Twins’ rotation shooting for 1,000 innings

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Veteran pitcher James Shields, upon his recent arrival in San Diego, wasted no time in setting a lofty goal for the Padres' rotation.

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Veteran pitcher James Shields, upon his recent arrival in San Diego, wasted no time in setting a lofty goal for the Padres’ rotation.
One thousand innings.
Should the Twins be thinking in similar terms?
Ricky Nolasco doesn’t see why not.
“It’s definitely doable,” the veteran right-hander said this week as he entered his second spring training with the Twins. “Yeah, it takes a lot for that to happen; it takes a lot of guys to stay healthy. But I don’t see how, if we all make 33 or 34 (starts), we shouldn’t be able to do that.”
No Twins rotation has reached the 1,000-inning mark in a decade. In 2005, they were among nine big-league rotations to hit quadruple digits. All nine posted winning records, and five reached the postseason - though not the Twins.
Twins starters fell 13 outs shy of 1,000 innings in 2010, the last time the franchise made the postseason, but over the past three years their bottom-feeding rotations have sagged to an average of 888. Not coincidentally, those rotations have finished in the bottom two in major league earned-run average all three years.
Now along comes free-agent addition Ervin Santana, who has been part of five 1,000-inning rotations in his decadelong career. He was not aware of that personal history but likes the idea of making it happen again this year.
“That makes me happy because that means progress,” he said. “That’s the mentality you have to bring to a different ballclub - just take the ball every five days. Don’t think about it. You’re just going to go seven innings. Just take it one inning at a time, one pitch at a time, and everything is going to come true.”
Although Nolasco’s 2012 Miami Marlins fell 18 innings shy of 1,000, Phil Hughes knows the feeling Santana knows. Hughes’ 2012 New York Yankees made the postseason behind one of just four 1,000-inning rotations in the majors that year.
Overall, it has happened just 11 times in the past three seasons.
“If you tell me right now that all five guys in the rotation are going to make 30 starts, I’d say that we’re going to be in good shape,” Hughes said. “As you get going, you find that guys feed off each other. One guy goes out and throws well, the other guy kind of takes the baton. You can get in kind of a rhythm and a flow with each other.”
Despite a personal breakthrough for Hughes last season, that sort of rotational flow was hard to produce in Minnesota.
“I feel like we didn’t really establish too much of that last year,” Hughes said. “It seemed like we’d put up a couple good starts and somebody would get hurt and we’d take a step backwards. Every good team I’ve been on, it’s seems like the rotation gets on a roll and guys start to feed off each other. I think we need to do that.”
Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, expected to be the No. 4 starter, agrees.
“I think it can be done, for sure, and I think we’ve got guys that can do that,” Gibson said. “If you’re getting to 200 innings (individually), you’re having a really good season. That’s why 200 innings is pretty important. You’re not going to get to 200 innings with a five ERA. You’re going to be a sub-4 and you’re going to have a solid season.”
Gibson contributed 179ƒ innings last season and has set his goals on 200, a mark Santana has crossed five times.
“Yeah, 200 innings is being durable and going out there every start,” Gibson said, “but you’re also going deep into the game; you’re saving the bullpen. If we could get five guys to do that, then I think things would turn around really quick, and that’s definitely a goal.”
New Twins pitching coach Neil Allen, who knows Shields from their time with the Tampa Bay Rays, likes the idea of 200 innings as an individual goal. But he isn’t ready to slap his rotation with that 1,000-inning barometer.
“I wouldn’t want to put that pressure on this pitching staff,” Allen said. “I’m new on the block, so I’m not going down that avenue. Now, James Shields just got $80 million. He can say those things.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.

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