Updated: August 7th, 2011 2:50pm
Slowey's future with Twins is 'totally up to him,' Gardenhire says

Slowey's future with Twins is 'totally up to him,' Gardenhire says

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With Nick Blackburn struggling mightily as of late, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged that he may need to adjust his pitching rotation if the sinkerballer can't get back on track against the Boston Red Sox this Wednesday.

If that happens, Anthony Swarzak would likely be the leading candidate to step in for a spot-start, but Gardenhire said right-hander Kevin Slowey is "definitely an option" as well.

#FreeKevinSlowey?

The 27-year-old right-hander has been pitching in the minor leagues since early-June, most of it as part of a rehab assignment to mend a mild abdominal strain. He was officially optioned to Triple-A Rochester on July 21 where he will remain until further notice.

Slowey threw over 100 pitches in only five innings his last time out, but gave up only two earned runs on seven hits and two walks. Prior to that, he allowed only one run (zero earned) in eight innings, striking out eight and walking nobody.

While it's still possible the Twins could trade Slowey before the waiver deadline on August 31, it appears he will remain in the organization for the rest of the season, even if Gardenhire doesn't use him on the 25-man roster.

Slowey is under team control through 2013, but how likely is it that he'll be around after 2011, and what role will he play?

"Who knows?" Gardenhire said in an interview with 1500 ESPN on Sunday. "Who knows what's going to happen with him? He's a good pitcher. He's got a great arm. Unfortunately for us, he just couldn't pitch out of the bullpen and it just wasn't going to work out for him. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to go with that."

Regarding his role heading into the season, Slowey was deemed odd-man out in the five-man pitching rotation, and Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson hoped the right-hander would embrace a temporary role as set-up man for Matt Capps and/or Joe Nathan.

Slowey, whose base salary is $2.7 million this season, had trouble adapting to the bullpen and wound up on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis in April, and again in May with a mild abdominal strain.

But there was a strong sense from the team's perspective that Slowey never 100% embraced the notion of being a reliever.

"That's definitely a situation you have to monitor," Gardenhire said when asked if the relationship between Slowey and the team needed rehabilitation. "I don't know about rehabilitating, that's totally up to him whether he wants to come up and be a part of it. And he's definitely going to be in the mix again for next year, unless something happens over the course of the winter where he gets moved, because he's a good pitcher. He can get people out, there's no doubt about that.

"Unfortunately, he couldn't do the bullpen thing, and that didn't help us. It didn't help us at all. So we definitely have to look at this thing as we go along."

Slowey owns a 4.43 ERA and a 4.21 FIP in 488 career major-league innings, and his 1.48 walks per nine innings is the second-lowest mark among all starting pitchers with at least 450 innings pitched since 2007 behind only Roy Halladay (1.37 BB/9). But he has yet to throw more than 161 innings in a season, and his 1.4 home runs allowed per nine innings is the third-highest mark over that same time period.

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