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Updated: April 22nd, 2010 12:25pm
Gardenhire on pitch counts: Have a career, not just a year

Gardenhire on pitch counts: Have a career, not just a year

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Before today's matinee game against the Indians, manager Ron Gardenhire shared some wisdom about pitch counts and other early-season pitching philosophies.

During the first two games of this series, Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano have both dominated into the late innings. Slowey threw 98 pitches in eight innings on Tuesday night, allowing only one run. Liriano threw 102 pitches last night across seven shutout innings.

So why not let them try for complete games?

"We thought about it," Gardenhire said, "but we've also seen, over the history, early in the season, guys like (Brad) Radke, a lot of them (go another inning), and their next outing is [rough]. And it takes them two starts to recover.

"Especially early in the season, our belief is we stretch them out to about 90-95 pitches, and then all of the sudden you've got a feel-good start and you let him go 110 (pitches), and then he comes up and he's not the same pitcher."

In both cases this week, the Twins had comfortable leads heading into the eighth and ninth innings, and closer Jon Rauch was not needed. These are situations where later in the season Gardenhire might allow his starting pitchers to pitch that extra inning.

But not in April.

"(Rick Anderson) and I have talked about this," Gardenhire said. "We try to protect them so we have the same pitcher in August and September that we have now, and that's important. And I think it's important for the pitchers.

"As we get going into the mid-months and they've got however many starts, sure. You want to stretch them to 110 (pitches). I don't like it when you get up over 115. You've got to understand, it's 100 pitches, but think about their warm-up, think about their pitches in between (innings), and when you look at it, we're talking about a lot of throws... It's just something we did in the minor leagues, we were taught that, and Anderson and I believe in that, to protect them as much as we can."

For the record, neither Slowey nor Liriano begged to stay in the game. Not that they would have won the argument anyways.

"I think they know that we have their interest (in mind)," Gardenhire said.

"We try to not make it a year, we try to make it a career. (Tom Kelly) told me that a long time ago, ‘Their future is in your hands.' I take that serious. I want to try to do the best I can so they can have a career, not just a year."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd