Monday, August 16, 2010

Slowey Taking His Foot Off the Brakes

Ron Gardenhire faced a troublesome dilemma late in yesterday's game.

Kevin Slowey had just wrapped up a seventh hitless inning against the Athletics, putting him on track to hurl the Twins' first no-hitter in almost 11 years. His pitch count sat at 106.

Gardenhire decided to pull Slowey. It was the right decision. Normally, I don't prescribe to the notion that a pitcher's arm is being horribly taxed every time a manager lets him creep over the 100-pitch mark, but Slowey was pitching on extended rest due to elbow soreness that had been bothering him earlier in the week. He's too vital to the Twins' playoff hopes to risk injury for the sake of a personal achievement.

Slowey might have had a shot at the no-no had he done a better job of keeping his pitch count in check, but this is an issue that has plagued him all season long. Whether due to lack of efficiency or lack of stamina, Slowey has regularly been unable to last deep into games this year. It's not because of ineffectiveness -- Slowey has allowed more than four runs only six times in 22 starts.

In those 22 starts, he has also pitched into the seventh inning just six times. While he was brilliant yesterday, the game was emblematic of his plight this season; Slowey was extremely advanced and poised in his approach, but his lack of truly outstanding stuff forced him to sometimes be too fine around the strike zone (three walks) and also resulted in a lot of extended at-bats from two-strike foul balls. Even when he's at his best, which he clearly was yesterday (a fifth inning in which he struck out the side after Alexi Casilla put the leadoff man on second with a brutal throwing error sticks out to me as the the highlight of Slowey's season thus far), it seems he's still just a few notches short of the elite caliber he flashed in the minors.

That's no slight. Slowey is a very good pitcher and a guy who I have always viewed as a potential borderline ace. He's been spectacular over his past handful of starts, and yesterday's pseudo no-hitter stands out as his best effort yet. His inconsistent work over the first several months of the season was baffling, but Slowey now seems to be settling in and his timing could not be better.

Is he an ace? Maybe not -- Slowey's best work has still come against relatively weak lineups and few would expect the same type of excellence against an upper echelon offense. Fortunately, with Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano already leading the pack, the Twins don't need Slowey to be an ace. He's looking like a damn good middle-of-the-rotation option, however, and is taking some significant strides in what is becoming an interesting race to earn a start in a potential postseason series.


thanatoschristou said...

Coulddn't agree more with you assessment of Slowey as a darn good middle-of-the-rotation guy. Liriano has truly ace stuff, Pavano is a very good number 2, Duensing one of the better number 3s, and Slower is all of a sudden a great number four. A rotation that was the one glaring weakness could all of a sudden carry us through the postseason..

Ryan said...

I completely agree that it was the correct call to take him out when he did. Had he not just missed a start due to his elbow soreness I may have felt differently about it but as I was watching yesterday I just got the feeling that he was going to hurt himself if he kept going.

It's tough to take a guy out when he has a chance at history but it wouldn't have been worth it if Slowey turned out to be worthless for the rest of the year because he put too much strain on his arm in this one game.

Ed Bast said...

A few good starts and the guy's a borderline ace? Six weeks ago people were clamoring for him to be sent down. Let's tone it down a little, shall we?

Nick N. said...

A few good starts and the guy's a borderline ace? Six weeks ago people were clamoring for him to be sent down. Let's tone it down a little, shall we?

I think that's his upside, and always have. Your comment indicates to me that you probably didn't finish reading the article, since I pointed out in the very next paragraph that in spite of his recent success Slowey is decidedly *not* an ace but rather a very good mid-rotation guy.

Is that toned down enough for you?

Matt said...

Were the Twins in 4th place, 15 games out, Slowey comes out for the eigth and possibly ninth. It was the right call, all things considered.
Now, can we count on Rauch in the playoffs and coming down the stretch? Not looking like it right now... We'll need all hands on deck to win a playoff series, and Rauch is a big part of that.

Nick N. said...

Now, can we count on Rauch in the playoffs and coming down the stretch? Not looking like it right now... We'll need all hands on deck to win a playoff series, and Rauch is a big part of that.

All I can say is that he's making the Capps acquisition look better and better all the time.

Ed Bast said...


Sorry for disagreeing, man, jeez. And you decidedly did not say Slowey is "decidedly *not*" an ace but rather "maybe not". The implication is there.

Anyway, apologies, I'll limit my comments to instances of total agreement with the sentiments of the post in question.

Nick N. said...

Ed, I think the tongue-in-cheek nature of my retort was lost in the digital translation. Didn't mean to be snappy. I'd like to think you comment enough here to know that I won't hold you hostage for your viewpoint nor would I blame you for failing to finish one of my articles. :)

CA said...

This is pure speculation, but it would've been interesting to see what Gardy would have done if Slowey had a perfect game intact after 7 innings (as opposed to "just" a no-hitter).

I think Slowey still would have been pulled (and rightly so), but the controversy would have been something to see.

Nick N. said...

It's hard to imagine Slowey could have run up 106 pitches in seven innings while retiring every batter he faced.

Anonymous said...

this speaks volumes about the fire inside slowey. most guys would not ever let the manager take him out during a no-hitter no matter what. i know that the most important thing is that we won the game, but i would have liked to see slowey at least try and get gardy to leave him in.

he could have gone out there and thrown at 70%. if someone gets a hit, then take him out. it's only 6 outs and the a's aren't good hitters. you have to at least attempt to finish it.

he missed 1 start because of a sore elbow. 1 start, that is it! guys like slowey and baker need to show some guts or i wouldn't have any faith in them in a big game. remember that TK was contemplating taking jack morris out of game 7 in 91 and jack wouldn't let him. we would never see that out of either of these guys in any game.

i can see gardy wanting to protect him, but i can't understand why slowey wouldn't want to finish.

Nick N. said...

this speaks volumes about the fire inside slowey.

To you, it speaks about the fire inside his belly. To me, it speaks about the brain in his head.

Slowey's a smart guy. He knows he's been having elbow problems. He knows he was starting to look a little shakier in that seventh inning. He knows he had to watch the team's pennant chase last year from the sidelines. And he knows he's pitching damn well right now and a key to this team's success.

Frankly, I wish more players were willing to look at things with such clarity rather than obsessing over personal achievements.

Anonymous said...

it was a sore elbow. if they were that worried about it, he shouldn't have even thrown 100 pitches. i am sure someday he will regret not going for the no-hitter. he might never have another chance.

i know that personal achievements mean nothing, but this is something that most pitchers never accomplish. more than likely he would have given up a hit in 1 of the last 2 innings and been done, but if he doesn't want the ball in that situation i think it was more than "protecting his elbow."

Anonymous said...

Slowey doesn't have, nor has he ever had "outstanding stuff". I'm not sure he even has average stuff. But when he has outstanding command he can be a great pitcher. According to Tom Kelly his command was significantly better when he watched him come up through the minors. Even in 2008 Slowey would have games where he wouldn't miss the black more than 3 times in a game. I haven't seen it this year, even in his last few outings. With his command he's shown in the last 2 seasons he's at best a 4th starter. Not too shaby.

col. fletcher prouty

Minnesota Masher said...

Absolute right call to pull him. I hope the majority would agree that if Delmon Young were playing left field, this discussion wouldn't be a discussion.

Who knows, maybe if everything works out right Slowey will have another chance to achieve his personal feat... in the playoffs!