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Minnesota Twins Need to Make Changes to Starting Rotation

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COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins came into the 2013 season trying to convince their fans that their starting pitching was improved. Of course, after the disaster of 2012, the starting pitching could hardly be worse.

However, the Twins' starting pitchers are not showing much improvement in 2013, if any, despite better health. In fact, the Twins have pretty much avoided any real injury issues. The only ones of note were Scott Diamond missing his first couple starts due to recovering from offseason surgery and a forearm injury to Cole DeVries, who appeared to be close to winning a spot in the rotation before getting injured in spring training.

Despite the good health, the Twins are still 13th out of 15 teams in the American League in starting pitching ERA at 5.32 through games as of May 19. The Twins were last in the AL in 2012 at 5.40.

Even worse is that the Twins' starting pitchers have a WHIP of 1.58 in 2013 after having a WHIP of 1.48 in 2012. The 2013 Twins are also last in the AL in innings pitched by starters, just as they were in 2012.

The Twins' starters were dead last in strikeouts per inning pitched in 2012, and they are last again with an even worse rate in 2013. They are just not missing bats, and it is difficult to imagine the rotation as it is currently configured is going to be any better than it was a year ago.

A red flag should have been raised prior to the season when the Twins opened counting on three pitchers coming off elbow surgery, including Mike Pelfrey, who started the season less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Diamond and Vance Worley had arthroscopic surgeries that were considered rather minor, but it still can be difficult to bounce back from it immediately.

Kevin Correia Has Been Lone Surprise in Minnesota Twins' Rotation

Kevin Correia has been the only addition to the team that has performed up to expectations. In fact, he has surpassed them with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. However, his 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) show he has a razor-thin margin for error and will probably end up pitching closer to his career 4.49 ERA.

Of course, that is much better than what the Twins have gotten out of Worley (6.20), Pelfrey (6.57) and rookie Pedro Hernandez (6.67). All three have been extremely hittable, and the Twins need to consider making some changes.

The first to go would probably be Hernandez, who the Twins could just demote without putting him through waivers. He has allowed 17 earned runs over 17 innings in his last four starts.

Worley should also be a candidate for demotion. It looks like he has an option left and could be demoted as easily as Hernandez. Worley's last start on May 17 was one of his better ones but in his three starts prior to that, he allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings. A big concern for Worley is that his K/9 rate is way down from what it was with the Philadelphia Phillies. It could be just his mechanics are off following surgery, but it is something the Twins need to keep an eye on.

Pelfrey has shown signs of improvement lately with two of his last three outings being quality starts. The Twins will be patient with him, knowing that he'll have his ups and downs coming off Tommy John surgery but if he starts to regress again, the Twins should consider trying to sneak him through waivers so that he can figure things out in Class AAA Rochester.

Minnesota Twins Wise to Keep Kyle Gibson in Minors for Couple More Weeks

Of course, the real question is who should replace the struggling starters. Twins fans are excited about prospect Kyle Gibson, especially after he pitched his second shutout in three starts on Sunday, May 19, however, the Twins have been wise to be patient with him. The Twins only need to wait a couple more weeks before bringing up Gibson so that his eligibility for arbitration would be pushed back an extra year, which would save the Twins several million dollars, especially if Gibson is as good as the Twins hope.

The Twins, however, can't wait until June to make changes. Fortunately, Gibson isn't the only pitcher doing well in Rochester. P.J. Walters has a 3.31 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, and his solid 7.6 K/9 rate would easily be the best of the current Twins starters.

However, a real surprise has been the success of Andrew Albers, who has a 2.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.5 for Rochester. Albers also would be a great story since he would be making his major-league debut and give the Twins another left-handed Canadian starter alongside Diamond. The best part of the story would be him making the major leagues after the Twins signed him out of the independent Can-Am Association.

Neither of these pitchers would be a potential ace in the making, but it's difficult to imagine them being worse than what the Twins have gotten so far. The Twins need to make changes because if their starting pitching doesn't improve, the bullpen is going to fall apart due to overuse.

Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.

Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.

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