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

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