It wasn’t all that long ago that I got all worked up into a semi-frothing lather because the Royals named Gil Meche and not Zack Greinke the Opening Day starter prior to the 2009 season. That decision still bothers me, not only because I felt Greinke deserved to start the first game of the season but there were also schedule based reasons. What really put me over the edge however were some of Trey Hillman’s quotes on the subject.
When it comes to Ron Gardenhire’s recent decision to name Carl Pavano, and not Francisco Liriano, as the Opening Day starter I find myself at peace with the news. A part of me wants to see Liriano start the first game but I can’t make the argument that he necessarily deserves to over Pavano.
Beyond the question of who is more deserving based on merit, Liriano’s recent shoulder soreness and the subsequent questions about his offseason conditioning play a big role in this decision.
Maybe choosing Pavano is a gesture on the part of the organization to thank him for signing the 2-year $16.5 million dollar contract last month. Maybe they are trying to send a message to Liriano. Maybe there are other things at work in this decision that I have no knowledge of. In the end – as Seth Stohs recently pointed out – if Pavano and Liriano stay healthy the entire season they will both probably make 33 starts in 2011.
During the 2010 season 28 pitchers started 33 games, another 7 started 34, and Chris Carpenter and Dan Haren led baseball with 35 starts. If Gardy gets creative with the rotation and the team’s off days maybe Pavano winds up starting an additional game or two. Were that scenario to play out I think I’d rather it be Pavano’s arm, and not Liriano’s that those extra innings were being piled on anyway.
With the way the schedule starts out, and if the rotation holds, both the #1 and #2 starters will miss the first home series against Oakland. Pavano would pitch his first home game on April 12th with Liriano slated to pitch the following afternoon in a 2-game series against the Kansas City Royals.
Regardless of who gets the ball on Opening Day, neither will have the honor of starting the 1st game of the season at Target Field since that will fall to the #3 starter. If healthy, both pitchers figure to get 33 starts and the Twins will need both of them pitching well throughout the season regardless of who gets the nod on April 1st. So, in the end it will be a minor footnote on Pavano’s career resume that he was the Opening Day starter for the Twins in 2011, but nothing more than that.