June 9, 2008

Inconsistency with Twins young starters

The Twins have been blown out by the White Sox by a score of 33-10 in the first 3 games. The starting pitching has been terrible this series. Just over a week ago, I posted about how good the young pitchers have been so far this season and that they look like they're going to have a great season. Now a week later, the Twins have lost 5 of their last 6 games. Two of the losses came to an inferior team which is the Baltimore Orioles. Still, the Twins played well in the series and still had some momentum carried over from their hard-fought Yankee series in which they won the last two games.

On Friday, Nick Blackburn returned to action without missing a start after getting hit in the face by a line drive in his last start. Many thought he'd be shaky, and they were right. Blackburn gave up 7 runs on 8 hits and just 56 pitches. He got hit hard in the 5th inning and was relieved by Juan Rincon after giving up 3 runs and having runners on second and third with no outs. Rincon then gave up a big juicy home run to Carlos Quentin and two of the runs were charged to Blackburn.

Then on Saturday, Livan Hernandez was trying to turn in his first start in which he did not give up 5 or more runs since 3 starts ago. And of course, Livan continued to struggle. He gave up 7 runs in 4 innings and just 60 pitches. Hernandez left the ball up the entire game and was hit hard. He gave up 8 hits, one of which was a 3-run home run from Joe Crede, just one of two of his in the game.

Sunday came around and everyone had their eyes on Kevin Slowey to stop the madness. But he was the worse of the bunch as he gave up 8 runs on 10 hits in just 3 innings. He wasn't pitching terrible, but he was not locating his fastball throughout his 3 innings and they gave each of them a ride.

All three have had solid seasons, but this was definitely discouraging to see especially against the division leaders.

Juan Rincon's days may be numbered with the Twins. Minnesota is currently holding 13 pitchers on its 25-man roster and there is talk that when the Twins begin their inter-league series next weekend against the Milwaukee Brewers. If not, then most likely before the Twins begin their next home stand next Tuesday. Rincon looks to be the most likely of Twins pitchers to get the boot, especially with his performance over the last 3 weeks or so. He's been terrible and he's really hurting the team. So far this series, he's given up 6 runs in just 3 1/3 innings. He's given up 3 home runs, which makes it 5 on the season in just 28 innings.

I don't even think it was the steroids that has effected Rincon's career. The reason for that is because he was busted in the beginning of the '05 season and still posted a 2.45 ERA that season and a 2.91 in '06. His troubles all began last season, and it's carried over to this season. A part of me believes that there could be some injury that the Twins don't know of, and possibly Rincon doesn't either. I think his dreadful performance has made that into a possibility.

Regardless, if/when he is released, I wouldn't be surprised to see him clear waivers which would mean that he could go down to Rochester to clear his head, work on his stuff, and try to get back to the majors at some point. Then again, perhaps the best thing to do would just be to cut bait now and save the trouble.

Delmon Young hit his first home run of the season on Saturday with two out in the 7th inning of of Mark Buehrle. It was hit to left-center field and landed in the White Sox bullpen. It was his first since September 23rd of last season. He probably felt like a lot of stress has been lifted off of his shoulders and hopefully more will follow. Over his last 10 games, he is 13/36 (.361) and has 5 doubles, a home run, and 6 RBI's. He has claimed that he starts off slow, so hopefully this will continue.

Young's power seems to be declining since he hit 25 and 26 home runs between 2004 & 2005 from A-AAA ball. Since 2005, he has hit a combined 25 home runs. Sure, it's at a much higher level so that's anticipated, but one has to wonder if he truly isn't going to be a big home run threat that he was once thought of in his early career. He certainly hasn't shown anything this year that would suggest that he'll turn into one, so we'll see. It's something to keep an eye on that's for sure.

Two Twins prospects will be on ESPN2's First Take today. The show is from 9-11 am & replayed immediately after on ESPN2, but I'm not sure what time it will be shown. The two prospects are Chris Cates and Loek Van Mil from the Beloit Snappers. Cates, 5'3'' is the shortest player in professional baseball while Van Mil is 7'1'' and is the tallest. The two have gotten a lot of publicity this season, and it's really cool to see two Twins prospects getting so much attention. Definitely make sure to check it out if you get a chance.

Speaking of the Snappers, 7 players from Beloit have been named to the Midwest League All-Star Game. Those players are: Ben Revere, Garrett Olson, Steve Singleton, Danny Lehmann, David Bromberg, Steven Hirschfield and Spencer Steedley. Olson and Singleton are starters while the others are reserves.

Wilson Ramos will join five other Ft. Myers Miracle players at the Florida State League All-Star Game. The Miracle will send 7 total players, but Rene Tosoni will miss the game with a broken foot. Ramos was added to the roster after James Skelton figured out he'd miss the game due to injury. Ramos has 8 home runs this season but is hitting .241 with a .295 OBP. He needs to cut down on his strikeout rate and I think that he'll be fine. Still for a 20-year-old in the FSL, 8 HR's and 41 RBI's in 60 games while still catching is pretty good.

Before Alexi Casilla was scratched due to a sore lower back, Matt Macri was penciled in to start at third base for the second straight game. Macri has seen action with the Twins already this season and was recalled from Rochester when Nick Punto went down with an injury, but he's only played in a handful of games this season. Now, with Mike Lamb struggling in June it looks like Macri will get more looks at third base. Lamb is now 0-19 since his 3-6 performance against the Yankees on May 31st.

It's too early to tell what kind of player he truly is so it's not known what kind of power we should expect from him. He's had decent amounts of power in the minor leagues, but it's not enough to suggest that he's a power hitter. Still with the way Lamb is currently playing, I like that Ron Gardenhire is trying to sit him in place of the hot-hand.

Looking at the Major League roster, third base is still a dark hole for this team and it looks like the only two players that be able to do anything are still in AA and Advanced-A ball (Luke Hughes & Danny Valencia), one of which will be missing a couple weeks due to injury. Valencia I believe should have started the season in AA, but the Twins took a different approach and started him back in Ft. Myers. He's clearly ready for his promotion to New Britain and it should be coming in the next week or two.

Now I'm not going to get into another rant about how the Twins are handling their prospects, but I just want to point out that really the only help at third base is still quite a ways away in the system and so I think that they may need to look at alternative options (like Macri or even Brian Buscher) at third base. The Twins will not give up on Lamb, which is fine. It just seems like the Twins' problems at third base, which has been the case since Corey Koskie left after the 2004 season, and it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

Friday's Game Ball
Alexi Casilla - Second Base
Note: Casilla played great both on offense and on defense. He hit his 3rd home run of the season and drove in two more RBI's. He finished the game going 2-5 with 2 RBI's and 2 runs scored. He also was apart of 3 double plays on defense. Casilla continues to be an offensive catalyst for this team, and he's showing no signs of stopping. Box Score.

Saturday's Game Ball
Delmon Young - Left Field
Note: Young hit his first home run of the season. But really, it's sad when a 1-4 performance with just 1 RBI warrants a game ball. The offense was terrible, but I guess that Young's first bomb is a great thing, so he got this one. Box Score.

Sunday's Game Ball
Jason Kubel - Right Field
Note: Kubel started for Michael Cuddyer in right field, while Cuddyer played first base so that Justin Morneau could DH. Kubel went 1-4 with a solo home run. I'm not sure if he'll start today against John Danks. He's a tough lefty, which Gardy's tried to avoid with Kubel, but he's 2-2 with a home run and 4 RBI's. Box Score.