All was quiet on the Minnesota Twins transaction front both Sunday and Monday but Tuesday, July 23rd, brought another flurry of moves. Six pitchers were involved as we had a retirement, a release, a demotion, the promotion of a 2013 draftee and the undeserving promotions of two veteran hurlers with nearly 1,600 major league innings between them.
Will Blackburn pitch for the Twins in the majors again? (Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Assigned to Cedar Rapids (from Elizabethton): RHP Brian Gilbert (20) – was the Twins’ 7th round pick out of Seton Hall University this June and he’s already pitched his way to the Midwest League. With the E-Twins he made five relief appearances and allowed just one hit and one walk in 6.0 innings of work. He also struck out seven Appalachian League batters for good measure. Gilbert’s first outing with the Kernels (2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO) on Wednesday wasn’t as smooth but the former college closer is off to a fantastic start as a professional.
Assigned to New Britain (from Fort Myers): RHP Kyle Davies (29) – has a 5.59 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 1.92 SO/BB in 768.0 major league innings pitched. That’s good for a career 77 ERA+ which, in case you’re not aware, is not good. With all that experience he should, even when rusty, be able to have success and dominate in the Florida State League. Instead he tossed 24.2 innings in five starts with Fort Myers giving up 28 hits, three home runs and 13 walks along the way. On Tuesday he made his first start with New Britain and on a positive had six strikeouts without issuing a walk. However he gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 3.2 innings. As any Royals fan can tell you, that’s vintage Davies.
Assigned to New Britain (from Rochester): LHP Blake Martin (27) – has walked 6.5 hitters per nine innings this season. In his career – which covers 341.0 innings over six seasons – that number is 5.7 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon. Tuesday’s demotion marks the second time this season that Martin will be pitching in Double-A and at 27 years old you have to wonder how much longer the 2008 17th round pick will be in the system.
Assigned to Rochester (from New Britain): RHP Nick Blackburn (31) – continues to work his way “back,” but make no mistake that he has a long ways to go. In two starts with the Rock Cats he produced a 10.2 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO pitching line. Hardly anything that would inspire confidence that he can provide value to the major league rotation, or bullpen for that matter, later this season. Blackburn matched the “output” from his two Double-A starts in half the time giving up 10 hits and 6 earned runs in just 5.0 innings with Rochester on Tuesday. His 4-year, $14 million contract thankfully comes to an end after the 2013 season – unless the team inexplicably picks up the $8 million team option for the 2014 season. For two seasons (2008, 2009) Blackburn was a slightly above average major league starter but those days feel like a very distant memory now.
Released by New Britain: RHP Bruce Pugh (25) – had a breakthrough year in 2012. But after posting a 1.94 ERA with 55 H, 31 BB and 72 SO in 69.2 IP last season, the wheels came off in 2013. Now that breakthrough looks more like an aberration than a substantive step forward. In 33.2 innings this year, primarily with New Britain (25.1), Pugh has an unsightly 9.36 ERA, 2.07 WHIP and more walks (26) than strikeouts (24). Minnesota’s 2008 19th round selection still has a live arm and that may earn him a look with another organization but his mechanics remain a mess and inconsistency is the byproduct.
Retired from baseball: RHP Caleb Brewer (24) – was a 14th round selection of the Atlanta Braves back in 2007 and proceeded to walk more batters (24) than he struck out (23) in the GCL that year. He missed the entire 2008 season with a hip injury but bounced back in 2009 to post a 2.82 ERA while allowing just 20 hits in 44.2 IP. The strikeout rate was off the charts (13.1 SO/9) but walks were again a problem as he issued a whopping 31 of them. Despite the plethora of free passes, Baseball America tabbed Brewer as the Braves’ 21st best prospect heading into the 2010 season. As a fun side note, that’s five spots better in the rankings than current Twins starter Scott Diamond received that year. After 2009, Brewer’s K rate dropped sharply and at some stops was less than half of that 13.1 SO/9 standard. He was never able to get the walks under control (career 5.5 BB/9) and in recent seasons has been allowing more than a hit per inning as well. Atlanta released Brewer on May 31st and the Twins signed him just five days later but his time in Cedar Rapids did not unfold in a positive fashion. In 20.2 innings he had a 6.53 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and 18-1o SO-to-BB with the Kernels.