Now, before you look at today's box score and jump to conclusions about how Francisco Liriano had a rough game, and can't handle pitching more than a couple of innings or one trip through the lineup, do me a favor. Scroll all the way down to the bottom. Past the pitchers. Past the umpires. To the part where it says: "Wind: 19 mph, Out to RF"
The wind played havoc with popups all day. In the 8th inning, Wilson Ramos one-armed a ball that drifted to the base of the wall in right center for a 2B. So when a dude who's 6'5" and 240 lbs. lifts a high fly ball to the opposite field, it shouldn't trouble anybody too much that it managed to carry a little ways over the RF fence. (Certainly not in the same that it should trouble the Marlins that Chris Volstad gave up a HR to Jason Kubel that swiftly reached halfway up one of the light towers in right center.) Especially when only 6 of the 13 hitters Liriano faced managed to put the ball in play, and he didn't walk anyone. If anything, the mistake he made was in allowing an 0-2 single to the hack-tastic Emilio Bonifacio. I'm not sure where that pitch was located, but it was undoubtedly too close to the strike zone.
Even with the wind-aided blemish on his record, Liriano is still the clear front-runner in the competition for the 5th slot in the Twins rotation:
Liriano: 7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 12/1 K/BB
Perkins: 3.2 IP, 12.27 ERA, 3.27 WHIP, 0/4 K/BB
Duensing: 4 IP, 11.25 ERA, 2.50 WHIP, 5/2 K/BB
And, depending on how charitable you're feeling, you can throw in:
Manship: 3 IP, 18.00 ERA, 3.33 WHIP, 1/2 K/BB
Swarzak: 2.2 IP, 16.87 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 4/2 K/BB
Maroth: 4 IP, 6.75 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 0/2 K/BB
I suppose it's only fair to give everybody one more appearance, but Liriano would have to pitch remarkably poorly to even open the door a tiny bit for any of these guys.
Along those lines, Ramos looks to be running away with the temporary backup to Joe Mauer role:
Ramos: 15 PA, .400/.400/.667 with 4 2B
Butera: 13 PA, .182/.308/.182
We all knew Ramos had lots of upside with the stick and that Butera wasn't much of a hitter, and so far that's what we've seen. Ramos made an error today, but it was on one of the afore-mentioned adventuresome popups, so I wouldn't worry about it too much. He seemed to have a good report with Carl Pavano the other day against the Phillies.
At this point, I think the only reason not to bring up Ramos for the first couple weeks of the season is to postpone the start of his service clock. But for the amount of time that will accrue (15-20 days, right?), I'm not sure that should be much of a concern. Especially when the division projects to be as close as it does, I'd rather have a competent hitter in the lineup for those 3-4 April games when Mauer needs to sit down. Besides, once Mauer signs his extension, Ramos most likely becomes a trade piece, so his service clock will be someone else's problem.
I'm sure they'll drag them out for awhile, but these seem like easy choices to me.