June 25, 2008

Harris, Buscher proving that they're the men for the job

When the Twins made the November trade for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie, the Twins felt that they got 3 potential starters for the 2008 season and beyond. But after the trade of Johan Santana which brought the Twins Carlos Gomez, Pridie had some competition in Spring Training and all Gomez had to do was show up and his name would be penciled into the lineup more than either Pridie or Denard Span which made it pretty evident that Ron Gardenhire was going to choose Gomez to be his opening day starter.

Even so, the Twins felt that they got two other upgrades in the trade as well. Delmon Young was going to take over in left field for Jason Kubel who although came on very strong at the end of the season, still looked mediocre. And Brendan Harris who's bat was going to be a huge upgrade at either second base or shortstop whichever the Twins used him at. After a brief stay at second base which proved to be unsuccessful, Harris looks to have found his new home between second and third base in the Twins infield. And really, this isn't what the Twins had in mind. There were times in which Ron Gardenhire had plans to use Harris as a platoon at third base with the struggling Mike Lamb and use him primarily as a utility infielder. But thanks to injuries, that killed any of those thoughts. Nick Punto, Adam Everett and Matt Tolbert were all considerations to start over Harris, due to them being better with the leather. However, since Harris has made the switch to shortstop, he has committed just two errors (opposed to 5 at second base) despite playing just 11 games less than he did at second base.

Still, the Twins needed his bat to come alive if he wanted to stay in the lineup as a starter when Punto returned from the disabled list because everyone knows how much Gardenhire loves Punto's "cat-like reflexes" at shortstop and values defense over offense. So if Harris could continue to play o.k. defense while he started hitting, he'd more than likely stay a starter for at least the time being. Well, that time has arrived and not only is Harris playing "o.k." defense, he is also swinging a smoldering hot bat at the plate. During the Twins last six games, Harris is hitting .450 with 7 runs scored, 4 doubles, a triple, a home run and 3 RBI's. Still, I know that this is not enough of a sample size to suggest that he's going to become the player we all expected him to be.

Harris is certainly helping this team win games, not only in walk-off fashion like he did last night against one of the greatest closer's in baseball history, but he's staying consistent at the plate and is really starting to drive the ball well to all parts of the field.

After a good debut with the Twins last season, many (including myself) felt a little comfortable with Brian Buscher possibly being the Twins starting third baseman heading into the season. But after the signing of Mike Lamb, the thought of Buscher starting was long gone and Lamb was hopefully going to help turn things around for the Twins at third base, which has been a hole (at least on offense) since Corey Koskie left a few years ago. With weak defense, the Twins were going to let Lamb's bat do the talking and after hitting .372 in 43 Spring Training at bats, there was little doubt that Lamb was the guy for the job.

Despite hitting .302 in May, Lamb is hitting .223 on the season and is just 1 for 29 in June. His struggles (and an injury or two) lead to the Twins calling up Buscher from Rochester. He was hitting .319 with an OPS of .915 while he split time between first and third base for the Red Wings prior to his call-up. He was first called up in April to take the roster spot of the injured Adam Everett, but that call-up only got him a combined 8 at bats. So this time around, the Twins gave him his shot and he's definitely responding well. Since his most recent promotion, Buscher is hitting .400 with 7 runs scored and 13 RBI's in 30 at bats. He's also playing good defense at third base. So with Lamb's current skid at the plate and with him not playing good defense, it's got to be pretty easy for Gardenhire to keep Buscher in the lineup.

With the power seemingly starting to decline throughout baseball (or so they say), I'm not really worried about any of the players lack of home run power. The Twins currently rank 8th in the league in runs scored at 368 yet rank dead last in home runs. With guys like Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and even Justin Morneau not hitting as many home runs as many think they should, as long as the team continues to keep scoring runs I think everyone will be happy. After all, it's a team sport and as much as I'd like to see individuals with great success, I think any of them would take a championship any day before a few guys win awards like the Cy Young, Batting Champ and even M.V.P.

Game Ball
Brian Buscher - Third Base

2-4, home run, RBI

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Have a great day!