Twins' Top 5 right-handed starters: Park's take

May 25th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Do-Hyoung Park's ranking of the top 5 right-handed starting pitchers in Twins history, since the franchise relocated to Minnesota in 1961. Next week: Left-handed starters.

Twins' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH

1. Bert Blyleven, 1970-76, '85-88
Key fact: Only pitcher enshrined in Hall of Fame as a member of the Twins

Long before Blyleven was circling fans on his telestrator as a member of the Twins' television booth, he was twisting hitters in circles with the famous curveball that powered a 22-year Major League career and earned him a spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Dutch kid that grew up in Southern California saw his love for baseball take off thanks to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. That's where his love for the curveball came from as well, despite the fact that Blyleven's father, Joe, didn't let him throw that pitch until he was 13 thanks to a radio interview that Koufax once did.

"Listening to Vin Scully describe your curveball -- the drop, called back then -- I always visualized the rotation of that baseball, and once I did get older, I developed it by finding the right grip on that baseball and utilizing the seams of the ball to make it spin and curve. So thank you, Sandy Koufax," Blyleven said in his Hall of Fame induction speech.

It wasn't by any means a conventional curveball, as Blyleven threw it harder than a normal curve with an unorthodox four-seam grip. It worked out pretty well for him. His 3,701 career strikeouts rank him fifth on the all-time list behind only Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton. Though he never won a Cy Young Award and only made two All-Star teams, Blyleven won two World Series rings -- first with the 1979 Pirates, then with the '87 Twins in his second stint with the club that originally drafted him. Despite successful stints with the Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels, Blyleven wore a Twins uniform for each of the eight seasons in which he surpassed 200 strikeouts, and he remains part of the organization to this day.

2. Brad Radke, 1995-2006
Key fact: Second in Twins history with 377 games started

By the end of his career in 2006, Radke was pitching through so much pain in his right shoulder that he could hardly play catch or even wash his hair with his right arm. A torn labrum and stress fracture in his right shoulder took their toll. And still, with retirement looming, Radke chugged on and willed what remained of his arm back from a month-long hiatus, into a playoff push and through the postseason. Through all of that, his final regular-season start saw him allow only three hits and one unearned run through five innings, and he gave the Twins four innings in Game 3 of their loss to the Oakland A's in the 2006 American League Division Series.

That resilience from their longtime ace didn't come as much of a surprise to the Twins. Radke made more Opening Day starts (nine) than any pitcher in club history, and his quality, consistency and durability lasted throughout his career, from when he won 12 straight decisions in 1997 and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting, to when he threw a six-hit shutout to snap the A's legendary 20-game winning streak in 2002, to when he later pitched the Twins to victory in Game 5 of the 2002 ALDS to earn the team its most recent appearance in the AL Championship Series. Radke hung up the cleats with a career 4.22 ERA in 2,451 innings -- all with the Twins.

"When you want a big game, we've always said that if Brad Radke has the ball, you're going to have a pretty good chance," said former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in a documentary about Radke's career. "You're going to have an opportunity late in the game to win it. He's done that forever around here. That's why we start the season and we always say that Radke's the Opening Day starter."

3. Jim Perry, 1963-72
Key fact: Third in Twins history with a 3.15 ERA

There's a Hall of Famer and several club legends on this list, but Perry is the only one here with a Cy Young Award to his name, winning the AL's prize in 1970. During that campaign, Perry went the entire season as a starting pitcher for the first time in his career and led the AL with 40 starts and 24 wins to go with his 3.04 ERA in 278 2/3 innings. Following his trade to the Twins in 1963, Perry filled in wherever he was needed between the bullpen and the rotation due in part to the Twins' core of starting talent that rotated around Mudcat Grant, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pascual and others. Perry was successful in both roles, posting a sub-3.00 ERA in four of his 10 seasons with the Twins and only exceeding the 4.00 mark in his All-Star 1971 campaign.

Jim Perry and his Hall of Fame brother, Gaylord Perry, combined for 529 career wins, putting them within striking distance of the record 539 combined wins as brothers set by Phil and Joe Niekro. The brothers Perry got a chance to play together on the '74 and '75 Indians before Jim was traded to Oakland, where he finished his 17-year MLB career.

4. Camilo Pascual, 1954-60 (Senators), '61-66 (Twins)
Key fact: Led AL in strikeouts in three straight seasons from 1961-63

One of the most talented finds in the pipeline of Cuba scouting that proved fruitful for the late Senators and early Twins, Pascual ranks fifth in franchise history in games started (331) and third in strikeouts (1,885) behind only Walter Johnson and Blyleven -- both Hall of Famers. He was promoted young to the Senators and had a rough start to his career, but found his elite stuff in 1958, followed that with his first All-Star season in '59, and was the most effective member of the pitching staff when the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. He was the new Minnesota club's first All-Star that season, the first of three straight in which he led the AL in strikeouts.

Though Pascual was limited in '65 after requiring surgery on his pitching arm, he returned in time to make six September starts as the team won its first AL pennant, and he made his only career postseason start in Game 3 of the 1965 World Series opposite the Dodgers' Claude Osteen. Pascual finished his 18-year career with short stints with the (new) Washington Senators, Reds, Dodgers and Indians.

5. Dave Goltz, 1972-79
Key fact: Ranks seventh in strikeouts (1,105) among pitchers born in Minnesota

Twins fans, of course, will be thrilled that a native Minnesotan made this list. Goltz was born in Pelican Rapids, Minn. -- about halfway between Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls -- and grew up in tiny Rothsay, which sits on Interstate 94 about a third of the way from Fergus Falls to the Fargo/Moorhead area.

He was selected in the fifth round of the 1967 MLB Draft and made his MLB debut a few years later in 1972 with a 2.67 ERA in a 15-game stint with the big club. After stumbling a bit in '73, Goltz established himself as a stalwart in the rotation, making at least 29 starts in five of the next six seasons with an ERA that consistently sat in the low 3s. His best season came in 1977, when he made the first of his three straight Opening Day starts following Blyleven's departure from the team and led the AL with 20 wins and 39 starts to go with his 3.36 ERA, good for a sixth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting. He moved west in free agency after the '79 season to finish his 12-year career with the Dodgers and Angels.

Honorable mentions
Kevin Tapani was part of the four-player haul that the Twins received from the Mets in 1989 for Frank Viola, and he rewarded the front office with a fifth-place AL Rookie of the Year Award finish and a seventh-place AL Cy Young Award finish during his seven-year Twins career. His career year in '91 (2.99 ERA in 244 innings) played a significant role in the club's 1991 World Series championship, and he threw eight strong innings in Game 2 of the World Series to pitch the Twins to a win over the Braves. ... While we're on the topic of 1991, St. Paul native Jack Morris probably deserves a mention, too, for his role on that team and his titanic World Series performances in Games 1, 4 and especially 7. But '91 was the Hall of Famer's only season in Minnesota. ... Scott Baker was never elite, but he was solid and consistent in the starting rotation for several of those fan favorite Twins teams in the late 2000s during his seven-year career in Minnesota.