We knew that Tommy Milone was going through some shoulder fatigue. He threw seven good innings in Kansas City back on September 7, and followed that up with a 3.2-inning start in Chicago and a 1.1-inning appearance at Target Field against the Angels. The latter start came on September 17.
Milone was already skipped once in the rotation, replaced by Phil Hughes and his gutsy five-inning performance on Wednesday. Now, it seems, Milone's return to the rotation is open-ended...if he returns at all.
"I think he threw 10-15 pitches today and I wouldn't say it was a setback, but I think the reports are he isn't imminently ready to return," said Paul Molitor following Milone's bullpen session yesterday. The Twins may play it off as not being a setback, but we already know that the rotation is struggling to hold itself together. Losing one more option won't make things easier.
An indefinite rest timetable on Milone means that the Twins have to turn to Tyler Duffey every five days, foregoing their blueprint of sending him out every six. Duffey, with 183.2 innings pitched in 2015, has thrown 23% more innings than he did in 2014. There are varying degrees of how strongly you might buy into the additional workload philosophy, but it's hard to deny that Duffey's arm could very well tire at any time.
For the rest of the regular season, the Twins have three healthy and available starters in Kyle Gibson, Mike Pelfrey, and Ervin Santana. On the other end of the spectrum, a group of three pitchers whose workloads and future commitments are at the very least suspect will grow to four should the club make the post-season.
The state of Minnesota's starting rotation may be the biggest hurdle in fielding a roster that can win enough games to grab a Wild Card spot. Should another starter fall and the club unable to resurrect another arm for the rotation, Molitor may have to get creative.
- J.R. Graham could make another spot start, to get the Twins through the hump.
- If not Graham, the Twins could cobble together a group of six or seven relief pitchers to get through a game. Such are the benefits of September's expanded rosters.
- The existing slate of four starters could all go on a pitch limit, going into a four-man rotation for the duration of the regular season by virtue of shorter starts.
None of those options are particularly appealing. Let's just hope the current slate of five guys can hold it together.