Monday, July 27, 2009
The Twins beat the White Sox last night and thus gained a game in the standings on both Detroit and Chicago, but any sort of celebration has been tempered with the news that Kevin Slowey will be out for the rest of the season. This hardly comes as a shock, since his season appeared to be over when he was shut down on Friday, but now it's official. Slowey needs surgery to remove a bone chip in his wrist, an injury he sustained when he took a line drive off the bat of Juan Uribe last September. The Twins have taken a lot of criticism for their handling of injuries over the past few years (namely Pat Neshek and Boof Bonser), and a lot of fans are understandably upset that this wasn't taken care of sooner. However, surgery is generally a last resort in treating bone chips (Manny Corpas tried a similar rest/rehab approach before having surgery), and it is the sort of injury that a pitcher could pitch through as long as the pain isn't too terrible. The prognosis for this kind of operation is usually good, so Slowey should make a full recovery. It's just unfortunate that he won't be ready to pitch again until next year.
The loss of Slowey highlights the biggest problem facing the organization: the lack of depth in the starting rotation. It was something I was concerned about heading into the season, since pitchers tend to get injured and can be more difficult to replace than position players. Anthony Swarzak now has a full-time job in the rotation, which leaves Brian Duensing and R[uns] A[llowed] Dickey as the only other options to fill out the rotation should someone else go down. While Detroit and Chicago aren't exactly running away with the division, it's tough to see the Twins making the playoffs this year. On top of the holes in the middle infield and the bullpen, the starting rotation now needs to be addressed and it's looking less and less likely that the Twins are going to make any major moves at the trade deadline. It's unfortunate, too, because while this season might be a wash, the Twins have a core of talented young players that will help them contend next season (and beyond if they actually succeed in locking up Mauer). Acquiring a good middle infielder such as Freddy Sanchez, or reliever such as Scott Downs, with one more season left on their contracts would at least put them in a good position to make a deep run in the playoffs next year.
On a side note: besides being one of the best pitchers in the rotation, Slowey is definitely my favorite of the five starters (and second only to Joe Nathan on the entire staff). He's just so much fun to watch. His fastball tops out at about 89 mph, and yet he still posts a very good 6.94 K/9 rate. I used to love watching Johan make quick work of even the best hitters with his devastating changeup, but it's even more satisfying to watch major-league hitters flail away at a four-seamer that rarely touches 90 mph. Greg Maddux and Brad Radke made me fall in love with pinpoint control and the art of deception, and while I hesitate to place Slowey in their company just yet, he's about the closest thing the staff has had to an ace since Johan departed.