July 27, 2009

Twins Win Game, Lose Slowey

Last night's win puts the Twins back at an even .500 through 100 games, but more importantly they lost Kevin Slowey for the remainder of the season. Slowey landed on the disabled list earlier this month, as the Twins revealed that he'd "battled pain in his wrist for a while" and had trouble "opening doors and things like that." At the time the hope was that he could return in a couple weeks, but unsuccessful throwing sessions were followed by a canceled rehab assignment and now he's going under the knife.

Slowey will undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which despite being fairly innocuous in the grand scheme of pitching injuries will sideline him for several months and ends his year at 10-3 with a 4.86 ERA and 75-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 91 innings spread over 16 starts. Slowey's great 10-3 record obviously doesn't match his mediocre 4.86 ERA, but he had a 4.04 mark before giving up 11 runs over six innings in his final two starts while hurting and still finished with a solid 4.36 xFIP.

Slowey's injury means that Anthony Swarzak will remain in the rotation for the rest of the season after going 3-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 26-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46 innings through eight career starts. Swarzak's sub par strikeout-to-walk ratio, high fly-ball percentage, and 5.32 xFIP suggest that he likely has a trip back down to earth in his future, and even if he can continue to out-perform those secondary numbers his having to step into the rotation on a full-time basis ruins the Twins' pitching depth.

Instead of having Slowey in the rotation, Swarzak waiting in the wings at Triple-A, and enough capable options to possibly include one starter in a trade, the Twins now have Kevin Mulvey, Brian Duensing, R.A. Dickey, and Bobby Keppel next in line if another starter is needed. None of those guys figures to have much success in a major-league rotation right now, and Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins haven't exactly formed an air-tight front four.

Baker has quietly gone 8-3 with a 4.14 ERA and 80-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 94 innings spanning 15 starts since beginning the year 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA and Perkins thankfully bounced back from his disastrous one-inning outing last week, but Blackburn's deal with the devil predictably appears to have expired and Liriano ruined what had been a very positive six-week stretch by serving up three homers Friday. We're a hundred games into the season and Twins starters rank 12th in the AL with a 4.80 ERA.

Even with Slowey done the rotation is nowhere near being the glaring weakness that second base has become and within the pitching staff adding another late-inning relief option is still a far bigger priority than adding another starter, but clearly the Twins have no shortage of holes as Friday's trade deadline approaches. At some point trying to patch up everything on the fly ceases making sense and the odds are slim for Bill Smith pulling off multiple trades, let alone multiple trades that actually help the team.

Guys like Orlando Cabrera aren't going to make a big impact in the final 60 games, we're nearing 15 straight months without Smith addressing the bullpen's lack of setup-quality arms after Pat Neshek's injury, and an already shaky rotation is a tweaked elbow from including Mulvey or Duensing. Certainly sitting at 50-50 after 100 games is far from disastrous, especially in a division where that puts you just three games back of a plenty flawed team, but you can only patch so many holes on July 31.

Once you're done here, check out my "Circling The Bases" blog over at NBCSports.com.

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