The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 9, 2006

Lohse pitching too poorly to pull

By Ed Thoma

Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire are patient men.

For more than two years, they’ve waited for Kyle Lohse to live up to what he did down the stretch in 2003.

It’s increasingly difficult to believe it now, but it’s true. In August and September of 2003 — in the one real pennant race the Twins experienced during their run of divisional titles — Lohse went 8-2 with a 3.67 ERA, striking out 37 men while walking just 15.

That winter the Twins let Kenny Rogers walk and dealt away Eric Milton — and still felt confident in their starting pitching, because they had Johan Santana and Lohse ready to take over the front of the rotation.

Santana did so; Lohse did not.

At best, Lohse has been a mediocre, if well-paid, back-of-the-rotation innings-eater. Right now, he’s worse.

Friday’s gopher-ball parade left Lohse with a 9.71 ERA for the season. His batting average allowed is .346. That’s two points higher than Ted Williams’ lifetime average. He’s walked almost as many as he’s struck out.

As a fan of the Twins and student of the game, I’ve pulled the plug. I’ve declared a personal Kyle Lohse boycott. I will no longer journey to the Dome for a Lohse start.

I’ve done this before. Last year it was Joe Mays. In 2003, Rick Reed. In both cases, each was out of the rotation within a week or so.

Ryan and Gardenhire have their limits also, and history suggests their limits are fairly close to mine.

Logic suggests that their patience will continue.

Why would they stick with him?

The answer may lie in a different question: If the Twins pull Lohse from the rotation this week, what do they do with him?

He would be an awfully pricey long reliever. And as such, he’s not likely to fetch much in a trade.

At some point this season, the Twins will insert Francisco Liriano into the rotation. They’d prefer that it be later than sooner, both to protect his arm and to limit his eventual value in arbitration.

The Twins probably could have traded Lohse during the winter, but chose not to. Remember, at the end of the 2005 season Brad Radke had a bad shoulder. Carlos Silva had knee surgery. Santana was held out of his last start with an injury. The Twins rotation literally limped through the final two weeks.

Ryan, Gardy and company hung on to Lohse probably as much as insurance as because of the promise of 2003. They clearly didn’t want to open the season with two rookies in the starting rotation, and keeping Lohse meant having four established starters. That’s important to their vision of a contending team.

But 30 games into the season, this team is far from a contender. Another month or so of this sloppy play, and Ryan’s going to have to start exploding the roster — shipping out veterans and bringing in kids.

When that day comes, Lohse is a prime candidate to go — if he has any value. That value won’t be there if he’s bounced from the rotation.

Of course, if he keeps making the rest of the league hit like Ted Williams, he won’t have any trade value in the rotation either.



Edward Thoma is a Free Press staff writer. He can be called at 344-6377 or e-mailed at ethoma@mankato-freepress.com.