Monday, August 22, 2011

Is Swarzak this year's version of Duensing?

The last two seasons have seen the Twins insert a young pitcher into their rotation late in the season to give the team a spark for the home stretch. In both of those seasons, the team was fighting for a playoff spot and a division title. Now the Twins find themselves well out of the race but the situation could be presenting itself again. There have been struggles from multiple members of the starting rotation and the team could be forced to make a change with a little over a month remaining in the season.

For the second time in two days, Anthony Swarzak was called on out of the Twins bullpen to relieve the starter. On Sunday, Swarzak threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Nick Blackburn who left with one out in the second. Earlier in the weekend Swarzak had come after a rough outing from Kevin Slowey. Between these two relief appearances, Swarzak threw 86 pitches and allowed only four hits and two runs.

Could Swarzak be this year's version of the Duensing that the Twins relied on in '09 and '10?

Swarzak has made five starts for different reasons throughout the 2011 campaign but he has really latched on to the long-relief role for the Twins. When Scott Baker recently was sidelined with an injury, the team originally discussed using Swarzak in the rotation. His value as a reliable relief pitcher was too much to ignore and the team called-up Slowey to replace Baker.

Stats Summary: Starting Pitcher (Relief Pitcher)
IP: 31.1 (32.1)
ERA: 3.16 (3.34)
WHIP: 1.053 (1.392)
BA: .217 (.268)
BAbip: .225 (.288)

The Twins will be looking to make some changes when the team enters Spring Training next season. Blackburn's injury provides Swarzak with a try-out for a spot in the rotation for the 2012 campaign. There is even the possibility that the Twins will move Blackburn or Brian Duensing to the bullpen to help solidify a noticeable weakness for the team. That would leave the Twins looking at Slowey, Swarzak, or another minor league pitcher to fill spots in the rotation next season. The recent injury to top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson definitely puts a wrench in the long-term plans of the starting rotation.

In the final month of the season, it would be nice for the Twins to see if Swarzak can provide a spark to a starting rotation that has been flickering out in late weeks of summer. The lack of consistency from the starting staff has been frustrating to watch for fans across Twins Territory. The up-and-downs of a team that has underachieved are hard to fathom for an organization that has constantly produced winners in the last decade.

Swarzak might not be a long-term solution as a starting pitcher but the Twins will not know what they have in him unless he is given a shot to be a starter on a consistent basis. The team has already seen what they have in Duensing and Blackburn and now it is time to find out what Swarzak can offer a depleted starting rotation.

Is Swarzak this year's version of Duensing? Only time (and a spot in the starting rotation) will tell.

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