With the latest struggles of Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey in the Minnesota Twins’ rotation, a few names have been floated as possible replacements if the Twins ever felt like making an adjustment to their pitching staff. Of the two, Pelfrey is the most likely to have his role reduced and I think he could benefit from a trip to Triple-A to work on his stuff and regain the confidence that he has obviously lost. Some of the possible names that have been floated around as replacements are Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks, Kyle Gibson and Samuel Deduno.
With all of the pitchers, except Hendriks, injuries have been an issue and have hampered their ability to make it to the majors and stick with the team for a prolonged period of time. De Vries had a strong spring training, which earned him a spot in the rotation to start the season, but injuries sent him packing to the disabled list and landed him at Triple-A. The same story can be retold for Deduno who had a magnificent World Baseball Classic, but could not remain healthy enough to join the rotation to start the year.
Hendriks started the year with the Twins, but looked overmatched and needed more seasoning at the Triple-A level. He since has performed well enough at Triple-A to merit a possible promotion back to the majors if need be. He may never become a dominant starter at the majors, but he certainly is showing enough progress to continually be in the conversation of making the rotation. Gibson has one of the biggest upsides of all the candidates, but is still sharpening his game at the minors so he can be dominant once he reaches the majors for good.
One option that I think could be a solid short-term fix, and could give the team the best chance to win some ballgames until one of the injured starters is ready, is Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak has thrived in the long-reliever role with the Twins and always seems to eat up solid innings whenever he takes the ball. So far this season, Swarzak has gone 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA with two walks and 10 strikeouts over 14 innings. Swarzak first came up with the Twins as a starting pitcher and could never hold down the role with any consistency. Once the Twins inserted him in the long-reliever role, he began to flourish.
Do I think that Swarzak could become a long-term solution in the rotation? No I do not simply for the fact that he hasn’t proven that he can sustain his success against hitters multiple times through an order. Since he cannot do that consistently, he is destined for a reliever’s role. However, with that being said, it wouldn’t hurt to give Swarzak another look in the short-term because he could give the team quality innings, whereas Pelfrey is struggling to even get through a start it seems. If Swarzak pitches well, he could remain in the rotation for an extended period of time with Pelfrey or one of the injured pitchers taking over in the long-reliever role. If Swarzak pitches like he has in the past as a starter, then the Twins can remove him and fill in the spot with one of the candidates that I mentioned earlier.
The way I see it, it’s a low-risk move and solution for the Twins to insert Swarzak into the rotation as a potential short-term answer to their ailing starters like Pelfrey. Who knows, it could possibly work out and have some benefits for the team—and for Swarzak—if things go well; but, we will never know unless he gets another opportunity which I believe he has earned. At the very least, it could buy some time for the team until one of the injured pitchers is ready.
Swarzak has shown enough over the last two seasons—and especially this season—to merit another chance at pitching as a starter. If the Twins are willing to give multiple chances to Hendriks to figure it out, Swarzak should also receive another chance. Do I think Swarzak would stick long-term? No I don’t, but he could be a solid short-term solution for the Twins until one of their injured and more talented pitchers are ready to step back into the rotation.
In my book, that is all you’d need out of Swarzak anyway; anything more than that would simply be a bonus.