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Causing flashbacks to the injury bug that plagued the Red Sox in 2010, the combined loss of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka to the disabled list has put into play the depth Theo Epstein built over the winter. Both swingman Alfredo Aceves and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield are currently in the starting rotation. With lefty prospect Felix Doubront dealing with injuries of his own, the team signed veteran Kevin Millwood to a minor league deal. With Tommy John surgery not out of the realm of possibility, though currently considered unlikely, for the injured Japanese hurler, the Red Sox may need to look at addressing the fifth starter position. While the fifth starter is not a major concern, the Red Sox may have an opportunity to secure a bargain: Kevin Slowey.
Entering 2011, Slowey, a 27-year old pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, had spent the last three years in the Twins’ rotation. He holds a career record of 39-21 and a 4.43 ERA, combined with a solid 1.29 career WHIP. By traditional metrics, Slowey looks like a good guy to have towards the back of a rotation. He has recorded a 6.8 K/9 over his career this is balanced by an incredible K/BB ratio of 4.60. Slowey simply does not allow free passes: just 1.5 per nine innings.
In the tradition of Brad Radke, the Twins have continued to develop pitchers based on a simple formula: throw strikes, limit walks. Scott Baker, Slowey’s main competition for a rotation spot this spring , profiles similarly but with a higher strikeout rate. Although Slowey is prone to nibbling around the plate at times and his fastball tops out at just under 90 MPH, he has enjoyed some success in the major leagues.
Given Slowey’s career thus far it is natural to wonder why he would be available at all. However, it seems that between Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, the Twins have given up on their starter. After being squeezed out of the rotation in the spring, Slowey was transferred to the bullpen, hit the disabled list, returned as a long reliever, and was likely to be optioned to the minors before returning to the DL.
Rumors have been swirling around his availability in trades and the Twins may look to move him once the right-hander is able to pitch again. Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield are good stopgaps, but if the price is right, the Red Sox would surely prefer to turn to Slowey than Kevin Millwood should they need another pitcher for a long-term starting role.
There is one other interesting piece of trivia concerning the Twin from his prospect days: Nate Silver, in 2007, sai:
“[g]uys like Slowey are the pitching equivalent of Dustin Pedroia.”
While Silver remarked that this type of player is “unlikely to be remembered 40 years from now, but could produce a surprisingly high return on investment for their clubs in the meantime.” Obviously Pedroia has shattered that expectation, but there may still be something left in Slowey to buy low on and exploit.