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Updated: April 3rd, 2013 7:11pm
Warne: Kevin Correia finds right formula in maiden voyage into AL

Warne: Kevin Correia finds right formula in maiden voyage into AL

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by Brandon Warne
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Prevailing wisdom seems to suggest that the transition from the National League to the American League is tougher than the alternative, and skipper Ron Gardenhire agrees, at least to some degree.

Statistically, the AL as a whole hit .255/.320/.411 in 2012, while the NL hit .254/.318/.400. Of course, that also includes the hitting line from pitchers (.129/.162/.168 last year), and scrubbing that out gets an overall line of .261/.332/.418.

So maybe the NL is catching up?

Nevertheless, Gardenhire isn't too worried about any major adjustments that need to be made by the new trio of righties, including Wednesday's starter Kevin Correia, who held the Detroit Tigers to just two runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings in the Twins' walkoff win.

"There's always a lot of conversation about that," Gardenhire said about Correia's transition to the American League. "(The AL has) a little deeper lineups and all those things. But I don't think, as a pitcher, you should try to get away from what you do best. Location and using all your pitches. Working ahead in the count. I think it stays that way in both leagues. In this (league), like I said, you don't have the pitchers hitting and all that leading up to it. Bunting them over and all that. But, do what you've done to be successful in the past and you'll be fine. Use your pitches, mix it up, and locate like he did at the end of spring training and I think he can get anybody out."

But with three career National Leaguers -- purely coincidental according to Terry Ryan -- making the jump this year in the Twins rotation, Gardenhire and company are hoping this trio of groundballers will just continue to work their game and let the league adjust to them rather than vice versa.

Correia is squarely in the middle of this quandary, as his senior circuit numbers don't leave a lot of wiggle room for him to work with if the AL lineups are as deep as Gardenhire suggests.

Teammate Mike Pelfrey is also at the forefront here, and he noted that he'd be watching Correia rather closely Wednesday to pick up some of the elder hurler's tendencies.

"I think the whole name of the game is executing. He's just going to have to make good pitches," Pelfrey noted. "I know for me as a sinkerball guy as well that I have to keep the ball down, because that ball doesn't seem to sink when it's at the waist. You have to make good pitches down. He has a pretty good slider, and a pretty good split. I'll definitely be watching him to see how he goes about his business and how he attacks hitters, and what works and what doesn't."

The best thing Correia can do is stick to his roots. Like Worley -- who induced an otherworldly 69.6% groundball rate Monday -- Correia will do well to keep the ball down, and work ahead, as Gardenhire suggested. Correia's groundball rate in 2012 was 51.2%, 17th among 88 qualified pitchers (teammate Scott Diamond was 10th).

Working ahead could lessen Correia's reliance on his four-seam fastball, the pitch he threw the most in 2012. That pitch resulted in a .360 wOBA (Fangraphs' weighted on-base average, scaled to OBP). For reference, that was also Albert Pujols wOBA last season.

If Correia can work ahead, he can work primarily with his slider and two-seamer, which were the second- and third-most used pitches in his repertoire in 2012. Those offerings resulted in wOBAs of .325 and .318, which is right around league average -- and a vast improvement over the four-seamer. Correia's curve and changeup are even more effective -- .221 and .170 wOBA respectively -- but they weren't used as frequently.

But it is odd that Correia's pitch frequency and wOBAs trend in opposite directions. Perhaps this will result in a change in Correia's repertoire, but it also remains unlikely that he'll deviate from the four-seamer altogether.

Correia's view is that he can throw pretty much anything in any count, with the exception of the curveball.

"There's too much break on the curve to rely on it in counts where I'm behind," Correia noted. "But I feel like I can go to three pitches no matter what count I'm in. Obviously, it'll change day-to-day. Some days it'll be the cutter, or the splitter, or whatever. It's all about what I have a feel for."

Essentially, if Correia can continue to improve control-wise -- and he's on a two-year stretch of doing just that -- there's at least some optimism that Correia can re-work his repertoire into something that will allow him at least modest success in the AL, just like he experienced on Wednesday.

Brandon Warne covers the Minnesota Twins for 1500ESPN.com. He has also contributed as a baseball analyst for Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com
Email Brandon | @Brandon_Warne
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