Rivera: "Try to get them to strike out by swinging and missing." Slama: "But that's what I've been doing all year in Triple-A." Rivera: "Oh."
Over the last few days there's been conversation about the Twins' refusal to bring Anthony Slama to the team. Phil Mackey was the latest in what's not exactly a short line, and we've had a couple of FanPosts commenting on exactly that. When I wrote about the subject in March, I said this:
Slama has said on a few occasions that his arm feels good and that he's ready to go. But his removal from the 40-man roster last fall, and the subsequent lack of an invitation to spring training, mean that the Twins expect him to work back into their graces before he sees another opportunity. Which is fair enough.
But if Slama ends up not just proving himself healthy, but shows that he's still able to strike out hitters with alarming frequency, then hopefully the Twins recognize him for the dark horse he's always been. He is unequivocally the best strikeout pitcher the team doesn't have on the 40-man roster, and there is nothing left for him to prove in the minor leagues.
None of that has changed, and I suggest you read the entire Mackey article on the subject. There are, generally speaking, a couple of points of contention regarding Slama's callup.
- His arm's health.
- His accumulation of strikeouts looking instead of swinging.
On his health, it's pretty fair to say the arm is just fine. He's struck out 56 batters in 36.1 innings, allowed just 26 hits and has pitched the tune of a 1.24 ERA in Rochester. There's nothing disconcerting about the stress on his arm at this point.
(Following splits courtesy of Minor League Central, which are two innings shy of Slama's season totals for Rochester.)
As for accumulating strikeouts looking over swinging, which Gardenhire didn't like, that was certainly true in 2011. In 155 plate appearances for the Red Wings, he retired 23 batters on strikeouts swinging (14.8% of PAs) versus 19 looking (12.3%). That's not exactly a friendly ratio.
But things have changed this season. In his 143 plate appearances versus Triple-A batters, Slama struck out 34 swinging (23.8%) against 16 looking (11.2%). He more than doubled his backward K totals with his forward Ks.
Whatever it is that's keeping Slama off the September callup list, it no longer has anything to do with achieving strikeout totals in the minor leagues as a "nibbler". If the Twins truly are using this month as an opportunity to see if any of these pitchers deserve a 40-man roster spot next season, they're doing themselves a disservice by passing nup the opportunity to see if Slama deserves a 25-man roster spot.
Don't overstate this. Calling up Slama for a cup of coffee this month won't change much of anything. But as Mackey says, for a team "starving for strikeouts", the Twins don't seem to be paying Slama much attention.