Twins, Pirates swap Triple-A hurlers

Minnesota gets lefty Johnson, returns Welker to Pittsburgh

Kris Johnson struck out 6.2 batters per nine innings in Triple-A. (Chris Baird/

By Jake Seiner / | November 19, 2013 2:22 PM

Minnesota added some starting pitching depth and Pittsburgh brought back a familiar face as the teams swapped hurlers Tuesday.

The Twins acquired left-handed starting pitcher Kris Johnson from the Pirates. In exchange, they returned right-handed reliever Duke Welker, who had gone to Minnesota as the player to be named from Pittsburgh in the Justin Morneau deal over the summer.

For Minnesota, the move spoke to the team's need for depth in the rotation.

"We were looking for starting pitching," Twins general manager Terry Ryan told "It doesn't mean we didn't like what we had in Welker."

The 29-year-old Johnson made 26 appearances (21 starts) with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2013, posting a 2.39 ERA. Boston's 2006 first-round pick (40th overall) also made one start in four appearances for Pittsburgh, including his Major League debut. Over 10 1/3 innings, he compiled a 6.10 ERA.

In his lone start, Johnson lasted just two innings while allowing five runs on seven hits.

"He's certainly capable," Ryan said. "He has the pitches. He had a nice year at Triple-A. He didn't pitch much in the Majors, but he did a decent job at Triple-A."

Meanwhile in Welker, the Pirates received a hard-throwing reliever to provide depth for its bullpen. The right-hander made 48 appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis last season, managing a 3.57 ERA with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Welker made his Major League debut in June and logged 1 1/3 scoreless innings in two outings.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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