Posted on May 22, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The first place Minnesota Twins (not a typo) are about to be challenged by a vacancy in their starting rotation. The club has placed veteran starter Phil Hughes on the 10-day DL with a mysterious shoulder ailment. There is no timetable for his return and there had been no indication that Hughes was battling any type of injury until the Twins placed him on the DL following his latest start in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Sunday.
Hughes told reporters on Sunday that he was experiencing soreness in his shoulder. Of course, the 30-year old righty underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last July, so any kind of shoulder discomfort is cause for concern. Hughes says that he didn’t start to feel pain until the 2nd or 3rd inning of Sunday’s start against the Royals. He says the symptoms are similar to what he felt last year prior to undergoing surgery, describing his arm as “Sore. Dead.”
“It’s very frustrating,” Hughes said. “I thought a lot of this was behind me. To have this sprout up again is frustrating. Hopefully, it’s an easy answer and something I can bounce back from.”
Hughes started the season well enough but has struggled in each of his last three starts. In Sunday’s start, he lasted just four innings, giving up five runs and taking the loss while watching his ERA climb to 5.74 through his first nine starts of the season.
The twins weren’t sure what to expect out of Hughes this season coming off a type of surgery that few major league pitchers have had. Yet they were hopeful he could provide some stability and a veteran presence in what was a dreadful starting rotation last season. Right now, Minnesota’s rotation is middle of the pack in the American League and is one of the reasons the Twins are tied for first in a tight and competitive AL Central.
With Hughes on the DL, the Twins have recalled Kyle Gibson from triple-A. Gibson began the season in Minnesota’s rotation but went 0-4 with an 8.20 ERA over six starts before being demoted to the minors. Gibson has lost both of his starts in triple-A but has struck out 18 over 12.1 innings and posted a 2.92 ERA, so there’s some hope that he’s made the adjustments necessary to be more effective this time around.
“There has been some improvement at some things we think can help him compete at a higher level of it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Gibson. “Some of it is overall strike percentage and some of it is getting ahead of hitters.”
Gibson is slated to start Monday night when the Twins begin a series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, the Twins aren’t committing to him beyond one start. Assuming Hughes isn’t able to rejoin the rotation in short order, the Twins are also considering Adam Wilk for a spot in the rotation. Wilk had a disastrous start for the Mets earlier this month but has had two solid relief appearances since being picked up by the Twins. Rookie Adalberto Mejia, who tossed seven innings and got the win in Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader, could also be considered as the interim replacement for Hughes.
On the surface, the loss of Hughes and his 5.74 ERA isn’t a massive loss for the Twins. Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago, and recently Jose Berrios have helped to carry Minnesota’s rotation this year, making Hughes a supplementary player at best. However, the Twins don’t have a lot of starting pitching depth, especially if Gibson doesn’t show improvement from earlier in the season. Considering that lack of depth, it could be a serious hit to the Twins if Hughes ends up missing an extended period of time.