When General Manager Thad Levine took over, he knew quite well in order for the Twins to improve, fixing the starting pitching must be priority number 1. Obviously, we all knew that the new leader had to take some time analyzing what the Twins had, but fans’ curiosity peaked when December passed without a pitcher signing. Eventually, he had to do something to keep his promise, and on January 11, the Twins struck deals with two starting pitchers.
The most notable signee that day was Ryan Vogelsong, a 17-year veteran in the league. He was a decent starting pitcher until he was beaned in an eye last May by a Colorado pitcher while batting. Although he returned in August, Vogelsong won just three games in 2016, while finishing with a 4.81 ERA. The 39-year-old won the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 and 2014, while recording a 3.86 ERA and 6 strikeouts in his appearances. Pitching for two National League teams, Vogelsong has a 61-75 career record, while collecting 900 strikeouts. Because of his eye injury and age, the Twins should be careful with him. With that said, Paul Molitor and Pitching Coach Neil Allen should slot Vogelsong in as the 5th starter, if he earns it.
The Twins also signed Nick Tepesch, who is still trying to gain his ground in the Major Leagues. Tepesch signed with the Texas Rangers in 2010 as a 21-year-old. Three years later, he made his debut with the Rangers, posting an 4.84 ERA in 19 appearances, with 17 of those being starts. Then in 2014, Tepesch had just 56 strikeouts with 5 wins. Tepesch missed all of the 2015 season when he experienced inflammation in his elbow and barely pitched last season for the Dodgers. Tepesch would not make an ideal choice for a starter or even a bullpen guy, so I would advise the Twins to start the 28-year-old in Rochester. He just has not shown any consistency in his pitching to show he is ready for the big leagues.
Both Vogelsong and Tepesch will be at spring training starting February 18 on minor-league deals, so their signings are not risky if they perform poorly. It is great that Levine is giving the two a chance, but I really hope our new head honchos will provide the coaching staff with more experienced pitchers. With the signings of catchers Jason Castro and likely back-up Chris Gimenez, hopefully our pitchers will have better support behind the plate this year.
Written by: Michael L. Sack