April 24, 2007

Ponson's Last Start?

Woke up cold one Tuesday
I'm looking tired and feeling quite sick
I felt like there was something missing in my day-to-day life
So I quickly opened the wardrobe
Pulled out some jeans and a t-shirt that seemed clean
Topped it off with a pair of old shoes that were ripped around the seams

And I thought these shoes just don't suit me
Hey, I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything's right
I said hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody's smiling

- Paolo Nutini, New Shoes

I'm still too short on time to write a whole lot today and I'm now too frustrated with the Twins' losing streak (along with Johan Santana's back-to-back losses at the Metrodome) to do a typical, notes-style game recap, so let's try something a little different in the form of reader participation. Sidney Ponson will make his fourth start of the season tonight against the Royals after going 1-2 with a 9.39 ERA in his first three starts.

I've used this space to argue that Ponson hasn't pitched as poorly as his hideous ERA suggests, but at the end of the day he's allowed 16 runs in 15.1 innings and opponents have hit .389/.450/.667 in 80 plate appearances. Asked earlier this week about Ponson, Terry Ryan said, "We're getting close to the point where we need to see more progress." When combined with Ponson's horrible numbers, that statement makes me think that a poor fourth outing could signal the end of his time in the rotation.

Obviously, the first question is "should Ponson be yanked from the rotation if he fails to turn in a solid start against the Royals tonight?" If you answered "no" to that, then the next question is "exactly how long of a leash should he get?" If you instead answered "yes" to that, then the next question is "who should replace him?" Assuming that moving Matt Guerrier out the bullpen is off limits, there are seemingly four possible answers. Here's what they've each done thus far at Triple-A:

                    W     L      ERA        IP     SO      BB     OAVG
Kevin Slowey 3 0 0.96 18.2 20 1 .134
Glen Perkins 0 0 1.50 6.0 2 1 .105
Scott Baker 1 0 1.69 16.0 16 3 .196
Matt Garza 0 1 2.77 13.0 12 9 .278

I've been very wrong about Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva thus far, but Rochester's rotation has been every bit as great as I expected it to be. Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Scott Baker have combined to go 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 50-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53.2 innings (Perkins has just one start because he was called up to pitch out of the Twins' bullpen). For those of you who think that Ponson should be leaving the rotation, who should replace him?

A few weeks ago I would have said Garza without thinking twice, but given his troubling neck problems and less-than-dominant numbers at Triple-A that's no longer such a no-brainer. Perkins is already in Minnesota, but hasn't pitched particularly well as a reliever. Slowey has been the most impressive of the bunch at Rochester, but he's the only member of the foursome without any big-league experience. Baker has the most major-league experience and has been nearly as impressive as Slowey.

I'd lean toward yanking Ponson from the rotation if he struggles against the Royals tonight and I'd go with Baker as his immediate replacement, but I'm sure there are arguments to be made for just about every possible scenario. What say you?

Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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