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buzzsaw

Twins rotation

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buzzsaw

Another copy and paste job from ESPN:

Twins' rotation has 'survived' and excelled By Phil Rogers

Special to ESPN.com

Crisis? What crisis?

You've got to admire the way the Minnesota Twins have responded to the loss of rookie left-hander Francisco Liriano.

From general manager Terry Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire all the way down to Hall of Fame bullpen coach Ron Stelmaszek, they felt sorry for themselves for about 10 minutes last Wednesday and then began figuring out how to get to the World Series without Johan Santana's co-star. Their calm appears to have rubbed off on the guys who really matter -- Carlos Silva, Scott Baker and rookies Boof Bonser and Matt Garza, the starters who must pick up the slack.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The loss of Francisco Liriano hasn't adversely affected the surging Twins.Last weekend in Cleveland, the Twins took three out of four from the Indians, with the only loss coming in Santana's start. Every starter pitched into the sixth inning -- plenty deep enough given Minnesota's deep, powerful bullpen -- and the four combined to allow eight earned runs in 26 2/3 innings.

"We've survived everything that's happened so far,'' said catcher Mike Redmond. "We lost Shannon Stewart and Torii Hunter and Lew Ford, and we've lost pitchers, and we've played the best ball in franchise history. This doesn't change our mind-set."

Best baseball in franchise history? We'll forgive Redmond if he has forgotten those World Series victories in 1987 and '91. He's been through a lot and a tough road lies ahead.

The Twins won that '87 Series with the great Les Straker working as the No. 3 starter behind Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven. The situation seems even direr this time around, as the Twins could have trouble identifying a No. 2 starter.

Take Santana, Liriano and injured workhorse Brad Radke out of the equation and the Twins' starters would have a 6.15 ERA this season. Silva, Bonser, Garza and Baker have gone 23-31 with a 5.56 ERA in 66 starts.

Yet Bonser, Silva and Baker were up for the challenge in Cleveland. Perhaps that basic confidence is essential for a pitcher, and the Twins have figured out how to keep their guys in the right frame of mind.

Consider how they set the rotation after Liriano suffered his second elbow injury, permanently derailing a season in which he had been 12-3 with a league-leading 2.16 ERA.

Because Minnesota was off on Monday, Gardenhire could have moved Bonser up a day, starting him in Boston on Tuesday, not Wednesday. That would have meant he needed the fifth starter's spot only two more times. But Gardenhire stuck with the inexperienced Garza, a 2005 draft pick from Fresno State.

Garza, who started this season with Class A Fort Myers, had done a good job in relief of Liriano last Wednesday. Gardenhire didn't want him to lose his rhythm (and his confidence) while working as a long reliever until Saturday.

A side benefit to the decision is that Santana remains scheduled to start in Game 162 against the fading White Sox -- or more likely could be nicely set up to work the first game of a playoff series in New York, or if the Twins can overtake Detroit, against Oakland at the Metrodome.

On the day that Liriano was shut down for the season, the Twins lost 1-0 to Oakland and saw their wild-card lead shrink to 1½ games over Chicago. How many other organizations would have been patient enough not to use the day off to shorten their rotations?

Maybe none.

That wild-card lead now stands at 5½ games as the White Sox, not the Twins, fell into a funk. Here's a look at the starters Gardenhire must count on to help Santana seal the deal and maybe steal a playoff series or two:

Bonser

Boof Bonser

If the playoffs opened tomorrow, the third pitcher acquired from San Francisco in the A.J. Pierzynski heist (behind Joe Nathan and Liriano) would probably be Gardenhire's pick as the No. 2 starter. The 25-year-old Bonser spent almost two full years at Triple-A and seemed ready when the Twins put in a call for him on May 21. He's a big boy (6-4, 260) with a pitcher's frame and has demonstrated a sharpness in his breaking pitches to go with a 92-94 mph fastball. He's made only 16 major league starts, but so far has been unfazed by his surroundings.

Carlos Silva

A strike thrower with minimal margin for error, the 27-year-old veteran has been a huge disappointment in his third year in the Twins' rotation. His ERA has jumped to 5.88 from 3.44 in 27 starts a year ago, when he walked only nine in 188 innings. He's allowing opponents to hit .325. He's due to make his final regular-season start on the final Wednesday, which sets him up to be the No. 2 starter in the playoffs or to start an Oct. 2 playoff game, if it comes to that.

Baker

Scott Baker

After a recent outing, Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, a reporter with a keen eye, referred to Baker's "familiar uncertain look.'' That's not a good trait for a pitcher. It suggests a lot of pitches just out of the strike zone and very few that keep hitters from crowding the plate. But Baker is the most experienced of the Twins' young pitchers, having made nine big-league starts in 2005. He had a 3.35 ERA that season, but his ERA has soared to 6.33 this year. He would seem to need a strong finish just to secure a spot on Gardenhire's playoff staff.

Matt Garza

What a season this kid has had. He's worked at every level in the Minnesota organization except rookie ball and low-A, going 16-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 177.2 innings between Ft. Myers (high-A), New Britain (Double-A), Rochester (Triple-A) and the big leagues. He throws 94-95 mph and can buckle hitters with his slow curve. Garza suffered some shell shock after arriving in the big leagues in August, but has the potential to win big games against top starters. A lot of organizations won't allow a pitcher to work more than 180 innings in his first full season, so the Twins must weigh the heavy workload against his potential to contribute in the postseason.

Radke

Brad Radke

While Radke is only 33, he's pitched with so much pain throughout his career that he's ready to call it quits after this season. He's been out since Aug. 25 with a stress fracture in his shoulder, after previously being sidelined with a possibly career-ending torn labrum, but is throwing in hopes of being the Curt Schilling of the 2006 playoffs. He said he felt a "dull pain'' in his shoulder when he threw off a mound for the first time on Saturday. "I'm on my way out the door,'' Radke says. "If my arm falls off, it falls off."

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Willy

Good article. It's nice to see these young kids step up. Bonser was never really thought of as a top prospect, but he seems to be the better of him and Baker.

Garza has been a stud this year at every level. In the majors he has been like they said "shellshocked". He is coming into his own and getter better with more confidence in his breaking pitches.

Silva - I don't know. Been good lately though.

I would set it up like this

1.Santana

2.Bonser

3.Radke or Silva - maybe both

Bring Garza along to bail out starter and long relief.

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