Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carnage in Minnesota

A day after Nick Punto hit the disabled list, two Twins pitchers will join him there.  Kevin Slowey and Ron Mahay both suffered injuries during Saturday's game against the Angels.  Things looked bright after the first inning, as the Twins mounted a 3-0 lead.  But, as has become commonplace over the last week, Minnesota's starting pitcher kindly handed back all those runs as soon as he could.  This time Slowey was the culprit, allowing 4 runs in the second inning.  The Twins didn't score any runs the rest of the game and went quietly, 9-3.  Fortunately the White Sox lost the first game of their doubleheader, meaning the Twins retain their 4.5 game lead, and hopefully they haven't done all their losing for today as they currently trail 4-3 in the nightcap.

But the story, of course, was Slowey's early exit due to an elbow problem and Mahay's shoulder injury.  That means two familiar faces will be rejoining the Twins: Nick Blackburn and Anthony Slama.  If only they could get Anthony Swarzak up here, they'd have a full docket of guys who were at one point good prospects for the Twins but now profile as little more than replaceable long relievers (Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and Jeff Manship).  Since his demotion, Blackburn has impressed some with his 2.49 ERA in four starts at AAA.  I'm not very optimistic, however; he didn't really show much with his strikeout rate (13 in 21.2 innings) or his walk rate (2.49 BB/9).  Regardless, it was a very small sample against inferior hitters, so I'd be hard-pressed to get excited about his performance.  He'll immediately take Slowey's spot in the rotation, so let's hope he's at least better than he was in his first stint with the big league club this year.

Meanwhile, Slama's had a grand total of just 6.2 innings pitched at AAA since he was sent down, so I'm not even going to mention his stats.  I have a lot of confidence that Slama can at least be a decent major league reliever, but he'll have to show it quickly because the Twins don't--and he sure didn't do that last time around.

The two pitchers the Twins just brought up have both been below replacement level so far, costing them half a win on the season.  That is to say, had they had any random scrubs from AAA on the roster in place of them, the idea is that the Twins would have half a win more so far in 2010.  That may paint a bleak picture, but I don't believe either of them is truly that bad.  While Blackburn is no star, and while he may not even be able to replicate his performances from 2008 and 2009, I do think he can strike out more than 3.03 batter per nine innings, which will greatly help his run prevention abilities.  Slama I truly think can contribute, so I don't think that will really be a downgrade at all.

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