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Part Two: Twins pitching wish list

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Following up my Twins position player wish list for the 2011 season, in this article I’m taking a gander at what the Twins hope they get from their current pitching staff in wake of multiple free agent losses in their bullpen.

John Rauch is likely gone, Brian Fuentes reportedly has over ten teams interested in his services (including the deep pockets of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays) and is asking for a multi-year deal worth around $5 million per and Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, staples in the Twins ‘pen for years, have already landed elsewhere.

I like the idea of adding Fuentes back into the mix, but financially that means the Twins would be putting around $25 million into the backend of their bullpen (Nathan, Capps and Fuentes.)

That’s a lot of money to have tied up in three relievers and most likely will be too rich for the Twins blood.

Free agent starter Carl Pavano, a 17-game winner last season for the Twins, is reportedly deciding between re-signing with the Twins or dashing and signing with the Nationals.

And for anyone who doesn’t think we need Pavano because we already have five starters, think again.

Our other three righties (Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey) have been more up and down than the Vengaboys in their major league careers. Pavano provided durability, toughness and consistency beyond anyone else on the Twins staff.

So besides bringing back Pavano, the Twins wish list for their pitching staff includes big years from two emerging lefties and solid comeback seasons from a couple of old faces who could find themselves in prominent roles again in 2011.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano exploded back onto the scene in 2010 after struggling to get back to form following Tommy John surgery in late 2006. He won 14 games, had a low 3.62 ERA and struck-out over 200 batters last season. Previously he had just 11 wins in two seasons following the surgery.

Although he wasn’t quite the same pitcher he was in 2006, he showed he can still be elite even without the same repertoire of pitches that he devastated batters with in route to a 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA in his second season.

My thing with Liriano is that his confidence level seems to fluctuate a lot since the surgery. He also has trouble wiggling out of jams and has a tendency to cave in when the pressure is high. A lot of that can be attributed to a lack of confidence in his stuff a little bit. Nonetheless, he’s still very young and the talent is definitely still there.

The Twins hope he can put it all together in 2011 because he will no doubt be their #1 starter and be pitching in a lion’s share of big games down the stretch.

Brian Duensing

Duensing far exceeded any wishes that the Twins may have had for him in 2010 and now the team will depend on him more than ever before. Quite a difference one year can make for a player. Duensing went from being a bullpen and spot starter candidate to a penciled in starter with very high hopes heading into his third season.

The lefty finished last season 10-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 53 games (13 starts), including a complete game shutout against Oakland at Target Field.

The Twins desperately needed that second lefty after Liriano in the rotation and Duensing proved he was the man down the stretch last season. We all sadly remember him for his painful performance against the Yankees to end their season in 2010, but without him we wouldn’t have been there.

He his high on the Twins wish list for players they hope excels in 2011.

Joe Nathan

Nathan’s season was abruptly ended before it could even begin when torn elbow ligaments and Tommy John surgery forced him out in spring training.

Replacements Jon Rauch and Matt Capps did a commendable job for the team, but the Twins need their premier closer to heal quickly and regain his form in 2011, especially with the departure of so many relievers already this offseason.

But it’s not fair to expect too much from the Twins All-Star closer in his first year back from major surgery on his pitching arm. I think the Twins just hope there aren’t any setbacks early on in his comeback and that he can eventually regain form by midseason. The Twins can’t afford to lose another bullpen arm.

Pat Neshek/Glen Perkins

Both of these guys suddenly find themselves back in the mix for major role in the Twins bullpen. Neshek had a shaky comeback from his own Tommy John surgery last season, but was given a one-year deal this offseason and could figure into the Twins plan.

Before his surgery, Neshek was one of the upper echelon relievers in the majors and if he can regain that form the Twins will be all smiles, because they only had to pay $625,000 to keep him here.

Perkins somehow finds a way to stick around and kudos to him because he now finds himself in position to inherit one of the many vacated spots in the Twins bullpen with a strong showing this spring training.

It wasn’t long ago when this guy was one the Twins better starters and if he can redeem him recent woes by locking down a spot as long reliever and lefty out of the bullpen, both sides will be happy with each other, once again.

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