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Updated: April 7th, 2014 8:58pm
Zulgad: Should fans have to be patient with under-performing rotation?

Zulgad: Should fans have to be patient with under-performing rotation?

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Correia is probably right.

It should be too early to express genuine concern that the Twins' remade starting staff is a combined 1-3 with three no decisions.

It is jumping the gun to look at the fact that new "ace" Ricky Nolasco has given up 10 runs, 17 hits and six walks in 10 innings over two starts and allow that to impact your view of the Twins' four-year, $49 million investment in him.

And, yes, seven games into the 162-game schedule, fixating on Correia's poor start in the Twins' 8-3 home-opening loss Monday to the Oakland A's probably is silly.

Except if you are a Twins fan, it's difficult not to look at the fact that Kyle Gibson has the only win among the starters and wonder if you're not in for another long summer of subpar starting efforts and three-plus hour games.

The Twins finished last season second to last in the major leagues with a team earned-run average of 4.55. The starters, however, had a league-worst 5.26 ERA. This caused for a shuffling at the top of the rotation that saw the Twins add Nolasco and Phil Hughes as free agents.

Entering Monday, the new-look starting staff had a 5.74 ERA, placing them ahead of only the Indians, Orioles and Diamondbacks.

Nolasco and Correia went six innings apiece in their first two starts but no starter has completed the sixth since then. The mission was for these guys to save the bullpen but so far that isn't happening.

"(The starters) haven't really gone as deep into games as we should be and that's obviously going to change," Correia said after giving up six runs and nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings Monday. "Usually, the beginning of the year is a little different.

"No one has really gone over 100 pitches, so they are a little more cautious. The weather is a little colder. We're still also getting a feel of being out there and being more efficient. I plan on this staff being able to throw quite a few innings and hopefully we'll take a lot of pressure off the bullpen."

What has been most bothersome about the past two games is how much Nolasco and Correia seemed to labor.

Nolasco lasted only four innings and gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks on Sunday, but the Twins overcame that performance to earn a 10-7 win in Cleveland. Watching that game, you kept thinking, "Ricky, this game is being gift-wrapped for you." The problem was Nolasco didn't seem capable of taking advantage of the fact that an offense that was expected to struggle was thriving.

Correia had an encouraging first inning on Monday, retiring the A's in order, but didn't have another 1-2-3 inning until the fifth. He gave up two runs in the second, walking leadoff hitter Brandon Moss and then surrendering three consecutive hits, and three runs in the third, including a two-run single to Moss.

Correia's struggles in the third followed a replay delay as the umpires reviewed whether Jed Lowrie's drive down the right field line was fair or foul. The eventual ruling, which again took longer than it should, upheld the original call of foul ball.

Correia then walked Lowrie, Josh Donaldson followed with a double and Moss drove in both.

"His location wasn't there, he was out and over the plate an awful lot," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Correia. "After they scored a few runs, he started pounding it inside a little bit better and his last couple innings were better because of that.

"But we can't just stay out and over the plate on these guys. We talked about that. He didn't have his best stuff out there. Once he started pitching both sides of the plate, and using the inner half of the plate, the game went a little better for him."

Gardenhire said it's "obviously going to change" when asked about his starters going deeper into games, citing the fact it's so early in the season and that the colder weather has an impact on things.

He can only hope he's right.

Meanwhile, Correia did the only thing he could. He preached patience.

"It's kind of been a polar opposite of what you'd be expecting," he said. "We did such an unbelievable job in the (bullpen) last year and we (as starters) kind of faltered. The starters were supposed to be a big improvement and hopefully get off to a good start. We haven't pitched bad but haven't pitched great. But it's so early.

"At this point in the year, there's no trends, no way you can kind look ahead and see what's going to happen. You've got to get a couple of starts under your belt. What I've noticed as a pitching staff, usually you kind of get on a roll together. Once you start going everyone feeds off each other and hopefully that's going to happen here really soon."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Phil Hughes
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