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Updated: December 15th, 2013 7:41pm
P.J.R.: Twins' credit comes for creating options in starters

P.J.R.: Twins' credit comes for creating options in starters

by Patrick Reusse
1500ESPN.com
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The Twins' starting pitching was in such stout condition at the start of the 2013 season that days off were used to give Vance Worley the start in three of the first 10 games.

The other starts in what ordinarily would be two trips through a team's rotation were two apiece for Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Liam Hendriks, and one for Pedro Hernandez.

There was considerable skepticism when watching Worley, the acquisition from Philadelphia, pitch in exhibitions. He didn't appear to be in fine physical condition, his control was mediocre and there was neither life on his fastball nor bite on his breaking pitches.

As mentioned, this earned him 30 percent of the Twins' starts to open the season, the last of which was one inning, seven hits and nine runs (seven earned) against the New York Mets.

Worley would make seven more starts for the Twins, nine for the Rochester Red Wings and was sent home to California in the middle of August.

Hendriks made eight starts for the Twins and 16 in Rochester. Hernandez made 12 starts for the Twins and seven for Rochester.

Correia made 31 starts and was the best of the Twins' starters with 185 innings and was 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA. Pelfrey made 29 starts, pitching only 152 2/3 innings, and was 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA.

Pelfrey was set on rushing back from Tommy John surgery after 11 months, and the Twins were so desperate for starters that they allowed it to happen.

Scott Diamond missed a start to open the season after having minor elbow surgery in December. He wasn't close to being the adequate starter that he had been in 2012. Still, the Twins stuck with his soft tossing for 24 starts, as well as sending him to Rochester for six starts.

Sam Deduno made 18 starts in Minnesota, was hurt early and late (as usual), and also had three starts in Rochester.

Here's what is amazing: The Twins used 11 starters last season, and only two - Correia and Pelfrey - did not pitch in Rochester. And only Correia did not deserve to pitch in Rochester.

The other nine starters were Worley, Diamond, Deduno, Hendriks, Hernandez, Andrew Albers, Kyle Gibson, P.J. Walters and Cole DeVries. They made 102 starts in Minnesota and 109 starts in Rochester.

Bottom line: Yuk.

Hendriks was taken off the 40-player roster recently and claimed by the Cubs. Hernandez was released and signed a minor league contract with Colorado. Walters was signed as a minor-league free agent by Kansas City. DeVries remains unsigned.

Albers could be a candidate to be taken off the 40-man roster this week, when the Twins officially announce the re-signing of Pelfrey. Other possibilities to leave the 40-man would be catcher Eric Fryer or first baseman Chris Colabello.

It was reported over the weekend that Pelfrey is being brought back on a two-year contract for $11 million, plus incentives. The theory is that many pitchers have improved in the second year back from Tommy John. The hope is that he will prove this theory correct and earn those incentives.

Pelfrey is the third starter to be signed as a free agent, following Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49 million guaranteed) and Phil Hughes (three years, $24 million).

A gentleman involved in local sports coverage came up to me Sunday and said: "Why are people giving credit to the Twins? Nolasco has had more bad years than good ones. Hughes was terrible last season. And Pelfrey ... who else wanted him?''

I'm giving the Twins credit because in a highly-competitive market for starters - a market where Scott Feldman can get a three-year, $30 million contract - the Twins acted early to sign Nolasco, a competent righthander with a live arm. And they acted to get Hughes, a starter who won 16 games two years ago, is 27 and has a chance to succeed in a bigger ballpark.

Pelfrey? The good news is that, if he pitches like he did for the bulk of last season, the Twins aren't stuck with him. The money isn't excessive, so if he throws the ball lousy in March, he might not make it out of spring training as a starter.

Nolasco. Hughes. Correia. That should be the top of the rotation coming out of Fort Myers.

After that, the options are Pelfrey (if he's significantly improved), Kyle Gibson (if he's better in his second year after Tommy John), Deduno (if stays healthy for a few months) and Diamond -- even, Worley, if he's spent the winter getting himself in shape.

There will be no free rides entering the 2014 season. Pelfrey, Worley, all of them, will have to show something to be there for the first few trips through the rotation.

I'm giving the Twins credit for that reason:

They have given themselves options for a competent starting rotation. They did not do that before the 2013 season.

--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse
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