With Baker done, where do the Twins go from here?
by, 04-18-2012 at 02:31 PM (1063 Views)
With pitcher Scott Baker out for the 2012 season with upcoming Tommy John surgery, the Twins are now down to just Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis and Francisco Liriano remaining from their original starting rotation. Marquis is slated to make his Twins debut against the Yankees today after missing the first part of the season so be with his daughter as she recovers from a bicycle accident and Liriano is fresh off a dismal 2.1 inning start that saw the Twins fall 8-3 in New York on Tuesday night. While the Twins do have pitchers to fill the gaps (Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing), the problem with the rotation needs more than a temporary fix and I believe it may actually have started back in spring training.
The injury to Scott Baker is just the most recent in a line of Twins pitchers who have been placed on the DL in this short season. Joel Zumaya was lost for the year, also to Tommy John surgery. Nick Blackburn will miss his next start (and who knows how much more time after that) because of shoulder issues and Glen Perkins was recently shelved due to forearm tenderness. This, after an outing in which Perkins surrendered the lead during an 8th inning letdown, seemed somewhat conspicuous considering the outcome of the 4-3 loss to the Rangers but that is another story all on its own.
The moral of the injury story this year for the Twins seems to be the training that the pitchers are receiving. I know that I am not the only fan out there who has considered this fact. Many Twins pitchers seem to experience gnat bite injuries that tend to keep them out of the rotation for much longer than would seem necessary. Stiffness there, tenderness there, throw in a discomfort to keep things interesting. Of the four players currently listed on the disabled list for the Twins, each one is a pitcher. This may beg the question of why our pitchers seem to have a durability problem. The longevity of the starting rotation has been a long documented issue but couple the constantly (and irritatingly) short starts with the seemingly injury prone staff and the Twins have a big problem. Stamina is definitely lacking as is the before mentioned durability. I want to ask the question, and many people have already asked it, what is going on during spring training with these pitchers? Why is the pitching staff having these problems when other teams do not? Something may need to change in the training of our pitchers starting with the mentality that they can go longer than 5 innings without falling apart and in the physical strength training.
Since spring training is over and gone, the "retraining" of the Twins' pitchers will have to wait until next spring. For now, the Twins need to find a pitcher or pitchers to come into the rotation this year. It is pretty safe to say that the Twins won't be (shouldn't be) exercising Baker's option after this season seeing as he won't be throwing a single pitch this year. Fans have probably seen Baker in a Twins uniform for the last time. That being said, the Twins really need to seek out a starting pitcher either via trade or the waiver line. Of course, a trade would be preferable. Minnesota has a plethora of outfielders, as always, and prospects in the minors that could be dealt in order to land a solid starter. The problem is, and has been, the unwillingness for the club to spend money to upgrade. One might ask, "what about all the money they spent on Mauer and Morneau?" Yes, the team did spend a good deal on those two however the Twins have never really been willing to spend the money it would take to bring in someone from outside the organization to make an immediate impact.
In past seasons, the Twins have made a show of "going after" some free agents. Showing just enough to the fans to make us think that they are trying and to give us hope that they'll do it. I stopped believing those headlines years ago. I do think this is the time to go out and get a good starting pitcher. Yes, it will probably cost money, money the Twins' organization grips with a tenacity equaling an alligator's grip on it's prey. The Twins' pitching rotation has lacked a true ace since Johan Santana departed for New York and truly needs someone who can be counted on as a work horse. Carl Pavano was that pitcher before he left the Marlins for the Yankees. He still pitches a good amount of innings each year but he lacks the punch and pizzazz that the rotation sorely needs. Liriano shows flashes of brilliance but he can't replicate his results with any consistency. Minnesota needs some new blood in the rotation.
If it were in my ability, I would ask Terry Ryan to consider looking to make a trade. I won't even begin to venture an opinion as to who they could shop but his team needs this. The offense for the Twins will come along. There have been some great innings put together by the bats but the pitching can't hold the lead. Looking within the organization isn't enough any more, not with the revamped American League Central. The Twins are going to need to dig deep and bring in some help.