Saturday, August 22, 2009

Perkins, Liriano are Twins Last Hope

For the Twins to remain in the pennant race, or get back into it, will depend on their pitching getting back on track. Is there any chance of that happening? I think there is. Right now the Twins have two starting pitchers who will give them a chance to win when they are on the mound - Baker and Pavano. The remaining healthy potential starters are not promising with Blackburn, Swarzak, Duensing, Humber and Manship all struggling with some basic flaws in their ability to get major league hitters out. The next couple weeks will see all of them get a chance to pitch either as starters or in relief of one another.

There are also two guys on the DL, Liriano and Perkins, who have shown the ability to pitch effectively in a pennant race.  And RA DIckey just put up a decent outing at AAA. His success depends on his knuckleball and if he has it working again there is no reason he can't be just as effective at the major league level. So there are three guys who  are not currently on the 25 player roster who could step in by Labor Day. 

Of that first bunch, the most likely to step up is Blackburn. He has been effective in the past, but there are plenty of doubts about his ability to continue that success. Of course there were always doubts about his ability to be successful and he silenced the doubters with his performance. If he is going to hold his position in the rotation, he needs to turn things around soon. Last night was a good start. Once Perkins and Liriano return, the Twins are far more likely to experiment with prospects than give starts to a struggling Blackburn.

Of the prospects, Swarzak has the best stuff but major league hitters have caught up to him. He probably has at least one more start to adjust. Not because he deserves it, but because there are not a lot of other options. Duensing is next in line. He has the advantage that hitters are seeing him for the first time. But any success he has now will likely  be tested when they repeatedly play Central Division teams in September. Humber was called up to give them a live arm in the bullpen. He may get a start, but only if the others fail. Same with Manship.

You can add Gabino, a young pitcher who is on the 40 player roster and has been doing well at AAA, to the list of potential experiments but he probably won't get any opportunities to start until the Twins are out of the race. In fact, even that is unlikely. While he has recently had some starts at AAA, he has always been seen as more a reliever at the major league level.

So the Twins success the rest of the way really depends on Perkins and Liriano coming off the DL and pitching effectively. If that happens, the Twins will make a race of it. If it doesn't, well there is always next year.

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