June 18, 2008

Twins back on track

First and foremost, sorry about the no post yesterday, I was a lot busier than I thought. If you missed my Q&A with Mike McCardell make sure to check that out after reading this post. I should have another Q&A up later this week/early next week and I have another one after that. So stay tuned!

The Twins won 3 of their 4 games since I last posted. They took 2 from the Brewers and won the opening game of the Nationals series last night. The Twins have been getting great pitching and their bats have been giving them the much-needed comfort by outscoring their opponents 23-11 in the 4-games.

Last night, Livan Hernandez gave the Twins a very good outing which he needed to secure his spot for at least another few starts. Prior to the game, Hernandez was 0-2 with an 11.00 ERA in his last 5 starts (24 1/3 innings). He gave up a combined 56 hits in the 24 innings and his WHIP was an atrocious 2.47. But last night, the 33-year-old went 7 innings on one-run ball. He gave up just 5 hits and struck out 1 while throwing just 77 pitches (50 for strikes). Throwing just 77 pitches makes one assume that he should have been able to go at least another inning, but he said that he was "running a little bit out of gas." And I like this quote, "I don't want to go back and try to be a hero. The more important thing is to try and win games." Which is very true. Also too, with Matt Guerrier looking like he's worked out his early-season kinks, I have a lot of trust in the Guerrier-Joe Nathan combo in the late innings.

Hernandez took the win, which was his first since May 12th against the Boston Red Sox. Hernandez's spot looked like it could be in jeopardy with the emergence of Francisco Liriano who has really turned it around since he's returned to Rochester. On Sunday, Liriano went 7 1/3 innings and gave up just 2 runs while striking out 5. Although I don't agree that the 2nd run scored should have been charged to Liriano (as the player who scored was the first pitcher Bobby Korecky had to face), but nonetheless Liriano turned in yet another stellar performance. He still is not hitting all of his spots, but he has lowered his walk rate significantly and has now walked just 11 batters opposed to striking out 42 in his last 53 1/3 innings pitched. He also is still not throwing at nearly as high of a velocity as he was, but he's finally has to pitch instead of just overpower the hitter, although he did have great control even while throwing at a high velocity before his injury.

Still, the Twins want to be incredibly careful with Liriano which you can't blame them as he's still the one pitcher in the organization with the most potential, but I think that with another good start (maybe two) along with another bad start (or two) from Hernandez and we could have seen a move being made to bring the 24-year-old left-hander back to Minnesota and sending the 33-year-old veteran packing.

After months of whining and complaining, the Twins finally granted my wish of promoting a few prospects this weekend. As anticipated, the Twins waited until after the FSL All-Star Game to make their mass-overhaul of roster moves, and there were a few that may surprise some people.

La Velle E. Neal III posted the moves that were made on his blog on Monday, and here are a few of my thoughts on them.

From Class A Fort Myers to Class AA New Britain:
RHP Jeff Manship
RHP Rob Delaney
2B Brian Dinkleman
3B Danny Valencia

My Thoughts: This move was long-overdue still in my book. For all of these players, anyone could have made a good case for them to be in New Britain before the season even started. And after a strong 2 1/2 months for all of them, I think that the Twins finally made the best move they could have. All of these players attended college before playing in professional baseball, and so as some of you may know, I believe the Twins need to be slightly more aggressive with a few of their prospects (particularly college players) and so I'm really happy that this move was finally made.

From New Britain to Fort Myers:
RHP Jay Rainville
RHP Oswaldo Sosa (43 walks in 62 innings!!)

My Thoughts: It's unfortunate as I had such high hopes for both of these guys before the season even started, but we all have to remember that they are both in their early-20's and are still a year or so ahead of most of the players already in that league. So, sending both of them back to Ft. Myers where they faired well in last year should hopefully boost their confidence and allow them to work on their problems in the FSL.

From Low-A Beloit to Fort Myers:
2B Steven Singleton
3B Garrett Olson
RHP Matt Williams
C Dan Lehmann

My Thoughts: I thought these moves were good moves being that both Singleton and Olson fill holes in the starting lineup that were left open after Dinkelman and Valencia were promoted. I like the promotion of Danny Lehmann, but he's likely only going to back up Wilson Ramos and play on days he's needed at DH. I doubt that his promotion would influence in any means a promotion of Ramos to New Britain as he's only 20-years-old and despite being an All-Star he hasn't necessarily lit up the FSL. But due to the fact that he's just 20-years-old and is hitting fairly well in the hitting-tough FSL, he certainly does look promising.

From Fort Myers to Beloit:
C Allan De San Miguel
LHP Henry Reyes
My Thoughts: I'm not surprised with the demotion of the 20-year-old Aussie catcher, as he had just a .439 OPS in 65 AB's this season after struggling at the plate all of last year in Beloit. However, I am somewhat surprised with the demotion of Reyes as he is a 23-year-old southpaw with very limited opportunities in just 2 games (4 2/3 innings). Despite walking 4, he showed that he wasn't that bad of an option in Ft. Myers but after just 4 1/3 innings of his career in Beloit, this move doesn't come at that big of a surprise. Especially

Activated from DL to Beloit:
SS Paul Kelly
3B Deibinson Romero

My Thoughts: This is a big move in terms of offensive production in Beloit. Both Kelly and Romero have big bat potential and along with guys like Christopher Parmelee, Joe Benson and Ben Revere, these guys just add to the mass potential that is in the Beloit lineup. Kelly has had a career chalked full of injuries, so hopefully this is the last DL stint that he has to have. He still has great potential and hopefully he can get back on track and could be in Ft. Myers before the end of the season if all goes well. Romero also has a chance to make it to Ft. Myers later in the season, but he has to get his bat back on track and hopefully he's figured everything out.

Also, Seth Stohs added this roster move:
From Beloit to Extended Spring Training (but probably Elizabethton)
RHP Brad Tippett
RHP Dan Berlind
My Thoughts: I was surprised when I saw this move. According to Seth, Tippett will now be a starter which isn't a big surprise as he pitched 3-4 innings on many occasions last season. Really, I'm surprised that the Twins were so quick to pull the plug on both of these guys so quickly. However, it could just be very much that they made the move temporarily to get a few more bodies in Elizabethton as the defending Appalachian League Champions opened their season last night with Berlind starting on the mound.

With the promotions of Williams, Olson and Singleton to Ft. Myers, the Snappers selected Jair Fernandez, Chris Cates and Loek Van Mil to take their places in the All-Star Game. Ben Revere, Fernandez and Cates combined to go 1-6 at the plate. David Bromberg gave up 3 runs in 2/3 inning. Steven Hirschfield also gave up a run in his appearance as well. Van Mil and Spencer Steedley combined for 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as the West All-Stars beat the East All-Stars, 5-4 in 10 innings.

Friday's Game Ball
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher

8 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs, 5 K's, win. 2-4, double, RBI, run
Box Score

Saturday's Game Ball
Brian Buscher - Third Base

3-5, 3 RBI, 2 runs
Box Score

Sunday's Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

6 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 9 K's (4 in one inning), loss
Box Score

Tuesday's Game Ball
Livan Hernandez - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 K, win
Box Score