It has been such an ugly season for the starting staff. Right now, only Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters have had any consistency! P.J. Walters has only made one start too, so the critic line is still far out on him - but hey, just about anybody would be better than most of our starters at this point. I wonder if Ramon Ortiz or Livan Hernandez are still out there?
The Twins need some new faces on their starting staff, but AAA has been drained (at least of all their relatively good starters), and there appears to be no hope on the horizon for this current situation. So, how can we fix the staff without making some extreme moves that may affect the future seasons of the Twins (i.e. trading Span/Willingham).
More, after the jump....
First, I think it is absolutely necessary to get Blackburn out of the rotation. After last night's start, Blackburn's ERA jumped to 8.37 through only 7 games and 33.1 innings pitched. I don't think a "confidence booster" of sending him to the bullpen as they have done with Liriano will work either. Blackburn is getting light up within the first 2 innings of his start, whereas Liriano could usually manage three strong innings before getting light up in the fourth (second time through the lineup).
No, bullpen duty will not work for Blackburn at this point. I have a list of proposals for the Twins.
1) Try to trade Blackburn away, though at this point, I would be surprised if we ended up with anything more than a new pile of bats. 2) Wish Blackburn the best of luck, cut him and swallow our losses (financially) 3) Send him down to AAA to work on his mechanics, boost his confidence --> Only problem with this one is that it was tried last year and not much has come of it.
One of those three proposals should be the future of Nick Blackburn. I like Blackburn and I would prefer the Twins sent him down to AAA, but they did that last year when he was stinking Target Field up, and it doesn't appear that it has had any effect!
Who do we replace Blackburn with though? Well, there are three options in the bullpen that could stand in at Blackburn's next rotation. Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. I would leave Liriano in the pen a little longer - he has only appeared in one game out of the bullpen, and although he escaped the inning unscathed, he did walk the Cleveland bases loaded before finally striking out the final batter of the inning. So, I think Liriano could use more work and more confidence before once again rejoining the rotation. Brian Duensing is an interesting fellow. He has the experience of a starter, but I prefer him in the bullpen. Duensing is much better against lefties than against righties, and if he started - he would probably face a lineup stacked full of right handed hitters - DOOMSDAY for Duensing! So, Duensing is much better in his role of reliever because he is able to avoid the big innings by avoiding the big right handed hitters. Finally, we get to Swarzak. I think Swarzak should take over Blackburn's role. Swarzak, for some reason, has always been very good as a replacement starting pitcher. Swarzak is cool, keeps his composure on the mound, and just goes out there and works. Sure, the last time he started vs. the Yankees before Hendricks won the Marquis job (early in the season) ended in him giving up 6 runs through only 2.2 innings. However, prior to that, Swarzak was the only starter giving the Twins some consistent, and good, starts. Unfortunately, the Twins offense never returned the favor by scoring any runs - so, for example, when Swarzak went 5 innings, giving up 1 run against the O's, he took the loss in a 3-1 defeat! Swarzak, since moving to the pen, has been fairly steady (4 ER through 13.2 innings pitched). I am confident that Swarzak can at least do better than Blackburn, at this point.
Sometimes, these pitchers can be the hardest to watch. According to some rumors, Pavano may be more hurt than the Twins medical staff, or even he, wants to admit. Sorry Pavano, you ain't no Bradke! If this is the case, it is time for Pavano to go on the DL. Marquis can at least get the ball on the ground (very funny considering his last start!) with some consistency! Certainly, I think Pavano is a better overall starter than Marquis, but at this point (although Marquis' ERA is higher), I would like Pavano to get shut down for 15 days.
But the Twins are running out of starting pitchers, so who replaces Pavano? Well, this is a tough situation because the man I want to replace Pavano with is currently not pitching. So we have a few options:
1) Shut Pavano down for 15 days, and have his spot a revolving door of Duensing and Liriano while he is on the DL. Meanwhile, let this other pitcher know his services are needed and to begin getting him loose. 2) Pavano can continue his attempt at being Brad Radke until he can no longer doing, once again making sure that this other pitcher is loosening up. 3) Pavano goes on the 15 day DL, Hendriks is recalled and other pitcher loosens up.
One current theme throughout all of the options above is the warming up of a new pitcher. Who is this person? A man who is yet unsigned, has had massive amounts of success in his career, and is waiting till about mid-season to start pitching again. His name is .... Roy ("wait for it" - How I Met Your Mother reference for those of you who may know it) Oswalt! Oswalt is a pitcher who can come in, buckle down, and become the Twins ace - the effective arm at the top of the rotation that will give the team an opportunity at winning with a 7 inning quality start. He has done it before, and he can do it again - especially since he is only needed for half a season, he can just let it rip (though I for one, hope the Twins sign him to two years)!
Once Pavano comes back, shuffle the rotation around a little bit - maybe leave Liriano in the pen, send down P.J. Walters/Diamond (depending on their performance), call up Hendriks, leave Swarzak in the rotation. By the All-Star Break, I hope our rotation is more steady and looks something like this.
With this rotation, there is no one good pitcher who can come out on a consistent basis and give you a for sure quality start, with the exception of Oswalt probably. But at the moment, that rotation looks a bit sexier than ours at this present time. We all know that the Twins lineup is changing, we are seeing new faces - Dozier, Diamond, P.J. Walters, Mastroianni, etc. These young men may be the key to the future (I certainly hope so with Brian Dozier! What a stud!), but we also need a bit of the past, and for that, the Twins should add Roy Oswalt!
There, that is my rant about how I think the Twins could make the rotation at least respectable (by this point), rather than leaving the fans wondering if a starter can make it through the 3rd inning - or if Pavano's arm will fall off. Or even if the bullpen's arms start dropping off because of overwork with only 3 inning starts. I think my rotation at least makes the rotation more respectable and adds a little bit of stability and insurance.