Rocco Wants Starters to Pitch Deeper and Carry Twins in 2023

PHOTO: CARLOS GONZALEZ - STAR TRIBUNE

There has been one overwhelming complaint from Minnesota Twins fans who refuse to believe in a 2023 squad that, on paper, looks like one of the deepest and most talented in franchise history. They hate the way Rocco Baldelli manages the pitching staff.

See, the Twins relied more on relief pitchers last season than almost any other teams in Major League Baseball. They had the 2nd fewest “quality starts”, as a staff, and allowed their starters to go just 4.8 innings per game, the 4th-lowest average in the MLB.

Rocco Baldelli Vows to Change

That’s a bold strategy to deploy when your bullpen is terrible, which theirs was. And some fans (a loud group of them) have grown so frustrated with how Rocco manages the pitching staff that they don’t even want to hear about how deep a starting rotation of Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and a healthy Kenta Maeda looks on paper. ‘What does it matter if they aren’t allowed to pitch beyond the 5th inning?’, they say.

Well, Rocco Baldelli has a message for those fans. He agrees and told reporters on Wednesday that the Twins plan to pitch their starters much deeper into games this season.

“I expect more out of our starters this year than we had last year,” Baldelli said. “We have several guys that, what they do and what they probably take most pride in, is giving you a good, deep effort into a ballgame. Some guys that are not satisfied giving you five good innings. They want more than that out of themselves. … We want these guys to make it difficult on us. We want them to keep pitching.”

Quote via The Athletic
2023 Starters > 2022 Starters

Why the change? Well, according to Rocco, last year’s team didn’t have the starting rotation talent to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. Looking back — and this doesn’t absolve him of anything because the bullpen was bad too — he was probably right.

A decrepit Dylan Bundy and crumbling Chris Archer to go along with youngsters like Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, wasn’t a recipe for late-inning success. Even historically reliable late-inning starter, Sonny Gray, had horrible numbers when left to pitch deep into games last season. Even if he did get upset when pulled early.

Baldelli wants starting pitchers to carry Twins

As pointed out earlier, starting rotation talent isn’t something the Twins lack in 2023. It’s a staff that is stacked with starters who have already proven themselves at this level. Because of that, Rocco expects big things, even going as far as saying he wants the staff to carry the team, this summer.

“I told our guys, I want our pitching staff to carry us this year,” Baldelli said. “I told them every great team that I’ve ever been with has had great pitching. When you look around our clubhouse, you have to prove it first. None of these words ultimately are going to get us where we need to be. But we have a chance to have a great staff, I really do (think). But (live bullpens) and discussion and boasting doesn’t get you anywhere. You’ve got to do it starting on game one, one win at a time.”

Quote via The Athletic

No matter what the reasons were for why Rocco Baldelli pulled starters early in prior years, he appears on a mission to change that in 2023. We’ll see if that proves true.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan