Twins pick Scott Baker as fifth starter, send Kevin Slowey to bullpen

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By re-signing Carl Pavano to a two-year, $16.5 million deal the Twins created a rotation logjam with six starters for five spots and today they announced that Scott Baker will be the No. 5 guy, leaving Kevin Slowey bullpen bound as the odd man out.

Baker and Slowey both significantly out-performed Nick Blackburn last season and have similar, if not superior, career marks, yet manager Ron Gardenhire awarded Blackburn his rotation spot weeks ago. As for Baker getting the nod over Slowey, that’s definitely not a surprise.

Not only was Baker the Opening Day starter last season, he’s been a full-time member of the Twins’ rotation since 2007 while posting an ERA below 4.50 in each of those seasons. Oh, and he’s also owed $11.5 million for this season and next, whereas Slowey will get $2.7 million this year with no long-term commitment from the Twins.

All of which isn’t to say Slowey deserves a demotion to the bullpen. He hasn’t been very durable in three full seasons with the Twins, tossing a career-high 160 innings in 2008, but a 4.42 ERA in 82 career starts makes him a perfectly solid mid-rotation guy. There’s been speculation about the Twins souring on Slowey on and off the field for a while now, and my sense is that they’d love to trade him for an impact reliever. In the meantime they’ll hope he can contribute out of the bullpen while serving as insurance should injuries strike or Blackburn bomb again.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.