Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Friday, April 25, 2008

Korecky on His Way Up

La Velle Neal is reporting (based on a story from the Rochester Democrat) that reliever Bobby Korecky has been promoted to the Twins. It's expected that Francisco Liriano will be optioned to Rochester to make room for Korecky, although that hasn't been made official and there is at least some speculation that Brian Bass is the player involved. For what it's worth, it seems much more likely to me that Liriano is the player on his way down -- he admitted yesterday that he's lost confidence in his ability to find the strike zone.

As for Korecky, at first blush the move doesn't make sense because he's a reliever and demoting Liriano would leave just four starters on the team. However, La Velle's logic here makes perfect sense -- the Twins have enough off days over the next week and a half to get through the rotation a couple of times with just four starters. With Kevin Slowey rehabbing and likely to be ready to go in 10 days or so, he'll be able to fill the hole in the rotation by the time the Twins need a fifth starter again.

So far this season, Korecky has been extremely solid. In 10 games he's pitched 13.1 innings and given up just 1 earned run (an ERA of 0.68) on 10 hits and 4 walks (for a WHIP barely above 1.00). He's also struck out 12 batters, which is a solid rate. He's been the best of the Red Wings relievers, and he's on the 40-man roster so he's an easy call up. Starter Kevin Mulvey has been amazing so far this season, and there was some thought amongst fans yesterday that Mulvey might get the call if Liriano went down since Slowey wasn't quite ready. Of course, if the team doesn't need a starter until Slowey comes back, it would be a waste to call Mulvey up now -- he should be getting regular starts in Rochester. In other words, I completely agree with the decision to call up Korecky.

Finally, a few last thoughts on Liriano. I was fully in favor of activating him when the Twins did, and I thought that by the end of his 4th or 5th start he would start to look pretty good. I stated at the time that if Liriano was physically ready to go that he should be in the big leagues, learning once again how to get Major League batters out. In some respects, I continue to think that -- but yesterday convinced me that Liriano is neither physically nor mentally prepared to face big league hitters right now. That makes it an easy call to send him down.

Mentally, as I mentioned, Liriano says that he's lost confidence in his ability to throw pitches for strikes. That's not a little mental block, it's a big one -- big enough that I might have changed my mind on keeping him in the bigs even if he was physically ready. However, I'm not faced with admitting that I was entirely wrong in thinking that he should be called up, because he the fact is that he simply is not physically ready either.

I think there are three aspects of being physically ready to pitch in the big leagues -- endurance, physical ability to throw particular pitches (i.e. being capable of snapping your wrist for a curve or slider, or of disguising a changeup properly), and being able to confidently repeat a pitching motion with very little variation. I don't think that there's any question about Liriano's endurance right now, and from what I've heard he's medically cleared to throw his slider. The big thing I saw yesterday was with his pitching motion, which just seemed wildly off at times. The Twins have tried to adjust his motion to avoid placing stress on different parts of his body -- and I'm starting to think that that's a big part of the problem. Liriano has not yet learned to repeat that motion from muscle memory alone, so he's probably thinking far too much while out on the mound. I classify this as a physical problem because the over-thinking will go away once he's comfortable with the motion -- but to be fair, it's both mental AND physical for now.

If Liriano does, in fact, head back to Rochester, how long can we expect him to be there? I haven't a clue -- but it probably will take awhile. I was stunned by what I saw yesterday, and I don't know if it can be fixed in just a couple of starts. No matter what, though, the Twins need to be sure that Liriano is ready the next time they call him up. My idea of re-learning how to pitch to big league batters is simply going to have to wait for awhile.

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