The Minnesota Twins rotation was basically a joke after finishing dead last in starter ERA in both 2013 and 2014.
Phil Hughes was a bright spot for that terrible rotation last year and finished seventh in American League Cy Young voting. The Twins had high hopes for Hughes to continue his success at the top of the rotation, and Minnesota singed veteran free agent Ervin Santana to a four-year deal this offseason in hopes of turning their pitching into less of a liability.
But this plan seemed to backfire in April when Santana was hit with an 80-game drug ban and Hughes had an 0-4 record by the end of the month. What should have been an improved pitching staff suddenly looked like it might actually wind up being worse.
But now everything is different. Santana returned from his suspension in early July and he has looked fantastic! Hughes has also completely brushed off his bad start and has a stellar 9-2 record since May 1st. The duo is 4-0 this month with a 2.55 ERA through four outings each, Minnesota is a combined 6-2 in their starts. Santana has not allowed a single run in either of his two starts since the All-Star break, going 7.2 and eight innings in the two games. Hughes has gone seven innings in each of his two starts since the break, allowing just one run between the two outings.
Things looked bad for the Twins but now it seems like the top of their rotation can stick with anybody.
Outside of Hughes and Santana, the rest of the rotation has held up very well. 27-year old Kyle Gibson, in his second full Major League season, has posted a 3.19 ERA so far, a very respectable number for a third starter. Tommy Milone‘s 3.38 ERA isn’t far behind and even Mike Pelfrey, who had a 5.56 ERA in his first two years with the Twins, has a sub-4.00 ERA in 2015.
If the Twins can stay the course and earn a playoff berth this year, their rotation will hit a bump in the road. Because of his drug ban from earlier in the season, Santana isn’t eligible to pitch in the postseason this year. Losing a starter from the top of their rotation is going to be a big blow for Minnesota, but the future is still bright.
Both Santana and Hughes are locked up for the years to come and Gibson is under team control through the end of the 2019 season. Minnesota also has 21-year old Jose Berrios, MLB.com’s 32nd-ranked prospect, in Triple-A right now and many project him to be a force once he is Major League ready.
This new and improved rotation is a huge reason why Minnesota has turned around so quickly. After losing 90 or more games in each of the last four season, the Twins now find themselves eight games over .500 and in a serious playoff race for the first time since 2010.