Mailbag: Why consider Ponson?

Mailbag: Why consider Ponson?

There is a lot of intrigue starting to build about the possible starting rotation and the few question marks that remain for the Twins roster. So with a lot to discuss this week, let's dig right in to this edition of the mailbag.

Matt Garza and Glen Perkins have both had a better spring than Sidney Ponson, and it seems the Twins could be making a mistake by choosing the older player. What are your thoughts on Ponson being in the starting rotation?
-- Jamie G., St. Paul, Minn.

Despite Twins manager Ron Gardenhire saying on Day 1 of spring that no pitcher was a lock for the rotation besides Johan Santana, it was clear that the Twins wanted more of a veteran presence on this starting staff. The reason that the club went out and signed Ponson to a Minor League deal was that it felt he was a good risk to take even though the pitcher had seen his share of struggles over the past two seasons.

After a strong outing against his former team, the Orioles, on Friday, Ponson seems to have the edge in the race for the final spot over Garza and Perkins. But just because Ponson might start the year in the rotation doesn't mean that the Twins are going to stick with him if trouble arises. The feeling all along has been that the Twins would like to see both Garza and Perkins get more innings at Triple-A before trying to nab a starting role in the big leagues. A veteran like Ponson might allow the club to let those guys get that experience while knowing that if Ponson starts to struggle, it has more than capable arms waiting in the wings.

If Alejandro Machado is still injured at the end of Spring Training, can he be put on the disabled list or does he have to be put on the 25-man roster or offered back to the Washington Nationals at that time?
-- Nancy E., Argusville, N.D.

A Rule 5 Draft pick can start the year on the disabled list if he is not able to compete. But after that stint on the DL is over, Machado would then have to remain on the 25-man roster for the rest of the season or he would likely end up back with his original team.

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Right now, Machado is in the process of trying to prove himself by making his way back to the field. He's starting to hit in some Minor League games and he's been taking lots of infield drills. The club has 12 days until the end of camp and it appears that they will make Machado show them he can be that backup shortstop that they need if he is to make the club at all.

Is Kevin Slowey going to be "Brad Radke the Sequel"? Will he use his finesse to nab a spot on the starting rotation sometime this year?
-- Nick H., Mankato, Minn.

Putting the label of "Brad Radke the Sequel" on the 22-year-old seems a bit premature, but there is no doubt that Slowey has good stuff. He doesn't throw hard, like Radke, and his pitching style is all about control, also like Radke. Slowey has impressed the coaching staff with the movement of his pitches and his ability to use both edges of the plate. Slowey also produced results as his only rough outing of the spring came in his last game when the Phillies blooped him to death to score three runs.

I don't think it's a long shot to say that we'll see Slowey at some point this year in the Majors. The Twins sent Slowey down to Minor League camp on Sunday, but it was more of a move to get him innings and prepare him for the season than an indication that he's not ready for the big show. No matter what, he will probably be a September callup. But if the rotation has issues and needs another arm, it seems like Slowey would be a legitimate option.

What is the Twins' backup plan if Nick Punto decides to come back to reality this season? I see third base as a real weakness if Punto goes back to being the Punto of old. Do the Twins have any good prospects in the Minors?
-- Adam B., Minneapolis

There doesn't appear to be much concern of that happening this year. While Punto hasn't had a starting job for an entire season, he really spent over half of '06 playing every day at third base. That being said, one of the reasons that the Twins signed Jeff Cirillo was to have an experienced backup for Punto at third, as well as someone to spell Justin Morneau at first base if necessary. So far this spring, Punto has shown that he's adapted very well to playing third and has worked at perfecting his defensive skills at the position. His offense hasn't seemed to backtrack, either, so the Twins are willing to see how it plays out this season.

As for prospects, the Twins' possible third basemen are still a few years away from being ready. Matt Moses is considered to be the club's best option for the spot, but the club wants to see more out of him both offensively and defensively. David Winfree also seems to be a rising option at third base, but after playing only about half a year at Class A Fort Myers in '06, he still needs some time and work to be ready as well.

Jason Tyner is one of my favorite players and one of the original "Little Piranhas," but I haven't heard boo about him this spring. With Jason Kubel doing so well, and getting the starting nod as the designated hitter and fourth outfielder, is Tyner going to be trade bait this season, possibly to get a backup shortstop or starting pitcher?
-- Curt R., Burnsville, Minn.

With Lew Ford expected to start the year on the DL due to his arthroscopic knee surgery, there is no way that Tyner can be viewed as trade bait. Tyner is the only possible outfielder still in camp that can play center field. While Kubel is viewed as an outfield possibility, he lacks the range to play center and the Twins like using him as the DH for right now. So that means that Tyner still appears to be the primary backup outfielder, and considering how well he played after getting the callup last season, the Twins are more than happy to keep him in that spot.

After watching Carlos Silva struggle against the Yankees on Wednesday and lead the American League with the worst ERA and most home runs allowed, and Ramon Oritz having two straight years of ERA's over 5.50, why would Gardenhire say they are "locks" to make the starting staff? It seems ridiculous to throw guys out there who are so much below the league average. Why not go with the young guys who are cheaper and have more talent?
-- John F., Crystal, Minn.

The Twins spent a combined $7.45 million on Silva and Ortiz this offseason so it seems that the club is willing to give them a chance to at least start the year in the rotation. Ortiz has shown this spring that possibly a little help from pitching coach Rick Anderson was all he needed to get back in form. It's hard to use spring as a perfect indicator, but Ortiz has been strong so far and looks to have his sinking fastball, changeup and breaking ball all in good form. The Twins like his enthusiasm and have been working to keep the excitable Ortiz calm to prevent the "big inning" that has plagued him in the past.

As for Silva, there is no question that his sinker still isn't completely back to the form it was in '05. Silva has been working very hard on some of his complement pitches to try to help hide the fact that his sinker still isn't perfect. Right now, it appears as if his changeup is his second-best pitch. Recently, Santana has been working with his close friend and teammate to get that pitch to work well.

The Twins are placing their hopes in these two pitchers getting their form back this season. But there is no question from listening to the coaches that if they don't produce, the team won't hesitate to go to some of its young arms. There are many more experienced young options for the club this year than last season when the rotation had issues. So right now it's all about the veterans, but those talented young arms won't be ignored if problems arise.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.