Twins host winning White Sox tonight at Target Field; starting pitchers still a problem

By saramarsh

 

[picappgallerysingle id=”8629023″]Okay, guys. It’s the second half of the season now. Time to figure it out. For reals.

So, the Chicago White Sox are now leading the AL Central Division by half a game. You read that right – the White Sox have gone on an incredible 24-5 rampage to catapult themselves into first place. And we can’t even feel their wind because we’re all the way back in third, three-and-a-half games behind. That’s right – third. The Detroit Tigers and Miguel Cabrera are in second.

Ugh.

How did this happen? Why? Well, Justin Morneau is out, and there’s still no word on whether he’s recovered enough from the concussion he sustained July 7th sliding into second base. We’re a different team without Morneau – we’re completely built around him, and for good reason. Plus, Joe Mauer’s been in a slump, and he’s got an injured elbow. I love the guy, and I don’t care that he only has four home runs on the season – I do care that he only has 35 RBIs. Batting third, with his history, he should have at least 100 on the season, and right now, he’s gunning for 70. That ain’t cool.

But the real problem has been our starting pitchers, because if they were better, we wouldn’t have to dig ourselves out of such deep holes each game. Other than Carl Pavano, the Twins starting pitchers have been downright vile for the last month-and-a-half. It’s time to figure out what to do with them, or we’re going to be a no show for the second half of the season.

Let’s begin with Kevin Slowey, who starts tonight’s series opening game against the White Sox. I happen to believe that Slowey can be fixed. A little guidance, and I think he can pull out a good, solid second half to the season. We’ll see how he fares tonight opposite Chicago’s starting pitcher John Danks.

Francisco Liriano. What a mess. But how can you give up on an arm like that? You can’t, and you can’t send him down to the minors, or you’ll crush his very delicate ego and destroy any confidence he has left. So, you have to try and help him figure it out in the rotation, and hope that it’s sooner rather than later. I don’t know what that will take since he’s such a head case, but we’ve got to try. The guy is just incredible when he’s on.

Scott Baker. He’s notorious for having a poor first half of the season and then throwing like an ace the second half, so I imagine that will be true this year. I hope so. The thing is, he’s actually been throwing really well for the most part, but he often has one bad inning where he gives up a bunch of runs. We eliminate that problem, and he’s a rock star. I think that’s doable, too.

Nick Blackburn. Ah, Blackburn, you’re a serious problem. When you’re a contact pitcher and you don’t have a sinker, you’re dead in the water out there. It’s like batting practice for the other team. Plus, his ERA is up there in the double digits. I think that the Twins should and will give him one more chance against the White Sox here at home this series. Just one.

If he still can’t find his sinker and blows it (as I expect that he will), they need to either trade him (if they can), or switch him out for Brian Duensing. If they put Duensing, who’s terrific, in the starting lineup and throw Blackburn in the bullpen, then they can keep an eye on Blackburn and see if they can fix him. I’m not sure they can, but it’s that or the minors because he’s under that monstrous four-year contract signed in March of this year, so you may as well see if you can get some use out of him in the bullpen. He was, after all, great in May.

So, if we’re not going to make a trade (and it seems as though we’re in no hurry to do that), I think those are the best options. We have to fix what we’ve got, and in a hurry, otherwise we’re sunk for the season.

It should be an interesting series against the White Sox.

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