COMMENTARY | One year ago, P.J. Walters made his debut with the Minnesota Twins. Nobody knew about the right-hander except for a pair of brief stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals, but with the starting rotation struggling it was time to give the journeyman a chance.
In his first four starts, Walters looked like a servicable pitcher in a rotation that didn't have any. A 2-1 record and 2.96 ERA during the month of May was a good start, but the wheels came off when he came down with inflammation in his right shoulder.
After a rough ending to 2012, Walters has returned to his pre-injury form in his first four starts of 2013. A 2.49 ERA and 2-1 record is eerily similar from a season ago, so how can things fall into place for him to be a fixture in the Twins rotation?
The Twins Defense Must Be Sharp
One thing that can be said about Walters is that he relies on his defense to make plays. In 25.1 innings this season, he has given up 31 hits as opposed to six walks. That means the defense needs to be on their toes at all times.
While the Twins defense hasn't been perfect, it has been a lot better than the days of having Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka manning the middle of the field. If they continue to not play like a drunken beer-league softball team, there should be plenty of optimism for Walters.
Walters Can't Shoot Himself In The Foot
Having Walters continue his success for the Twins will be like balancing on a tight rope. The Twins rank toward the bottom half of the American League in runs scored, meaning there's plenty of pressure on their starters to not make a mistake.
For the most part, Twins starters have shrugged it off and lived up to their billing as one of the worst rotations in baseball. Still, Walters has a chance to be successful if he doesn't shoot himself in the foot with walks, wild pitches and anything else that can be prevented.
Keep The Ball Down
If it sounds like Rick Anderson wrote this heading, you might be right. Yet, if Walters can limit his opponents to ground ball singles, he'll be able to limit damage and go deeper into games.
Walters is not a strikeout pitcher and therefore can't get himself out of jams. Last season, he got himself into too much trouble when he let the ball get too high into the zone and opposing batters teed off on him with a career-high 12 home runs allowed.
If Walters gives up a bunch of singles through the dirt, then it happens. In a better (and more likely) scenario, the ball will find gloves instead of grass and give him a chance to get out of bad situations without serious harm.
This goes for any major league pitcher, but since a shoulder injury derailed his solid start a year ago it's worth mentioning that Walters needs to avoid such bad luck.
After his shoulder was injured, Walters was 0-4 with a 7.86 ERA in eight starts. During that time, opponents slugged .510 while forcing him to several short outings as he made it past the fifth inning only once.
It's impossible to tell whether his shoulder was completely to blame for his woes, but it made for a quick regression that can be avoided with some better health.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering the Twins on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
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