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Twins look to reload pitching staff for '13

Twins look to reload pitching staff for '13

Twins look to reload pitching staff for '13
MINNEAPOLIS -- After finishing a second straight season far from being in contention, the Twins know what they need to do this offseason in order to be competitive in 2013: Acquire pitching, pitching and more pitching.

"We know we need pitching," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have to have starting pitching, and I'm not talking just a few decent arms. I'm talking quality starting pitching. We have to have some people give us a chance."

The Twins didn't have much of a chance in 2012, and the root of the problem was their lack of starting pitching.

Their starters finished with the worst ERA in the American League, and only left-hander Scott Diamond appears to be a lock for next year's rotation.

The Twins don't have much help on the way, either, as last year's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Liam Hendriks struggled to translate his success to the big leagues and top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Minnesota used 12 starters this past season and several will get a chance to make the rotation in '13, but they'll have to earn it come Spring Training.

2012 season wraps
2013 outlooks

Offensively, the Twins appear to be in better shape, as they have no impending free agents among their position players.

The offense was inconsistent at times but still finished around the middle of the pack in most categories in the American League.

So the Twins appear primed to try to deal for pitching help with players such as Denard Span, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau as possible trade chips.

But the Twins won't be making a trade just for the sake of trying to open spots for prospects such as Chris Parmelee, as they're looking to get top pitching in return.

"We're going to have to figure that out on who's going to be here and who's not and how we're going to get pitching," Gardenhire said. "But it's not, 'Let's launch this guy so that this guy can play every day.' Everything we do will be to make this team more competitive to create a better roster around the core guys we have."

So the Twins have plenty of work to do this offseason, and Gardenhire isn't quite ready to say what to expect for next year.

"There are so many things that need to get fixed," Gardenhire said. "How close are we? I don't know. We'll see what we do this winter. We've got pitching problems. We're still trying to figure out a defense, where we're going to play people. There are things to get done. We won't really know how we'll stand next year until we get through the winter."

Contract issues

Free agents: Carl Pavano, RHP

Eligible for arbitration: Brian Duensing, LHP; Jared Burton, RHP; Alexi Casilla, INF; Drew Butera, C; Alex Burnett, RHP

Player options: None

Club options: Scott Baker, RHP, $9.25 million; Matt Capps, RHP, $6 million ($250,000 buyout)

Non-tender possibilities: Casilla

A position-by-position look at where the 2012 roster stands going into 2013.

Catchers: Joe Mauer returned to All-Star form in 2012 but spent only a little more than half of his time behind the plate, as he also saw action at designated hitter and first base. But it kept Mauer on the field, as he passed the 140-games played mark for the first time since '08. Ryan Doumit will remain as the primary backup with Drew Butera as the third catcher on the depth chart.

First Base: Morneau began the season as designated hitter because of lingering injury concerns but ended up moving back to first base and remaining mostly healthy throughout the year. Parmelee is waiting in the wings at first but won't get that chance unless the Twins decide to trade Morneau, who is set to be a free agent after the '13 season.

Second Base: The Twins have some options at second base, including Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier. Dozier is the most intriguing option as he saw plenty of time at shortstop as a rookie but was ultimately optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 12 and never was called back up. Alexi Casilla is likely to be non-tendered but would add depth there if he returned.

Shortstop: The Twins will likely head into camp with Pedro Florimon and Dozier competing for the starting shortstop job. Florimon took over for Dozier in August as the club's everyday shortstop and was plagued by the same inconsistencies as Dozier in his first extended big league action. Carroll and Escobar remain quality backups at shortstop.

Third base: After starting the year in a utility role, Trevor Plouffe took over the third-base job from Danny Valencia in June and responded by having a huge month with 11 homers. Plouffe cooled down later in the season after battling through a thumb issue but the third-base job will be his to lose with Carroll ready to take over there if he falters.

Outfield: The Twins have plenty of outfield depth with regulars Willingham, Span and Ben Revere all under control for next season. Doumit, Parmelee and Plouffe also have outfield experience and add depth there. But the Twins could look to trade either Willingham or Span to improve their pitching, as they have several top outfield prospects in their system such as Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.

Designated hitter: The Twins like to use the designated-hitter spot to give players such as Mauer, Morneau and Willingham a day off from the field. Doumit was considered the regular there in '12 but Mauer and Morneau saw plenty of action at DH and are expected to do the same in '13.

Rotation: Diamond is the only pitcher guaranteed a spot in the rotation after emerging as one of the better lefties in the American League. The Twins will look to add a few arms through free agency or trades during the offseason, as it's their top priority heading into next season. Internal candidates for the rotation include Gibson, Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno and Brian Duensing. They could also decide to bring back Pavano or Baker if the price is right but Baker will likely miss the start of the year, as he's coming off Tommy John surgery.

Bullpen: The back of the bullpen appears set with Glen Perkins at closer and Burton as the top setup reliever. Burnett and Casey Fien were both pleasant surprises while Anthony Swarzak and Duensing fared much better as relievers than as starters. The Twins, though, will still look to add to their bullpen depth but won't be in the market for a closer.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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