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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.