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Twins pick Scott Baker as fifth starter, send Kevin Slowey to bullpen

Mar 22, 2011, 12:15 PM EDT

Scott Baker

By re-signing Carl Pavano to a two-year, $16.5 million deal the Twins created a rotation logjam with six starters for five spots and today they announced that Scott Baker will be the No. 5 guy, leaving Kevin Slowey bullpen bound as the odd man out.

Baker and Slowey both significantly out-performed Nick Blackburn last season and have similar, if not superior, career marks, yet manager Ron Gardenhire awarded Blackburn his rotation spot weeks ago. As for Baker getting the nod over Slowey, that’s definitely not a surprise.

Not only was Baker the Opening Day starter last season, he’s been a full-time member of the Twins’ rotation since 2007 while posting an ERA below 4.50 in each of those seasons. Oh, and he’s also owed $11.5 million for this season and next, whereas Slowey will get $2.7 million this year with no long-term commitment from the Twins.

All of which isn’t to say Slowey deserves a demotion to the bullpen. He hasn’t been very durable in three full seasons with the Twins, tossing a career-high 160 innings in 2008, but a 4.42 ERA in 82 career starts makes him a perfectly solid mid-rotation guy. There’s been speculation about the Twins souring on Slowey on and off the field for a while now, and my sense is that they’d love to trade him for an impact reliever. In the meantime they’ll hope he can contribute out of the bullpen while serving as insurance should injuries strike or Blackburn bomb again.

  1. trevorb06 - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Blackburn will bomb again and Slowey will start.

    The Blackburn and Baker contracts were huge mistakes but even I was drinking the Blackburn Kool-Aid for a while. I’m not sure what went on with the Baker contract. At least now Smith is making some better decisions by bringing back Pavano and signing Nishi.

    • JB (the original) - Mar 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      The Baker signing wasn’t too surprising as he does have good “stuff”, it’s a matter of consistency (hopefully coming with experience) that the Twins calculated would show up. And, it does have a pretty good possibility of happening. I don’t see Slowey as being effective out of the pen. It just doesn’t jive with his style of pitching. The Blackburn signing still boggles me just like everyone else. When he loses his sinker, he’s atrocious, and how the Twins didn’t see the similarity between him and Carlos Silva, who was/is the same one-pitch (sinker) guy that they let go as a free agent instead of giving him a 4 year deal (that he got with the Mariners), I just don’t know.

      • Tim OShenko - Mar 22, 2011 at 1:47 PM

        Have to disagree with you on Slowey. I think he’d be perfect out of the ‘pen. All last season he was solid for four innings, then would fall apart in the fifth or sixth. By putting him in a long relief role, I think the Twins are playing to his strengths.

        All of this is a moot point, though. By mid-May, Baker will be injured or Blackburn will implode (or both), and Slowey will find himself back in the starting rotation.

      • trevorb06 - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        And if we’re lucky Gibson will be completely shutting down AAA by then and we can call him up in time for the playoffs. :-)

  2. JB (the original) - Mar 22, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Thing with Slowey is though, as a “control” specialist, when he’s “off”, he’s “off” and starts shaking everything off, slowing way down, and ticking off Gardy. He’s kind of a “I know what’s best for me” type of guy (I won’t say Lohse-like, but you get the idea). That isn’t who you want to have to rely on to come in and pitch 3-4 innings when you’re already behind. This demotion isn’t going to do anything to help his disposition, no matter what public face he puts on it. Baker needs to trust his “stuff”, Slowey needs to trust his catcher.

    To me, Slowey didn’t fall apart in the later innings as much as the batters adjusted to him. He isn’t overpowering by any means and relies on fooling the batter and nibbling the corners with his control.

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