The Red Wings have already had 14 pitchers start a game for the team this season. Bullpen guys like Brendan Wise and Esmerling Vasquez have made spot starts in Bullpen games. It is also possible that David Bromberg (25 until September) could come off of the 7-Day Disabled List to start. He last pitched for the Red Wings on June 2nd. After a rough start to his season in the New Britain bullpen, Bromberg earned his promotion to the Red Wings in late May. He made two starts before going on the DL with right shoulder tendonitis. If Bromberg is not able to go, righty Steve Hirschfeld could be brought up to start for the Red Wings. The 26-year-old threw five shutout innings for Rochester in a spot start last week. The other option would be 22-year-old BJ Hermsen who is 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA in eight starts for the Rock Cats.

So, if PJ Walters can’t start for the Twins next Tuesday, who will? I think because of the off day on Monday, the Twins would go with just four starters this time through the rotation with Diamond starting again on Tuesday on regular rest. If that’s the case, the next time the Twins would need a starter would be Saturday, June 23, in Cincinnati. Could Walters be ready then? Is there any chance that Carl Pavano would be ready to come off the Disabled List by then? As of now, the answer to both questions would likely be no.

I think we can also assume that the Twins would not consider going to 13 pitchers on the staff during their games in National League ball parks.

So here is an update on the other Red Wings starters and others the Twins could use to start that game (again, making the assumption that Liam Hendriks will come up and start Saturday):

Jeff Manship
– He went three innings on Wednesday night. When he was starting in Rochester, he was the team’s top starter (of those not promoted), posting an ERA of 3.08.

Anthony Swarzak
– He has already made several spot starts for the Twins this year. The team clearly prefers him to be in the bullpen.

Brian Duensing
– for some reason his name keeps coming up as a starting option despite the fact that he’s done a terrific job out of the bullpen and wouldn’t be stretched out at this point.

Cole De Vries
(27 until February) – He was just optioned to Rochester on June 7, days after recording his first big league Win. He last started for the Red Wings on Sunday and gave up six runs on six hits in just two innings. His overall Rochester numbers this year are 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA. He’s given up 53 hits in 48 innings. He is on the 40 man roster.

Matt Maloney
(28 until January) – Maloney was removed from the Twins 25 and 40 man rosters in early May. He cleared waivers and was sent to Rochester. He pitched twice out of the bullpen before moving into the starting rotation. He is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA. In 18.2 innings, he has given up 31 hits, walked two and struck out 13. His most recent start was on Monday, and he gave up six runs (3 earned) on five hits in just two innings.

Luke French
(26 until September) – French went a combined 9-12 in 31 games (25 starts) for the Tigers and the Mariners in 2009 and 2010. The Twins signed him right before spring training to a minor league contract. He made five starts in New Britain before moving up to Rochester. The lefty has made seven starts for the Red Wings and is 1-1 with a 4.03 ERA. In 38 innings, he has given up 32 hits, walked 17 and struck out 23. However, he has not given up more than two runs in his last four starts (1-1, 2.05 ERA).

Sam Deduno
(28 until July 2) – The Twins signed the minor league free agent and invited him to spring training. He left his April 27th start after walking the first two batters and was put on the disabled list with right shoulder tendonitis. On Tuesday, he made his return and threw four scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit, walked three and struck out five. On the year, he is 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA. In 20 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked 11 and struck out 18. He pitched in four games for the Rockies in 2010, and two games for the Padres in 2011.

With all of the above, I believe this is what the upcoming schedule will look like:
Day Twins Starter Red Wings starter
Thursday, June 14 Scott Diamond Luke French
Friday, June 15 Francisco Liriano Steve Hirschfeld
Saturday, June 16 Liam Hendriks Cole De Vries
Sunday, June 17 Nick Blackburn Matt Maloney
Monday, June 18 No Game Scheduled Sam Deduno
Tuesday, June 19 Scott Diamond Luke French
Wednesday, June 20 Francisco Liriano Steve Hirschfeld
Thursday, June 21 Liam Hendriks Cole De Vries
Friday, June 22 Nick Blackburn Matt Maloney
Saturday, June 23 Jeff Manship Sam Deduno
Sunday, June 24 Scott Diamond Luke French

Of course, this is the great game of baseball which means anything can happen, and all of the above thought may be out the window! Any thoughts on the Twins upcoming rotation? Any thoughts on the Red Wings rotation? Any wonder why the Red Wings are struggling again in 2012?

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