The eight possible starters for the Twins are divided into four categories below. There is still a lot left to prove in the Twins rotation and Spring Training will be the time to separate the men from the boys.
The One, Two Punch (Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano)These are the easiest two spots to fill-in the rotation for next year. There is a good chance that Liriano will get the Opening Day nod at the Blue Jays. But Gardenhire might decide that the wily veteran, Pavano, should get the start. Either way the Twins will be putting a lot of pressure on these two pitchers in the coming season. They were the only starters on the team in 2010 with a below four ERA, 190+ innings pitched, and 30+ starts. In order for the team to succeed in 2011, they will need to get a repeat performance from their one, two punch.
Time to Show Us Something (Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Kevin Slowey)These three starters have had their share of ups and downs in recent seasons. The time has now come for each of them to step up and show the organization and their fans that they belong in this rotation. Each of the players in the categories below this are going to be clawing at the chance to show their stuff in the rotation. One of these players needs to step-up and become the outright number three starter in the rotation. Both Baker and Blackburn have the contracts that should put them in the top four spots in the rotation. Compiling bad starts at the beginning of the year could see these players packing their bags for another city.
Deserves a Chance, But... (Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins)For the job that Brian Duensing has done in the second half of the last two seasons, he deserves a spot in the starting rotation. One of the problems is that he hasn't had the opportunity to start from the beginning of a season yet in his big league career. The Twins know that he can be a reliable relief option and with so many holes in the bullpen, that might be the role he is asked to repeat. If there are any early struggles from the "Time to Show Us Something" crew, Duensing will be the first arm to turn to for the Twins. Perkins struggled through different portions of last season. He could be another option to fill an long-relief role as he did at the end of last season. There are still areas of his pitching that needed to improve, including being a lefty that can get lefties out. Perkins has shown some promise but he will have to show a lot in Spring Training to make the rotation.
The Young Gun as a Wild-Card (Kyle Gibson)With Gibson's rapid rise in the organization last year, Twins fans have been clattering to see what this young starter will be able to accomplish at the major league level. The organization is going to have to make room for him in the rotation if Gibson continues to perform at the minor league level. Other starters might need to get traded or reassigned but Gibson will be given a shot in 2011. What he does with that chance, will decide which one of the above categories he belongs in. Hopefully he will become the third piece of the Twins one, two punch.
Here are some links to other stories about the Twins pitching situation:
~Parker H. of the Over the Baggy Blog looked at what the Twins should do with the excess of starting pitching.
~Nick of Nick's Twins Blog wrote Kevin Slowey: Know When to Hold 'Em
~Jesse of Twinkie Town did an interview with Seth Stohs about the pitching prospects in the Twins organization.