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J.R. Graham and projecting rotation starts

Rule 5 pick gets his first Major League start today. What does the rotation look like after that?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Friday was technically Ricky Nolasco's turn in the rotation based on a five-day interval, but by personnel standards it was Kyle Gibson's turn. He was already coming off of an extra day of rest thank to the Monday off-day, and it also gave the Twins the luxury of working out what they wanted to do for a starting pitcher in Saturday's game since Nolasco was officially moved to the disabled list.

It turns out they want to go with J.R. Graham. The right-hander was drafted as a starting pitcher but after injury issues made a transition to the bullpen, which is where we've found him in Minnesota. He's given the Twins 20.1 innings of 3.10 ERA baseball in 14 games, with his last two outings seeing him go three frames each. The most pitches he's thrown in a game this year is 61, which is what he did versus Toronto on Sunday when Nolasco left his start early.

The last time Graham started a baseball game was June 22 of last year, when Seattle's Double-A affiliate lit him up for six runs in just four and a third innings. Mississippi (Atlanta's Double-A team) moved him to the bullpen for the rest of the year.

I imagine the hope is that Graham can grind his way through three or four innings, and then perhaps Tim Stauffer (who threw 13 pitches on Wednesday and nine last night) would be able to get through another two innings in order to not rely too heavily on the bullpen. The good news is that no Twins reliever was over-taxed in Friday's game, so optimistically the entire bullpen should be available if that's what it comes to.

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The Twins have an off-day on Thursday, which means there are just four starts to run through before getting a break. Here's now the rotation shakes out in terms of probable pitchers, keeping in mind that Nolasco is eligible to return from the disabled list on Tuesday, June 16.

Sunday, June 7: Mike Pelfrey
Monday, June 8: Phil Hughes
Tuesday, June 9: Trevor May
Wednesday, June 10: Tommy Milone

Both May and Milone will be pitching on six days' rest, and these are the players who the Twins have listed as their probable pitchers even though Gibson could go on Wednesday on regular rest. As the front office has planned it, this is the next turn through the rotation - and everyone is pitching on extra rest.

Friday, June 12: Kyle Gibson (7 days)
Saturday, June 13: Mike Pelfrey (6 days)
Sunday, June 14: Phil Hughes (6 days)
Monday, June 15: Trevor May (6 days)
Tuesday, June 16: Tommy Milone? (6 days)

This is how things are shaking out right now, and Minnesota clearly wants to give Milone another look because thanks to that off-day they could easily operate with just four starters until the 16th. If Nolasco's ankle is ready, he could slide into that Tuesday start and the rotation wouldn't miss a beat. The Twins could have returned Milone and used that extra roster spot to get Paul Molitor a four bench player (finally), and should Nolasco not have been ready to come back then the team could have recalled Milone again anyway because the ten day window required after being optioned would have come and gone.

That's obviously more complicated than what the team is doing, which isn't a terrible strategy either. If Milone pitches well he could build a little trade value for an organization that desperately needs openings in the rotation, and in a 162-game season there's nothing wrong with getting your starters an extra day from time to time.

At any rate, this afternoon's game with the Brewers should be interesting. I'll have the game on the radio as I shove meat in my face at a barbeque, but twinsbrewer will be back in a couple of hours with today's game thread. Enjoy your Saturday everyeone.