COMMENTARY | It was only about three weeks ago that the Minnesota Twins' rotation and their season were falling apart. The Twins decided to make changes in the rotation, but that did not include promoting former first-round draft pick Kyle Gibson.
Since then the Twins have gone 11-6 and the improvement in the rotation is a big part of that. Suddenly, the Twins don't have a place for Gibson.
On May 22, starting pitcher Vance Worley gave up eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings as the Twins suffered their eighth straight loss. After the game, the Twins decided they had seen enough of Worley, who was their opening day starter, and demoted him to Class AAA Rochester.
Instead of bringing up Gibson, the Twins promoted P.J. Walters, who is a journeyman pitcher with good control but underwhelming stuff. Twins general manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on June 1 that they didn't go with Gibson because he lacked consistency.
Minnesota Twins Are Saving Millions of Dollars by Keeping Kyle Gibson in Minors
It probably didn't help Gibson that it was still in May when the Twins needed a starting pitcher. If a player makes his debut prior to June and never goes back to the minor leagues, there's a good chance that he'll end up getting an extra year of arbitration, which could cost his team several million dollars. Keeping Gibson in the minors for a couple weeks just made too much sense financially to justify bringing him up.
Three days after Worley's final start in the major leagues, Walters pitched the Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers that ended a 10-game losing streak and began this 11-6 streak the Twins are on. Walters has a 2.49 ERA and has pitched at least six innings in his four starts, and the Twins are 3-1 in those games.
Samuel Deduno also was called up and made his 2013 debut the day before Walters made his debut, but gave up six earned runs in a loss to the Tigers. Since then, he has a 1.50 ERA in three starts, and opponents are only batting .215 against him.
Since ending that ugly 10-game losing streak, the Twins' pitching overall has been much improved. Over the last 17 games the Twins have a 3.19 ERA. It's difficult to see the Twins choosing to make a change in the rotation anytime soon now that they're finally getting some good results.
Minnesota Twins Starters Doing Enough to Keep Their Jobs
The three veterans in the rotation are doing their part. Kevin Correia has been the Twins' most consistent starter this season and leads the Twins in innings pitched. The Twins are 8-4 in his starts despite the offense scoring just an average of 4 runs per game for him.
Mike Pelfrey gave up five earned runs in a loss to the Tigers on May 26, which put his season ERA at 6.85. He appeared to be an ideal candidate for being the next starter to be pulled from the rotation for Gibson once the calendar turned to June.
However, Pelfrey has allowed exactly three earned runs in each of his last three starts, and he pitched seven innings in his last two starts. The Twins are being patient with Pelfrey since he is coming off Tommy John surgery, and if they try to get him through waivers so he can pitch in the minor leagues, he will most likely be claimed by another team since he's on a cheap, one-year deal.
Scott Diamond gave up six earned runs in his last start to put his season ERA at 5.19. However, he pitched six shutout innings in his start prior to that. While Diamond continues to throw strikes and get more ground balls than fly balls, it's difficult to see the Twins demoting him.
Meanwhile, Gibson has a 3.16 ERA with a 69/26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 79 2/3 innings pitched for Rochester. He could very easily be the Twins' best starter as soon as he is called up. The Twins just need to clear a spot for him.
Right now, things are going well for the Twins, so they will remain patient. Someone will eventually falter or get injured. Hopefully, Gibson will have done enough at Rochester to be the next one up.
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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