As the Twins Magic Number continues to shrink the focus for Twins fans becomes the Postseason. The Twins have a variety of injury concerns that came out of this weekend. Denard Span missed the entire weekend with a sore shoulder. Joe Mauer pulled himself from the Sunday game with a knee problem. Orlando Hudson sat out a game after having a rough stretch at the plate as of lately. Jason Kubel also missed time with a hand injury. The Twins main focus over the next couple weeks should be in getting these players healthy for the postseason, a luxury that the Twins haven't had in the past few postseason runs.
There was much talk over the weekend regarding the Twins setting up their rotation for the postseason (Four-man rotation for Twins if in playoffs). Ron Gardenhire has been very cryptic when talking about the postseason in multiple interviews but most of the information that he has given points to the following. The Twins will use a four-man rotation for the playoffs. The first three spots in that rotation will be filled by Carl Pavano, Fransisco Liriano, and Brian Duensing. The final spot will be filled by either Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, or Scott Baker.
Baker hasn't pitched in awhile so it will be interesting to see how strong he is when he returns on Tuesday. Slowey looked good on Saturday against Oakland. He pitched 6.2 innings only giving up 2 ER. The problem is the 3 starts prior to that the longest he lasted was five innings. At this point it looks like Blackburn is in the front-running for the 4th spot in the postseason rotation. Since he has returned from the minors he has looked very strong in a starting role. He has a quality start in all of these outings. Also he is averaging over 7 innings pitched per game with a 2.18 ERA.
The initial reaction to a Twins rotation in the playoffs would be to put the veteran, Carl Pavano, as the Game 1 starter. The rumbling from the Twins organization is the fact that they would like one of the left-handers to start Game 1 in the postseason. This would allow them to go lefty, righty, lefty, righty for the first four games of the ALDS. I still think this is a mistake. In a 5 game series winning Game 1 is the most important. The Twins should start Pavano in Game 1.
That being said if the Twins still go with their plan, which lefty gets the nod in Game 1?
My vote would be for Brian Duensing. Duensing has been in this position before. He started Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS for the Twins. Granted the Twins were in a tough spot. Less than 24 hours prior they had won an exhausting Game 163. This left them with little to turn to for the game. Duensing was a rookie and he only lasted into the 5th inning while giving up 5 ER. All that said a new Duensing has emerged in 2010. He has more confidence and this will help him in the postseason. Another huge advantage is he won't be pitching on the road in Yankee Stadium. He will be at home in front of a sold-out crowd at Target Field.
Liriano has looked shaky in a lot of pressure filled situations this year. It seems that when the pressure is on he loses confidence in his pitches. When Liriano has been match-up with big name pitchers (Justin Verlander, etc.) he has faltered. In his last couple starts when runners have gotten on he seems nervous on the mound and it has resulted in bad outcomes on the field. In 2010 the Twins have yet to win a game against the Yankees or the Rays that Liriano starts. He has pitched well in some of those games but in the playoffs it is about wins.
My Preferred ALDS Rotation
1. Carl Pavano
2. Brian Duensing
3. Fransisco Liriano
4. Nick Blackburn
Following the Twins Plan (LH, RH, LH, RH)
1. Brian Duensing
2. Carl Pavano
3. Fransisco Liriano
4. Nick Blackburn
I had a fun experience at the Danny Valencia Meet and Greet put on by AME Sports in the Rosedale Center. Danny was really nice and he was coming off of a huge game where he hit a 3-run HR and was player of the game. Check out AME Sports on Facebook they have some pictures to view.