Twins option Garza, keep Silva

Twins option hot prospect Garza

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- All spring long, the biggest question mark surrounding the Twins has revolved around just who would be in the team's starting rotation.

But at around 4:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, that dilemma came to a resolution when it was announced the club had optioned right-hander Matt Garza to Triple-A Rochester.

The move to send down Garza left only five starters remaining in camp: Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson and Carlos Silva.

The race for the final spot in the rotation had come down to Silva and Garza. Garza certainly made a strong case for the spot with his solid spring for the club, going 0-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings. The numbers haven't been as stellar for Silva. He has gone 0-3 with an 11.02 ERA in five outings.

But in the end, it was Garza's reliance on his fastball and his inexperience that caused the club to decide to have the pitcher at least start the year a member of Rochester's rotation.

"We've been thinking about it over and over again, a long time here, obviously trying to do what's right for this young man and our ballclub," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We decided that he moved really quickly through the organization last year. We all know he's got a great fastball. He needs to locate his pitches and be able to throw them all over a little bit more. We're going to give him a little more time here. We know where he's at. If we need him, we can go get him."

The neck injury that caused Garza to miss a little over a week of time early in spring wasn't a factor in the decision. The pitcher spent nearly all of his time on the mound this spring pitching in relief, but even against some lesser-known talent, Garza had his troubles -- often putting himself into jams by overusing his fastball.

"Once he develops a bit more command of his other pitches, he's going to be awfully good up here," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "But you can't develop up here, you have to develop in the Minor Leagues. The last thing we want to do is to put him in a position where he's relying on one pitch up here too much. It doesn't work."

Garza had already left the clubhouse by the time the move was announced and was not around to comment on the decision. The highly touted prospect, who went 14-4 with a 1.99 ERA over three levels of the Minors last season, had made clear all spring his intent to prove he deserved a spot in the rotation. But the club had its concerns considering that the results weren't quite so easy for the team's Minor League Pitcher of the Year once he hit the Majors, as Garza went 3-6 with a 5.76 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts).

Gardenhire said the news was, of course, disappointing to Garza, but that the 23-year-old pitcher also agreed with some of the team's assessment.

"He understands what we're talking about, but he wants to be in the big leagues," Gardenhire said. "He said, 'It won't take me long. Just keep your eyes on me.' That type of thing, and that's what we plan on doing, believe me."

The exact order of the rotation has yet to be set, but the signs appear to point at Silva being slotted in the fifth spot.

Gardenhire has already let it be known the plan is to keep Santana on his normal five-day schedule at the start of the year. With two off-days during the first three weeks of the season, that would mean the team's fifth starter is expected to get just one start over the span. And that start would come April 11, meaning, Silva could have some time to work on the sinker he has been missing since his promising '05 season.

The Twins selected to pick up Silva's $4.35 option this offseason with the feeling he could provide some of the veteran leadership in the rotation that was lacking. Hope remains he can do that, but it's clear Silva's rough performance this spring hasn't gone unnoticed. Now it comes down to what he will do once in the rotation, even if it's in a limited role.

"Whether he does fantastic down here or he has a poor spring, it doesn't have any effect on what he's going to do in April," Ryan said of Silva. "I'm not making excuses and I'm not predicting anything other than the fact that things change when the bell rings [for the opening of the season]. So let's see how things play themselves out once we play the meaningful games in April."

Exactly how much time the Twins will give Silva isn't exactly known, but it seems clear that they aren't going to rely on any pitcher that's struggling. And with the plan in place to stretch Garza out in the coming days in a starting role with Rochester, there is the feeling that his return could be sooner rather than later.

"We're going to try to give Garza a little time here to get a better feel for it and get some innings built up," Gardenhire said. "Then we'll see where we're at here after a couple weeks; three weeks, whatever."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.