March 21, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Liam Hendriks (62) points during the second inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Twins Spring Training Competition: Rotation

Mar 14, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Dominican Republic pitcher Samuel Deduno (21) reacts after striking out United States second baseman Brandon Phillips (not pictured) during the second inning of the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Going into camp…

The Twins had break-out holdover Scott Diamond, trade acquisition Vance Worley and free agent Kevin Correia slated into the rotation. Fellow free agent Mike Pelfrey, if ready to go Opening Day, would make the rotation four deep; a couple of young pitchers, Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks, were expected to battle for the final spot in the rotation.

Rich Harden signed on as a free agent after battling injuries over the past few seasons, and Sam Deduno pitched well enough towards the end of 2012 to be in consideration for a rotation spot if injuries or ineptitude left the Twins without a fifth starter. A bevy of other starters were nominally in the mix, as well.

How the competition has played out thus far:

Diamond will almost assuredly start the season on the DL, but Pelfrey has looked strong coming back from Tommy John surgery, leaving two spots open in the rotation to begin the year. Harden hasn’t pitched in a spring game for the Twins to this point. Kyle Gibson struggled at times and is no longer in camp, meaning Hendriks will most-likely get another shot at transitioning AAA domination to MLB success to begin the season.

Hendriks hasn’t pitched particularly well overall this spring, but turned in an excellent game last night against the Yankees and finished 2012 on a high note. Unless he completely melts down over the next week-plus, expect the Twins to bring him north on a relatively short leash come April 1 to see if the young starter is finally ready.

After Worley, Correia, Pelfrey and Hendriks, there are three pitchers in the mix for the fifth rotation spot: Deduno, P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries.

Samuel Deduno Lake has seen the vast majority of his work this spring pitching for the Dominicans in the World Baseball Classic. He’s looked electric at times, but the team has mostly watched him from afar. It remains to be seen how the team will judge his international performance against De Vries and Walters, who have both pitched well in camp, but Deduno is squarely in the mix for the rotation.

Walters has pitched 10 innings this spring without allowing a run, racking up seven strikeouts and half a dozen walks over that stretch, leaving his WHIP at exactly 1.

De Vries is on the 40-man roster and has allowed just one earned run over 14 innings. He’s struck out eight while walking four.

Looking ahead:

Any number of possible combinations of Hendriks, Deduno, De Vries and Walters could head north with the team when camp breaks. With Diamond missing a handful of starts to begin the season, two of these pitchers will be in the rotation at the beginning of April, and you can make an argument for each: Hendriks has pitched well in AAA and the team has the most invested in him of the four, Deduno has pitched very well on the international stage, Walters hasn’t allowed a run this spring and De Vries is on the 40-man, while Deduno and Walters are not.

It may come down to the last week of March to decide who the two starters are, but at this point my gut says Hendriks and Deduno head north until Diamond returns from the DL.

 

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