Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, March 19, 2007

My Take on the Starting Rotation

By this time, most of you will have read La Velle E. Neal's post on the Twins rotation, or the Twins.com article covering the same topic. For those of you who haven't, here's the quick summary:

Johan Santana (the obvious ace)
Carlos Silva (#2 to keep him apart from the other sinkerballer)
Ramon Ortiz
Sidney Ponson (inside shot to make the rotation, sinkerballer #2)
Boof Bonser

This has left numerous Twins fans up in arms over the shoddy treatment that has seemingly been given to prospects like Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey (all of whom have had solid springs). It's about time that I registered my thoughts on the subject.

First, let me say that I actually come down in favor of getting the veterans a chance before the youngsters. Boof Bonser absolutely HAD to make the roster, because he proved himself down the stretch last year. Beyond that, I'm fully supportive of giving Silva and Ponson about 6 weeks at the start of the season to see if there's anything there. A couple of starters aren't going to result in the Twins being out of the race in May - they may be a bit behind, but they proved last year that that isn't the end of the world. And if one of them sticks, it would mean that the Twins would have received value for their money.

Before you shout at me, consider the alternatives again for a minute. Let's start with Glen Perkins, who seems to be the "first alternate" in case Silva or Ponson really blows up in the last 12 days of camp or at the start of the season. I'm a big fan of Perkins. I think he's going to be a great 2 or 3 starter in the bigs, and soon. But I also look at the fact that he has a total of just TEN regular season innings above the AA level (yes, just 10), and recognize that some seasoning at AAA is probably a good idea.

How about Matt Garza, hailed by many as a savior just waiting to be anointed before he came up last year, only to struggle? Again, I have every confidence that he's going to be a great Major League starter. Garza's 34 innings at AAA, and his 5.76 ERA in 50 innings at the Major League level last year, however, suggest that there are a few things he could still gain from a few months at AAA. The same goes for Kevin Slowey, who has never pitched a regular season game above AA.

There is another practical side to the decision to try to get some service time out of Silva and Ponson before turning one of the youngsters loose in the Majors - service time. Simply put, the Twins need to be careful about throwing youngsters into the rotation (or into the field, for that matter) because they need to maximize what they get out of affordable young talent. Consider this - Matt Garza's struggles last year likely weren't a fluke. He wasn't quite ready yet, as most pitchers aren't ready to come up and immediately be solid contributors. It would certainly be possible to give those players a chance to develop into Major League players at the Major League level - and that often is necessary, as last year's Garza and Perkins call-ups demonstrated. However, if you believe as I do that there would be growing pains amongst the youngsters, it makes more sense to start them off in AAA and develop as much as possible there without watching that arbitration clock tick away.

One more thought - it would be criminal if Boof Bonser was treated as the #5 starter. What I mean by that is that he should absolutely NOT be skipped in the rotation, ever. He earned that much last year. If he doesn't start the fourth game of the season, in Chicago, and instead gets skipped over until the Twins eighth game (when the fifth starter would make his first start assuming the Twins keep the first three starters on regular rest after the first off day of the season, falling game 3), it would be criminal. Give Boof the credit he deserves, and keep Sir Sidney off the mound as much as possible!

So what do I expect to see happen? I think Carlos Silva will pitch just well enough to hold onto his starting spot all season, but he will be a source of constant frustration for Twins fans throughout the summer. Sidney Ponson will be gone by the middle of May, to be replaced by either Glen Perkins or Matt Garza, whoever does better at AAA to start the season getting the nod. And in 2008, a Twins rotation of Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, Matt Garza, and Glen Perkins -- with Kevin Slowey hanging around and waiting for a chance to do his thing.

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  • At Tue Mar 20, 09:22:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Even though I disagree; I disagree more because of my fandom than because of my baseball sense. The most important stat when dealing with young pitchers is how many IP do you intend to get out of them? A pitcher who hasn't pitched enough in previous seasons can get hammered or injured if he crosses that 150 IP line too early in his career.

    -Marty (too lazy to sign in again


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