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Minnesota Twins Haven’t Done Enough to Improve Starting Pitching

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Two starters down, three more to go.

A few days ago, I wrote about the Minnesota Twins needing to make changes to the rotation. Since then, the Twins' losing streak was extended to eight games and the starters have allowed 15 runs in less than 10 innings over the last three games.

This all came to a head on Wednesday, May 22, when Vance Worley was shelled for eight runs, including three home runs, in 3 2/3 innings in an 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Worley had a quality start in his previous outing, but it wasn't enough, so the Twins optioned him and his 7.21 ERA to Class AAA Rochester after the game.

Worley was the second starter this week to be sent down. Rookie Pedro Hernandez was demoted after he allowed nine hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. He had a 5.85 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched).

Drop in Strikeout Rate a Concern for Minnesota Twins' Vance Worley

The real concern for the Twins is Worley. They traded center fielder Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2013 season for Worley and minor league starting pitcher Trevor May.

Worley came into 2013 with a career record of 18-13 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 2.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His career strikeout rate at the time of 7.7 per nine innings was expected to easily be the best on the staff.

However, Worley's strikeout rate has plummeted to 4.6 this season. He had surgery for bone chips last August, but he passed a physical prior to the trade. Still, when your strikeout rate drops that far, you have to wonder about his health.

Worley does provide an unusual case in that his strikeout rate involves an unusually high amount of called third strikes. If his command has been off while trying to come back from the surgery, that could be affecting his strikeout rate more than most pitchers. However, it hasn't affected his control, which is a little better this year than in the past.

Hopefully, it is just a problem with his mechanics and just trying to pitch well for a new team. Maybe a trip to Rochester will help him return to being the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting because they don't have much else right now.

Minnesota Twins' Starters Again With Worst ERA, Worse Than 2012

The Twins finished last in the American League in 2012 in ERA for starting pitchers. After trading for Worley and signing Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, the Twins were hoping to convince fans that the rotation was improved. After 2012, it would be difficult for it to be worse.

However, the Twins' starters have a 5.92 ERA, which is half a run worse than 2012, and they are once again last in the AL in ERA.

The Twins came into the offseason prior to 2013 with some money to spend but chose to go the cheap route. It is clear the Twins are getting what they paid for.

Correia was the Twins' "big" free agent signing, and he has been the Twins' best starter, however he is, at best, a decent fourth starter and not the veteran innings-eater the Twins needed.

The other two acquisitions, Pelfrey and Worley, were both coming off arm surgery, and in Pelfrey's case, he was less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery. With Diamond also coming off surgery, that meant the Twins went into the season with three starting pitchers that had offseason surgery. That should have been a red flag right there.

After 2012, the Twins should have known they didn't have enough pitching depth to sustain any struggles or injuries, but they blindly ignored plenty of opportunities to spend some money and at least add more depth to the team. Instead, they stayed with what they had, which meant that Cole De Vries, who was never even drafted, was going to be the fifth starter. Unfortunately, De Vries got hurt in spring training and has struggled in the minors.

Deduno to Be Called Up; Gibson, Walters, Albers Next in Line

Now, barring a trade, the Twins have to count on what they have in the minors. First up will be Samuel Deduno, who at least is a change from the usual soft-tossing control artists the Twins have failed with so far. If Deduno could ever figure out how to throw strikes consistently, he could be very good.

It is not known who will take Worley's spot in the rotation. There has been speculation of pitching prospect Kyle Gibson finally getting his shot, but the Twins have said they want to see more consistency from him and the Twins will gain one more season of Gibson making the rookie minimum if they wait at least until June for him to make his debut. This would be a wise use of resources even if Twins fans don't like it. Of course, if the Twins don't use the extra savings to help out the team, it won't matter.

Other likely candidates are P.J. Walters, who pitched for the Twins last year, and Andrew Albers, who I wrote about the other day. Neither of these pitchers appears to have much upside, but they certainly couldn't be much worse than what the Twins have had so far.

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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