On June 1, 2007, Kevin Slowey made his major-league debut for the Twins, pitching six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Athletics. It looked to be the start of a long and fruitful career in Minnesota. As a polished, college-drafted pitcher who made up for his lack of pure stuff with precise control and a willingness to attack the strike zone, the right-hander fit right into the Twins' preferred mold.
Slowey shared many traits with Brad Radke, a local legend who had retired the previous offseason. Unfortunately, Slowey would prove to lack two qualities that endeared Radke to fans and coaches in Minnesota: durability and a willingness to put the organization before himself.
Ultimately, these two factors were likely the greatest contributors in the deterioration of a once promising relationship, which came to an end this week when the Twins traded Slowey to Colorado for a player to be named later.
Without question, 2011 was the most tumultuous season of Slowey's career. He quibbled with coaches over an assignment to the bullpen at the beginning of the year, dictated when he was willing to pitch, shuttled back and forth between the minors, spoke to reporters about a desire to be traded and then performed poorly when plugged into the big-league rotation out of absolute necessity.
In the end, Slowey logged only 59 1/3 innings for the Twins, finishing with an 0-8 record and 6.67 ERA. By the end of the season, his stock had bottomed out, making this yet another instance in which the Twins traded a talented player with his value at its absolute nadir.
Regardless of Slowey's attitude issues, that reflects poorly on the Twins. If he turned into a malcontent -- a label that has been attached to him by numerous reporters -- the club played its own part in pushing him to that point.
They left him off the postseason roster in 2010 after a 13-win season. They made a mockery of the "three-man competition" for the final two spots in the rotation this spring, forcing Slowey to prepare for the season as a starter despite the fact that it was clear they had him pegged for a bullpen job all along.
And while Slowey's attitude might have been unbearable, that doesn't really affect fans, who simply want to see a winning product. While removing an alleged clubhouse cancer might make life easier for teammates and reporters, it doesn't make the Twins a better team from a competitive standpoint.
Slowey is still only 27 years old, and for his major-league career he owns a stellar 4.70 K/BB ratio. That's better than the mark Radke retired with, and in fact it would rank among the best in the majors any given year.
Yes, Slowey's been extremely hittable at times, and homer-prone, and he's no one's idea of an ace-caliber pitcher. But the bottom line is that, if healthy, he's got the talent to be a very solid rotation staple in this league. And he'll be cheap next year. And the Twins are very, very short on depth in their starting rotation right now.
Perhaps the situation between the two sides had become untenable and a parting of ways was all but necessary. But it's a damn shame that it had to come to this point, and Slowey is not the only one deserving of blame, regardless of how he's been portrayed by certain irritated media members that have abandoned any semblance of objectivity in smearing his name on the way out (I'm looking at you, Jim Souhan).
I wish Slowey the best going forward. Smug prick or not, he's a gifted pitcher and could easily end up getting the last laugh in this sad, sad saga.