July 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire (35) takes the ball from starting pitcher Liam Hendriks (62) during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Too Short, Kevin Correia and Getting in Where You Fit In

August 14, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Kevin Correia (29) reacts after giving up two runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Los Angeles Dodgers won 11-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why signing Kevin Correia for two years makes sense.

My brother got a raincoat for Christmas this year. If you’ve ever worn a raincoat while biking or hiking around in the spring, you know that a poor quality raincoat can leave you just as damp as if you were wearing nothing at all. A well-made raincoat is actually a pretty nifty piece of engineering.

But my brother didn’t want a raincoat, he wanted a parka. Or new boots. Or a nice pair of choppers. He had asked for this raincoat last spring, but right now he just wanted something to keep him warm. There’s no way that raincoat is going to keep him toasty this winter, and he’s going to have to wait a few months to really put his Christmas present to use.

We all wanted the Twins to sign a big-name free agent starting pitcher this off season, but instead we got Kevin Correia under the Christmas tree. Kevin Correia is not going to keep us warm this winter. He’s not going to lead a rotation, even one as bad as the Twins’. But if we can have a little patience and put it in perspective, I truly believe this signing will pay big dividends for this team in the long run.

We’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re getting with Correia, right? A back-end starter, plain and simple. But every potential starter in the Twins rotation other than Correia has major question marks surrounding him coming into the season. Let’s take a look:

Scott Diamond had minor off-season surgery and will probably regress from 2012

Vance Worley had surgery in September and may have difficulty transitioning from the NL

Kyle Gibson has pitched a total of 6.2 innings above high-A since returning from Tommy John surgery

Mike Pelfrey is returning from Tommy John surgery and is switching leagues

Liam Hendriks has struggled in the Majors to this point, particularly with consistency

Rich Harden has had a rash of injuries the past few years, and would need to be on an innings limit if starting

With this mess of injuries, inning limits and other question marks, the Twins are going to need a solid long reliever. In fact, looking at the second half of 2013 and into 2014, the Twins may be more in need of a long reliever than any other team in baseball. That’s when we can expect to start seeing the likes of Trevor May and BJ Hermsen, and possibly Alex Meyer breaking into the big leagues.

In an ideal world, 2014 will see five talented but young pitchers in the Twins rotation, some sort of mix of Diamond, Worley, Gibson, Hendricks,

May, Meyer and Hermsen. Young pitchers get to the majors early because they have the talent to get the job done. But they also tend to be inconsistent.

That’s where signing Correia for two years really starts to make sense. Someone like, say, Trevor May might be lights-out one night, but get knocked out after three innings in his next start. With so many young pitchers, these short starts could easily become a semi-regular occurrence.

Who do you want going out to the mound in the third or fourth inning on a semi-regular basis to try to give a bunch of young batters a chance to put some crooked numbers up and steal a win, Anthony Swarzak? No thanks. Don’t get me wrong, I like Swarzak, but consistency is not his strong suit. A veteran presence on a young team will help when these young starters undoubtedly get beat up early in some games.

Kevin Correia has experience as a reliever, and has actually put up decent numbers in that role. Not great, but decent, and he’s been pretty consistent, which is the sort of thing that comes with experience. Through the first four innings, Correia sports a career ERA of 4.00. I can live with that from a long reliever. It’s after those first four innings that he starts to fall apart.

I want Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee and company to feel that they have a chance to turn a game around when the going gets tough, and I believe that’s where Correia will show his true value. Like it or not, the Twins are going to have an increasing number of young, talented position players learning on the job in the big leagues, and the importance of confidence for young hitters―the mental part of the game―shouldn’t be underestimated.

Look, if Kevin Correia ends up in the starting rotation for the next two years, then it’s going to be a very long two years. But if he ends up as our long reliever sometime around the middle of 2013 and beyond, he could be exactly what this team needs. As cold as it is right now, the spring rain isn’t too far off, and my brother bikes everywhere he goes. It’s all about perspective and a little patience. The Twins just need Kevin Correia to get in where he fits in.


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Tags: Aaron Hicks Alex Meyer Anthony Swarzak BJ Hermsen Chris Parmelee Kevin Correia Kyle Gibson Liam Hendriks Mike Pelfrey Minnesota Twins Oswaldo Arcia Rich Harden Scott Diamond Trevor May Vance Worley

  • Brad Swanson

    I can’t argue with your logic. If he had signed a 1 year, 5 million dollar contract, I would have been all “ok, cool.” The second year is hard for me to digest, but looking at it your way makes sense. I just don’t think he would have been in huge demand next off-season either. I guess that was a risk the Twins were not willing to take.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13948569 Benjamin Emerson Noble

      I have no clue if it will all work out like this, and I don’t know what the Twins reasoning really was for signing him to that contract…but that’s how I would use him over the next couple of years…

      • Brad Swanson

        I am a big proponent of not compounding mistakes. I’d be pleased if the Twins used him in the way you described. They already owe him the money, at least this would be a role he could provide some value in. Great take!

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Harley-Schultz/1284010792 Harley Schultz

          why do we need to constantly assume that Correia will not succeed for the Twins this season. Maybe he will maybe he won’t lets play the games and then make up our minds.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13948569 Benjamin Emerson Noble

            That’s a mantra we all need to keep in mind this time of year, for every player. Fresh season, fresh start, one game at a time. Still, it’s hard not to get caught up in projecting what will happen with a team and players in a game we’re all emotionally invested in, to one degree or another…

  • Eric Hustad

    Well I was wondering how the signing made sense and it’s not a bad idea. Being the optimist that I am he may end up being a decent addition to the rotation or bullpen. I was really hoping that we would spend some money this winter on a better starter or two. A couple of long relief guys are probably a must this year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13948569 Benjamin Emerson Noble

      …and the long relief will come in even more handy next year, I hope…I’m an optimist, too, at heart, and there’s just too much hate going around for a dude that has yet to show up for spring training…I trust Terry Ryan and his track record, for the most part, and a GM doesn’t come out and straight up say, “hey, looking forward, we’ve gotta lock up a solid long reliever.” That doesn’t sell tickets. It’s early February: I’ll save my disappointment and disgust for October, if it comes to that.

  • Eric Hustad

    When I first saw the signing I couldn’t help but think “yuck”. After reading all the bashing of the guy I am pulling for him now and I too like Ryan. He brought life back into the organization when all looked lost and he does a good jobs with trades. I just hopes he can bring back the fire that the team played with in the early to mid 2000.

  • wachsta

    So Hicks, Arcia and Parmalee are going to learn how to play “when the going gets tough” by watching opposing hitters smoke Correia offerings in key situations?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13948569 Benjamin Emerson Noble

      No, not at all…when a young starter like Meyers, et al. has a rough start–which is the nature of the beast that is young starters learning on the fly–Corriea can come in to pitch, in the 2nd or 3rd inning, and toss 3-4 solid innings of long relief. His numbers show that he can do that; it’s after going through the order a couple of times that he starts to have trouble…which is also why I think he’ll fail as a starter. And I don’t want him coming into the game in key situations, not at all.

      If a starting pitcher is getting pulled in the 2nd or 3rd inning, his team is already down by a considerable margin, so he wouldn’t be coming into the game in ‘key situations.’ For ‘key situations,’ I’m going with the baseballreference.comdefinition of ‘high-leverage situations,’ found here: http://www.baseball-reference…..

      In that sort of ‘low-leverage situation,’ if the Twins are already down, say 5 runs in the 3rd inning, Correia’s number show he can bridge the gap to, say, the 7th inning, minimizing additional runs while saving bullpen arms for another day.

      By minimizing additional runs scored against the Twins, this would allow our young hitters like Hicks, Arcia and Parmelee to have the confidence that, if they DO put up some crooked numbers over the next few innings while Correia is pitching in long relief, the game probably won’t get out of hand, their offensive efforts won’t be for naught, and they might have a chance for a comeback victory if everything comes together.

      What I’m trying to say is, having a solid long reliever is key for a young team’s confidence. This most likely isn’t going to be a veteran lineup moving forward, and they’re going to struggle at times. That’s what young teams do.

      Let me put it this way: if you’re a young hitter, and you’re down by 5 runs in the second inning, and your starter has already been pulled, are you going to be more confident that you can focus and help your team come back if your long reliever will consistently allow one or two runs over the next 4-5 innings, or having a total crapshoot on the mound that very well might let the game turn into an embarrassment?

      I don’t like Correia’s numbers as a starter, and he hasn’t done very well in short relief, high-leverage situations, but his numbers do suggest that he could be a really solid long reliever.

      Wow, sorry, that was really long-winded. But I see why the way I worded that could have been confusing, and other people might have read it the same way you did, so I wanted to clarify.

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