Opening Day Start Great for Joe Ryan, Bad for Twins

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn - Getty Images

On April 7 vs the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins rookie pitcher, Joe Ryan, will take the mound at Target Field for the first time in the 2022 season. And as the Opening Day home starter, he’ll do it before anyone else gets a chance. The Twins haven’t delegated such honor to a rookie since 1969.

What an achievement for Ryan, who I’ve been following closely since he was acquired by the Twins last season, before the trade deadline. Joe was the price Tampa Bay had to pay, in order to get their hands on Nelson Cruz for their 2021 playoff run. If you want to know how valued Joe Ryan was to the Rays organization, listen to this Darren Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North) interview with Ryan’s former AAA pitching coach.

Olympic Joe

At the time of the trade, then 24-year-old, Joe Ryan, didn’t have to worry about buying a suitcase or face-to-face goodbyes with teammates and coaches. He was already out and about. Abroad, actually, where he was representing Team USA in the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Ryan wasn’t just a body on the 2021 Olympic roster, either. He was one of two featured pitchers in a rotation that went just two or three deep. His 10.1 IP were 2nd-most on Team USA (1st had 11) and 4th-most of all Olympic pitchers.

I believe in this kid. He’s Joe Cool and I expect him to be a staple of the Twins pitching staff for the next half-decade, as long as he stays healthy. I also expect him to pitch well on Thursday. The Nelson Cruz trade was, by far, the best move of last year’s trade deadline.

That Doesn’t Excuse Twins’ Incompetence

But I’m not just here to give Joe Ryan a written BJ. That was foreplay meant to make it clear that my Opening Day beef isn’t with my favorite Twins pitcher. It’s with Derek Falvey, Thad Levine and the cheap-as-fuck owner who employs them.

Joe Ryan is starting Opening Day because Minnesota Twins ownership and front office have completely failed in their effort to upgrade the starting rotation. They traded Jose Berrios at last season’s deadline, promised to amend it this offseason, then sat on the sidelines and watched 20 different free agent upgrades sign with other teams before/after the lockout. Then, when all the upgrades were gone, they failed to find one via trade. Just this morning, another target, Sean Manaea, was traded from Oakland to San Diego.

Skimping on a below-budget payroll ($115 million) in a year when the White Sox are dolling out $185 million, is unacceptable. What does it matter to Pohlad if he pays $35 million to Carlos Correa, as long as the total payroll is less than past seasons? The Correa signing is already yielding great results for Jim. Less salary to pay out. More tickets sold. More money for the Pohlad pockets. Because they need more padding.

Promises broken

Falvey, Levine and Pohlad have all promised, on multiple occasions, to invest into the roster when winning windows were open. How will said window ever be more open than it is this season, with both Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa entering healthy and in their primes?

Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober would be exciting pieces to have at the back of a rotation. Young, high-ceiling guys. But there’s a reason it’s been over 50 years since a Twins rookie has started on Opening Day. Because past teams, even those only pretending — and sometimes not even that– to be competitive, knew that a competent starting rotation doesn’t have a rookie, unproven pitcher sitting at the top of its pecking order.

Scott Boras gifted Carlos Correa to the Minnesota Twins this offseason. Buxton gifted himself. And outside of those two moves, this front office has been nothing short of pathetic. A regime that came in promising to change everything, has changed nothing. Same old cheap Twins.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Twins