With the signing of Carl Pavano, the Twins have what looks like six pitchers for five rotation spots. Three of them are locks: the recently signed Pavano, Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker.
To those three I would add Kevin Slowey. Slowey has been very similar to Baker over the course of his career, with a FIP only .17 worse and an xFIP only .24 worse than Baker’s. Also, Slowey’s stuff won’t really play up in the bullpen. He has good stuff to be sure, but he throws in the low 90s and relies on changing speeds and staying at the edge of the strikezone rather than blowing guys away with an electric fastball. He isn’t the most durable guy, which is the big knock against him, but I like him enough to pencil him into that #4 starter role.
So then it comes down to two players, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing. Let’s run a little comparison, shall we?
(note: all numbers are career numbers)
While Duensing is the better pitcher, there are still a couple of points to be made in favor of Blackburn: First, we have over twice the data on him, so we are much more sure as to what we can expect from him going forward. Secondly, Duensing has been effective in the bullpen recently, so if they are this close in terms of pitching overall, it might make sense to have Duensing in the bullpen.
Personally I think it is somewhat of a flip of a coin scenario. There are arguments to both pitchers and while I personally think that Duensing is the better pitcher, having him as a bedrock in the bullpen makes just as much sense to me as him at the back of the rotation.