I'm usually an optimistic guy. Honestly, I am. And the last thing I was to do is offer my fellow Minnesota Twins fans a downer first thing on Monday morning. But I have to be honest: I'm glad that this rotation is imploding in upon itself at the end of the season.
Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis, and Francisco Liriano all have expiring contracts at the end of the season. Also very much in question is whether or not the Twins pick up Scott Baker's option, which leaves just Nick Blackburn as the "original" starter from a group that was supposed to be together on Opening Day. We've talked about all that before though, and we're all well aware of how ineffective this group of pitchers has been so far in 2012.
What's disappointing is that my relief in the implosion of this group after this summer has just as much to do with finding guys who can simply be available, as much as it has to do with whether the guy has pitched well. Baker's out for the season, Liriano's been demoted to the bullpen, Blackburn's just hit the disabled list, Marquis has been ineffective, and just yesterday we were reminded that Pavano may not make his next start on Thursday.
With the cupboard already bare in Rochester the Twins have seen Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters deliver five pleasant surprises of starts, combining for 31.2 innings of 2.37 ERA baseball. As desperate as this team has been for starting pitching that pace can't continue, and looking to triple-A once again doesn't yield many answers. With a current rotation of Diamond, Walters, Pavano, Marquis, and...nobody...who could the Twins look to?
In three bullpen appearances Liriano has thrown 3.2 innings, allowing two hits and four walks while also striking out four. That's certainly not the stint the Twins had in mind when he was demoted, but if their hand is forced into bringing one (or two) arms into the rotation you can bet he'll be one of them.
Even in a reliever's role Swarzak has had a mixed bag this season, but there's no doubt he's much stronger out of the bullpen. Base runners are way down, strikeouts are up, he's not been so fly ball prone; none of it is a surprise. Give the Twins credit for identifying Swarzak's best role. While they may very well turn to him to start once again, they'll probably be just as well off taking their chances with somebody from triple-A.
Major League hitters were batting .390 off of him at the time of his demotion, which was well deserved. Since his return to triple-A, however, he's mopped up the competition: 18.2 innings over three starts, striking out 14 and allowing less than a base runner per inning en route to a 1.93 ERA. It's unlikely that he's figured something out or turned a corner this quickly; the 22-year old has just 12 starts at triple-A under his belt. Considering that this is where the Twins wanted to put him to start the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Twins pass him over on this next promotion in order to give him the time they think he needs.
The only other option in Rochester that's worth looking at, unless Jeff Manship is going to get one more shot, would be another home-grown prospect. DeVries, the 27-year old from Eden Prairie, has struck out 37 in 46.2 frames while surrendering 47 hits and just seven walks. He's bounced between double and triple-A since 2010, but if he's going to get a shot at The Bigs, this next callup might be it. Considering the ineffectiveness and injuries at the Major League level, and the easily overlooked performances of teammates Daryl Thompson and Luke French, the situation is ripe for DeVries.
As far as my opinion is concerned, DeVries is the perfect choice. He's a guy who can come up and make two, three, hell even five starts to give the Twins the time they need to get a few of their major players right, and then they can re-evaluate the situation. He allows the organization to not rush players like Hendriks or Liriano into spots they probably aren't ready to be in, and he also keeps guys like Swarzak (and even Brian Duensing) in roles where their talents can be used to maximum effectiveness.