Sunday, March 26, 2006

Option K

The Twins A, B, and C options in the bullpen haven’t exactly panned out this spring, so yesterday Ron Gardenhire announced that they’re skipping straight to option K.

There is only one pitcher in the Twins farm system who deserves the letter that denotes a strikeout, and that’s Francisco Liriano. Last year he struck out 33 batters in the 23.2 innings as a September call-up. And 112 batters in 91 innings in Rochester before that. And 92 batters in 76.2 innings in New Britain before that. For the mathematically challenged, that’s 237 strikeouts, which nearly matches the 238 strikeouts that Johan Santana rang up.

Oh, and Liriano’s just 22 years old.

So there isn’t a lot of point debating whether Option K belongs in The Show. He would be starting for at least 80% of the other teams in the major leagues, though it appears he won’t have that role for the Twins, given the depth of their starting rotation. Previously, it was thought that if he wasn’t starting in the majors, he would be starting in Rochester. That changed yesterday.

It changed because some of the Twins other options haven’t panned out. Faced with two open spots in the bullpen, they watched Gabe White retire, and they released Darrel May on Saturday. That essentially leaves minor leaguer Willie Eyre and southpaw Dennys Reyes, and there are plenty of questions about both. With Gardenhire’s announcement, it appears the Twins will move either Liriano or Scott Baker to fill one of those spots. It will probably be Liriano, in part because he’s left-handed, and in part because Baker earned that rotation spot last year and is viewed as more mature.

Some will get worked up about this decision one way or the other. Certainly, of the three options, having Liriano in the bullpen is probably the worst possible choice. Most appealing is Door 1, where they have him starting in the majors, developing into the overpowering talent they’ll need to win the division, or win in the playoffs. Door 2 is also a better option, where they send him back to Rochester, which keeps him working everyday while they delay his service time (and his price tag).

But the nice thing about this game show is that all of the prize packages are pretty damn nice. Door 3 gives the Twins a dominating arm the bullpen could use, and might need given the uncertainty about Juan Rincon’s health. It also gives Liriano the chance to show he belongs at this level, and to work everyday with pitching coach Rick Anderson.

But mostly, it gives Twins fans the chance to see one hell of a talented kid. It gives us, on any given night, the opportunity to watch the bullpen and see if the Twins will go with Option K.


Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...

One problem, John. What happens in 2007 when you try to jump Option K from 60 or so innings to 200? In the best case scenario, Liriano starts to hit a wall around the fifth inning and a dead arm around August. The worst case scenario involves a torn labrum and the complete destruction of Liriano's career. A more middling projection is simply Tommy John's surgery. Young arms have a tendency to snap though when the number of innings their workload triple. And while the Santana comp is wonderful, Santana also averaged 157 innings a year while he was "in the pen" in 2002 and 2003. Liriano needs to work about 150 innings this year too if he's going to be a starter in the near future. How do you get him those innings in the big league pen?

fents said...

who's to say that Liriano wouldn't serve in a similar role to Santana? This team, if anything, has always been cautious. I don't see them rolling him out for 60 innings this year and then jumping to 200 next. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go this season in the pen and next year in that occasional start/relief appearance role that Santana did in the past. So maybe he goes 65 innings, 140 next year and then up to 200 the following year. He'll still only be 24-25 at that point so it's like he's being held back.

caluofmn said...

I don't know the actual innings pitched by Silva but he was in the pen with Philly and made a successful move to starting.

Did Silva throw similar innings as Santana did while in the pen or did he throw less but still was able to make the transition?

Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...

who's to say that Liriano wouldn't serve in a similar role to Santana

What do you do with Matt Guerrier then? And who gets the tough lefties out?

That's not the position they're talking about Liriano taking.

I don't know the actual innings pitched by Silva but he was in the pen with Philly and made a successful move to starting.

87 innings in both 2003 and 2003, and he fought a dead arm through July and August of 2004 where he couldn't pitch a good game to save his life. That's the best case scenario. The Twins also tried the move with J.C. Romero and Rick Aguilera and the end result was injury.

This isn't science. There's no way of being 100% certain what's going to happen. You just have to keep in mind that this is a horrible risk to take with one of the best arms to come through the system in a while. Especially when it's not that hard to trade or sign another lefty arm that may not implode.

caluofmn said...

Please excuse the off topic...

The Royals are being promised the All-Star game if they upgrade Royals stadium.

Wouldn't it be nice to be looking forward to the All Star game in MN, or even to read MLB would like to come to MN b/c of the new stadium.

Marker said...

Having Liriano in the Twins bullpen is not the worst case scenario if you think the best option is to have him starting for Minnesota. If (or when, depending on your optimism) one of the Twins starters struggles or has a minor injury, Liriano will be right there to spot start, and he probably will be used that way. If he were in Rochester, they would be reluctant to call him up just for a start or two when Guerrier (or maybe even Gassner) is already on the 25 man roster.

Anyway, I'm with the Twins (as usual) here-- let's make sure that half a year at Rochester wasn't a fluke caused by an unrealistic hit rate (I see his BABIP was .259, when something like .330 would be more typical in AAA) before we start fantasizing about how historically great a pair he and Santana would be. If you take away those numbers, his other stats (like WHIP and ERA) are merely okay. It's not enough to just strike people out. He needs a little polish, some work on his control and some adjustment to major league hitters.

twinstalker said...

Hi, John, welcome back! I just wanted to make you aware that I've started a new blog (who hasn't?) located at

Stop by or maybe provide a link (and tell me how to get all those links on my page!). See you soon.

aka the guy who bought you much Guinness at Bryant Lake Bowl one night 3 or 4 years ago (trying to stay anonymous for now).

fents said...

So we don't Liriano in the long relief/spot starter role because that will mess with Guerrier? Who cares about Guerrier? He's a solid 'pen guy but he doesn't have half the potential of Liriano. The team can't be worried about Guerrier. He's a nice player but if he is all that stands in the way of using Liriano in a role beneficial for the Twins and to the player then you go for it.
I don't see Liriano being used as a LOOGY (and the team doesn't seem to see him in that role either at the moment) so that's a moot point. Reyes and the other good righties can handle the lefties without a whole lot of trouble.

Marker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...

who's to say that Liriano wouldn't serve in a similar role to Santana?


Read this quote in particular.

"If that looks like our best choice to get people out from the left side," Gardenhire said, "and it looks like we'll be able to use [Liriano] quite a bit, then I wouldn't be afraid to do it."

Marker said...

harmon, I think you missed my point

Alternately, I failed to notice that you weren't responding to my comment. Sorry.

spycake said...

Looks like Option K unwisely chose Option DWI:

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