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Could the Twins start the season with a three-man starting rotation?

Can they? Should they? Will they? Let’s explore.

I chose this picture because I love the Player’s Weekend jersey.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday afternoon’s Spring Training game broadcast against the Toronto Blue Jays, radio broadcasters Cory Provus and Dan “Dazzle Man” Gladden were talking about the Twins’ rotation and how it would shake out. One of them mentioned that the Twins will most likely start the season with a four-man starting rotation and the other chimed in and mentioned an interesting thought for a split second before moving on: a three-man rotation.

Of course, major-league teams go with a standard five-man rotation for their starting pitchers for a majority of their season. Some teams have run with a six-man rotation at times, especially with September call-ups. Most teams will go with a four-man rotation to start the season due to scheduled off-days after a team’s home opener (for all that snow that’ll fall, knowing how this winter has gone, amirite??) or travel days.

But considering that the Twins have five days off in their first 15 days of the season, could the Twins feasibly start the season off with a three-man rotation? Below is a table of the first 13 games the Twins play (off days included), which starter would start, and how many days of rest the starter would have before that day’s game. For simplicity, starters are numbered (Berrios has already been announced the Opening Day starter, but I like to KISS – keep it simple, stupid… not calling you stupid, either, that’s just the acronym). I’ve included two scenarios: starting the season with a three-man rotation and starting the season with a four-man rotation.

Three-man Rotation vs Four-man Rotation

Date Game Three-man Days rest Four-man Days rest
Date Game Three-man Days rest Four-man Days rest
3/28 vs CLE 1 x 1 x
3/29 OFF x x x x
3/30 vs CLE 2 x 2 x
3/31 vs CLE 3 x 3 x
4/1 OFF x x x x
4/2 @ KC 1 4 4 x
4/3 @ KC 2 3 1 5
4/4 OFF x x x x
4/5 @ PHI 3 4 2 5
4/6 @ PHI 1 3 3 5
4/7 @ PHI 2 4 4 4
4/8 OFF x x x x
4/9 @ NYM 3 3 1 5
4/10 @ NYM 1 3 2 4
4/11 OFF x x x 5
4/12 vs DET 2 4 3 5
4/13 vs DET 3 3 4 5
4/14 vs DET 4 x 1 4

A few points to keep in mind between the two scenarios:

1. With the three-man rotation, the starters lose a day of rest from the standard four days of rest at least once through the first couple weeks of the season; the starters would get an extra day of rest in between their starts if the Twins went with a four-man rotation.

2. The Twins’ number one starter (Jose Berrios) will face Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and the Mets – mostly decent teams – if they were to go with a three-man rotation. A four-man rotation would only get you your top starter a match with Cleveland, Kansas City, the Mets, and Detroit.

3. Expand the last point to include the number two starter: the number one and number two starters will start eight times – five against teams that are expected to be good in a three-man rotation; the number one and two starters will start seven times in a four-man rotation with five starts against teams that are expected to be competitive.

With these points in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some options the Twins have to start the season off.

Option 1: Carry a three-man rotation and the other starters stay behind for extended Spring Training

In this option, the Twins go north with three starters while the other two starters stay behind for some extra work in extended Spring Training. I would project that Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson would be the 1-2 punch for the Twins while the third spot will most likely go to the veteran Jake Odorizzi. Martin Perez and Michael Pineda will stay behind in Florida to do some extra work in Spring Training before joining the team for the Detroit series.

The pros of this option would be that the two starters that stay back will have some extra time to work on getting ready for the season. Perez and Pineda, although pitching well this spring, may need some extra time to get back into form after a bad year and injury, respectively. Another positive would be that the best starters the Twins have will get more starts against AL Central teams. Something to note as well: five games total are going to be in National League ballparks against two good teams these first two weeks.

On the other hand, some cons to this option is that the starters are not getting a standard amount of rest between starts right out of the gate. If the three starters do not make it past four or five innings, the bullpen may get used a lot, which would lead to some early moves for the Twins.

Option 2: Carry a three-man rotation; other starters travel with the team and split a game

This option gets a little creative. The Twins go with a three-man rotation, but the other two starters will go with the team and essentially piggyback the other starters in a game or two each throughout the first couple of weeks. For example, let’s say Berrios starts a game and goes five innings. One of the starters not in the rotation will come in from the bullpen in the sixth inning and either finish the game or pitch three innings and leave the ninth inning for the true bullpen corps.

Some pros to this option: the starters not in the rotation still get playing time the first couple weeks of the season instead of staying back in extended Spring Training. Additionally, if the bullpen has been used extensively in a game or two, a starter can be used out of the bullpen for the next game. Lastly, the two best starters will be pitching in prime games.

A couple of down sides to this option is that some bullpen pitchers may not get enough playing time to start the season. Also, there is the mental component to this for the starters: are they mentally capable of coming out of the bullpen to pitch the rest of the game instead of starting?

Option 3: Carry a four-man rotation

This is the standard option that teams take when coming out of Spring Training and into the regular season. Four starting pitchers rotate turns throughout the beginning of the season and a fifth starter is added when necessary. The fifth starter would come in during the series in Baltimore if going with a three-man rotation (adding a fourth starter for the Toronto Blue Jays series at home after the Detroit series) or during the Detroit series if running with a four-man rotation. Every starter in this rotation would get either the standard four days of rest between starts, or even a fifth day of rest with the off days.

Will the Twins employ a three-man rotation? Not likely. Is it something that’s plausible? I believe so. Option 2 seems like the most logical and best bet to get the most out of starters in the best possible way against teams that are expected to be good to start the season, and then move to a five-man rotation in the middle of the first homestand in the second week of March against the Tigers and Blue Jays.


Which option seems best for the Twins to start the season?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Option 1
    (59 votes)
  • 23%
    Option 2
    (91 votes)
  • 54%
    Option 3
    (207 votes)
  • 6%
    None of these options (comment below!)
    (23 votes)
380 votes total Vote Now