Unless you've been locked in a cave for the last winter and are just now emerging from your hibernation, spring is here, and with that, baseball is finally back. That means spring training. That also means endless projections and questions about every team and every player. The Twins have quite a few unanswered questions this spring. Will Morneau ever recover from his concussion and pussyitis? What can we expect from our first Japanese import, Tsuyoshi Nishioka? (Or as I like to call him, Yoshi). And the most intriguing question of all...what in the hell are Gardy and our buddy Billy Smith gonna do about the six starting pitchers we have vying for five spots? Beats the hell outta me, but it's not a terrible problem to have. Here are a few different options.
1) Trade Francisco Liriano
Now I hope to God that this doesn't happen, but the more I think about it, the more I come to grips that this is a reasonable possibility. Joe Christensen reported last week that the Twins had, in fact, already started thinking about this possibility after Liriano reportedly asked for an outrageous amount in a long-term deal. ESPN also reported that the Yankees inquired about Franky last summer to slot in behind Sabathia and the biggest head-case in baseball, A.J. Burnett. And the Yankees do need rotation help. Bad. Any rotation with Freddy Garcia and his 85 mph fastball as the 4th starter is in big trouble. If the Yankees get desperate enough, and the Twins realize they have no chance of signing Liriano long-term, we might be able to get a decent package from the Bombers with Joba Chamberlain or Ivan Nova as the centerpiece. Mildly intriguing.
On the other hand, the Twins can't part ways with Liriano and remain a contender. In an organization full of control pitchers, Liriano is the one power pitcher we have. Power pitchers are always more valuable when October rolls around. When he needs a strikeout, he is really the only guy we currently have that can get it. He looked like an ace at times last year. Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, and Duensing are not the typical top of the rotation starters. We need someone with the look of an ace...especially in October.
2) Trade Slowey or Blackburn
From all accounts, if Scott Baker is healthy, he will get the third rotation spot behind Pavano and Liriano. Duensing is way too valuable in either the 'pen or rotation to move, which leaves Slowey and Blackburn as the odd men out. If Duensing were to get the fourth rotation spot, Slowey or Blackburn either need to pitch out of the 'pen, go to Rochester, or get shipped out of town. Neither of these guys has any solid experience out of the bullpen so they might be most valuable as a trade chip.
There are plenty of teams who could use a #4 or #5 starter with proven big league experience. Slowey and Blackburn both fit that description. We could turn that into a reliever to solidify a bullpen with about a million questions or a middle infielder should Alexi Casilla play like he usually plays. Getting a shortstop would allow Casilla to go back to that super-utility role. I think that's where he's best suited. Right about now, I miss J.J. Hardy.
3) Put Duensing Back in the Bullpen
This seems to be the popular option among sports writers. Duensing has proven himself to be effective in relief, especially against lefties. He's the only one of the six starters with experience in relief so why wouldn't we put him in a late-inning relief role? Well, because he was our third best starting pitcher last year and almost single-handedly rescued our season after Blackburn couldn't remember how to throw a sinker. Duensing wants to start and he has earned the right to start. Barring an atrocious spring, he should be given every opportunity to be in the starting rotation. Besides, I can't take another season of watching Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn go up, and down, and up, and just when you think they finally have their crap together, they crash and burn like Juan Rincon post-steroids. My heart can't take all three of those guys in the rotation. I won't make it through May.