May 30, 2008

Young Pitchers Stepping Up

Kevin Slowey was the second Twins starter in the series to go for the complete game shutout bid. Only this one did not end up nearly as bad as Nick Blackburn's ended on Tuesday. Slowey did not finish with a shutout, like Blackburn, but Slowey did finish to get the complete game. Alex Gordon's double with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth put the Royals on the board and the game finished with a 5-1 score.

Slowey, Blackburn and Glen Perkins are all in their mid-20's, and all are the anchors of the Minnesota Twins rotation. The three have a combined 8-8 record and a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts this season. The rest of the starters are a combined 10-11 with a 5.41 ERA in 32 starts this season. That list includes Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Livan Hernandez and Francisco Liriano.

In their last 9 combined starts (since May 15th), the three young starters are 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA. They have all stepped it up and at the perfect time. With the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians still struggling, the Minnesota Twins now sit just 2 games behind the division leading Chicgao White Sox and 4 games ahead of the 3rd place Indians. The offense hasn't been horrible this season, averaging just over 4.6 runs per game, but the Twins rotation has been absolutely stellar thus far and thanks to these young three Twins fans have a lot to look forward to the rest of the season. And in reference, the Twins averaged 4.3 runs per game last season.

(From left to right: Perkins, Blackburn, Slowey)

The reason for their success has been simple, they've all showcased superb control. The three have a 3.71 K/BB ratio and all have been throwing a very high percantage of their pitches for strikes. They all are having great success of getting in front of the hitters early with an 0-1 or 0-2 count and because of that they've been able to keep their pitch counts fairly low. The Twins biggest problem coming into the season was to find a replacement for Johan Santana, but the Twins so far have found 3 pitchers that look like they could take the mound under any circumstance and pitch a good game.

It's very early in the season, and I'm not saying that they are All-Stars, but they definitely have all succeeded and they have not given us any suggestions that this is just a fluke. Perkins has had limited success in the majors as a reliever, Slowey was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007, and Nick Blackburn was named the Twins #1 prospect heading into the season by Obviously it is not a surprise that these guys are having success, but I don't think anyone thought they'd contribute this much this early. If these three can keep this up for a while, the Twins have a good shot of contending this season.

Game Ball
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher

Line: CG, 6 hits, 1 run, 6 K's, win

Carlos Gomez went 3-4 last night and raised his season average up to .293. Ron Gardenhire feels the Twins are a better team when he is in the lineup with him on that. He's not a prototypical lead-off hitter as he does not have great on-base skills, but his bat is better suited in the top of the order right now than at the bottom. When Torii Hunter stepped into the majors as an everyday player at 23-year-old, he hit .255/.309/.380 with 9 home runs and 35 RBI's while hitting at the bottom of the order. Through 198 at bats, Gomez is hitting .293/.327/.429 and has 4 home runs with 22 RBI's. He's on pace to hit 29 doubles, 10 triple,s 13 home runs, drive in 72 runs and steal 56 bases. At just 22-years-old, anything near that would be excellent and he's definitely showing that he may have been a great return for Johan Santana alone.

I'm not going to compare a 22-year-old center fielder with 318 career at bats to a 2-time A.L. Cy Young winner, but if his skills continue to develop into the player he could potentially be, and if any of the pitchers we received turn out, the Twins may walk away as winners in this trade after all. It would be great to still see Santana in a Twins uniform, but at just under $23 Million annually it would have cost the Twins to retain Santana, I don't think anyone can argue that this trade is - for the time being - in favor of the Twins. Of course, nobody will know how this trade ultimately pans out for a good 5 years or so as the players received are still so young.

Delmon Young sat the game, which ended his "iron man" streak of consecutive games played. Now, Ryan Howard takes over the lead. Young sitting came as no surprise, he definitely has not been great at the plate and has made multiple costly mistakes in the outfield. However Jim Maddon, Young's former manager with the Rays who he clashed with on multiple occasion, gave him the bode of confidence:

"Stay with him," Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He started out slowly last year; then he catches fire. He'll catch his stride, and he'll be fine by the end of the season."

"A lot of times, Delmon is willing to take an RBI by hitting a single the other way," Maddon said of the 22-year-old. "If you watch Delmon in batting practice, he's got incredible power. Incredible. As a young hitter like him gets more acclimated to the big leagues, as he learns to work counts better, I think he's going to drive his pitch more often. I think it's as simple as that.

"He's a guy you just have to be patient with. All the bells and whistles are there, and it's going to show up."

It's great to hear this from a guy who Young played under and who he clashed heads with on multiple occasions. Young does need to start turning it on, but I don't think anyone in the organization is worried about him at all. He is such a great player that I don't see him hitting like this all year long. I don't see him as the power hitter Twins fans were hoping he'd be, but then again he's just 22-years-old and still has loads of potential.

The MLB Amateur Baseball Draft is set for next Thursday, and so I've been catching up on a few projected picks that may be there when the Twins choose at #14 and later as well. Some are just guys that I know the Twins won't end up with but intrigue me. In no particular order:
Harold Martinez, 3B: He has quite possibly the most potential in this draft, but he has not been living up to expectations his senior year in High School. He also projects as a tough player to sign as he's set to go to the University of Miami, and is from Miami himself. He has a great athletic body, and certainly looks as if he has major league baseball all over him, but he does have some risk as he is raw and needs to work on every aspect of his game.

Justin Smoak, 1B: Smoak is a college player, who projects to make it to the majors quickly as he plays first base and has one of the best bats in the draft. Smoak reminds me of Chipper Jones at the plate as he has a big, smooth swing from both sides of the plate and can spray the ball to all areas of the field. He would probably be a top 5 pick in the draft if it weren't for him being constrained to playing first base. He is not a very athletic player, despite having a great baseball body, but without injuries his bat will definitely carry him to the majors. Smoak is projected to go anywhere from 5-15, but I'd be surprised if he were there for the Twins to choose. But if he's there, and unless a different player drops, I hope the Twins choose him.

Gordon Beckham, SS: Beckham also won't likely be there, but he's another player the Twins probably have high on their board. Beckham has great instincts on both offense and defense and plays the game the 'right way' by playing aggressive and giving it his all on every play. He's another college hitter, and although the Twins have a history of going after high school hitters, he'd be a great choice for the Twins. But again, he likely won't be there, but there is a chance he drops.

Aaron Hicks, OF: Hicks' name has been linked to the Twins the most recently, but I'm not sure he's the best pick. I like getting a 5-tool hitter as much as the next guy, but the Twins have been drafting outfielders high in the draft on multiple occasions over the past three years. In fact, the Twins selected an outfielder with their first two choices in the '06 draft, and 2 of their first 3 choices in the '07 draft. That, with the fact that the Twins already have a young set of outfielders at the major league level makes Hicks not an attractive pick to me. However, he does have a lot of potential and may end up being the most talented of the outfielders selected in recent years. He has great speed which would give the team the option of playing him in center field as well as at the corner. He has the potential to hit for both a good average while having good power and also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the draft. He's a high schooler, which means that he will likely take a good 5+ years to reach the majors, but his upside could be worth it. But still, I hope the Twins go after an infielder instead of another outfielder. But outfield depth is a big thing in the majors and there's a reasonable chance that one of the high selected draftees doesn't even make an impact in the majors, which would probably be the Twins reason for drafting him (besides him being the best available player in their minds).

Destin Hood, SS/OF: Hood is not a guy that has been projected to go high in the draft, but that's mainly because of his signability. He's currently committed to going to Alabama to play wide receiver, which may bring the Twins deja vu all over again, which is something that was the same with a former draftee Jared Mitchel who now is a wide receiver for the LSU Tigers.

Hood has fantastic power potential and is a very "toolsy" player, but the team that drafts him will need to make sure they can sign him if they want to take him high. With the amount of money the Twins recently freed up with shedding Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva and Johan Santana's salaries, Hood is the kind of player the team should not be afraid to draft. I think picking him in the 2nd round would be perfect.

Zach Collier, OF: Collier is another high school outfielder who's name has been linked to the Twins recently. He attended the same high school as 2006 first-round pick Chris Parmelee, but may turn out to be the better all-around player. Collier has a very athletic body and won't turn 18 until September. He has 5-tool potential and will likely be available at pick #14.

Brandon Crawford, SS: Crawford was one of this season's draft top prospects after last season, but he's struggled at UCLA and his stock has been falling. But still, he has great potential both offensively and defensively and really just needs to gain confidence to get back to where he was. Crawford may be a "reach" at #14, but if the Twins picked him with their compensatory pick from the Angels (which the Twins received after the Angels signed Torii Hunter), he would be a solid pick.

Aaron Crow, P: The Twins don't necessarily need a pitcher, but a team can never have too much pitching... right? Crow is the drafts top college arm, but with any college pitcher, the fear of wear and tear on their young shoulder is the cause of concern. He has great velocity on his fastball which has been clocked in the upper 90's and has drawn comparison to former Mizzou star and current Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Max Scherzer. In mock drafts, I've seen him go anywhere in the top 15.

Justin Hand, P: Hand is a Minnesota native from Chaska, throws in the mid-90's and is a left-handed pitcher. There's plenty of reasons why the Twins would be interested in Hand. Not only does he have a mid 90's fastball, he also possesses one of the best curve balls in the high school ranks and could be a very good pitcher with some work on his mechanics. I think he's worthy of being chosen in the first 5 rounds of the draft, but if the Twins want him, I think they'll take him early.
Now, the Twins don't necessarily need to draft for need in the draft, which makes pitching a possibility. However, with the teams ability to produce strong starting pitchers even after they have been drafted after the first few rounds, the Twins most likely will continue to draft offensive talent to help bolster their fairly weak system.

To make room on the roster for newly acquired southpaw Craig Breslow, the Twins have optioned Bobby Korecky back to Rochester where he will resume the closer role. Korecky had several strong performances including the unforgettable game against the Texas Rangers when he went 1 2/3 innings to pick up the win, and even contributed by going 1-1 at the plate when he was forced to hit. Korecky will likely be back in Minnesota at some point in the near future.

Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer are not going to shave their faces until they hit a home run. Cuddyer has been stuck at one while Mauer has not hit one yet. The Twins are counting on both to hit for more power, although fans know that Mauer likely will never be the power threat his body suggests he should be and Cuddyer is probably only good for 15-20. But with the way both have swung the bat this season, they may look like Gandolf from Lord of the Rings before they hit home runs.

This is Mauer in 2007 sporting a beard.

Congrats to Danny Valencia, Brian Dinkelman, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney and Jeff Manship for all being named to the Florida State League All-Star Game. All five are likely to be in New Britain by season's end. Rene Tosoni was elected, but due to a broken foot he won't be able to play. The game will be played on June 14th.

May 29, 2008

Twins claim reliever

According to Joe Christensen, the Minnesota Twins made a move today that will help bolster their bullpen. Craig Breslow was claimed off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians organization 6 days after they designated him for assignment. Since being drafted in the 26th round of the 2002 draft, Breslow has spent time with the Brewers, Padres, Red Sox, Indians and now the Twins. The 27-year-old will couple with Dennys Reyes as a left-handed reliever in the bullpen and will give the Twins another option against tough left-handed hitters.

Breslow's numbers aren't great, but he does have limited success in the Majors. He made it to the majors with the Padres as a 24-year-old back in 2005, then in 2006 with the Red Sox and after spending all of 2007 in the minors, the Indians picked him up last off-season and he only made 7 appearances before being released.

Breslow has had problems with his control in the majors, but he averaged 3.63 BB/9 innings in the minors. His fastball sits in the upper 80's and adds an slow curveball, a changeup and a slider. Despite not having great velocity, Breslow had a 9.84 K/9 ratio in the minors.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins transferred Pat Neshek to the 60-day D.L. and to make room on the 25-man roster, the Twins will likely be shedding a reliever. Bobby Korecky has pitched alright since his promotion, but he may be the best bet. I say this because the two other likely options are Boof Bonser and Brian Bass, and Bonser is set to start against the Yankees this weekend and Brian Bass (as well as Bonser) will have to clear waivers if the Twins hope to hold onto him in the organization.

This raises an eyebrow as to what the Twins are going to do when Scott Baker returns from the D.L. It could mean either Bonser or Bass are DFA'd which would place them on waivers, they may send either Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackurn or Glen Perkins down to Rochester (however I'm sure neither Blackburn or Perkins are even considered for that right now), or they could just be acquiring Breslow for this weekend's series against the Yankees and may release him when Baker comes back. The reason I don't feel it's the latter option is because that's not how the Twins generally operate. The club may also be setting up for an unexpected move such as releasing Juan Rincon, which may please many Twins fans. Livan Hernandez's name has come up recently in trade rumors, but I'd be very surprised to see the Twins trade him right now.

We'll find out sooner or later.

Twins make big comeback

Like Joe Christensen said, it certainly was 'A tale of two games.' One night after the team just absolutely collapsed (despite getting the win), the Twins made a big comeback for quite possibly the teams best effort of the season.

The game needed to be settled in extra-innings for the second night in a row, but this time it was for a good reason. Down by 5 runs with two outs in the top of the ninth, the Twins scored two runs on RBI singles by Mike Lamb and Carlos Gomez before Craig Monroe came on to pinch hit and delivered with a 3-run home run to left field to tie the game up. Justin Morneau then went deep in the top of the 10th inning to put the Twins up 9-8 and that's how it finished.

It certainly was a great game for the team after the intense ninth inning of Tuesday's game in which Delmon Young's decision to dive instead of play the hop nearly cost the twins the victory after Nick Blackburn's incredible performance.

Last Nights Game Ball
Mike Lamb - Third Base

3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI

Delmon Young has been terrible since the Colorado series in which he went 7-12 with 3 doubles and a triple. Since then, he's gone 4-33 with 2 triples and 2 RBI's. It's really frustrating watching him both on offense and on defense right now. Last night he misplayed a fly ball which ended up costing the Twins a run. He was charged with his first two errors of the season, but one of which I blame both Mike Lamb and Livan Hernandez for more than I do Young. In fact, I don't think Young did a single thing wrong while he threw the ball in and both Lamb and Hernandez just did not cut it off. Hernandez, and the other pitchers look like they'll be getting fielding practice once they return to the Cities. One positive for Young during his last 9 games though have been his ability to draw walks. He has 8 walks opposed to just 5 strikeouts and appears to be more disciplined at the plate more than ever. However, he continues to still slap the ball the other way and he needs to start pulling them. He also needs to stop swinging for a home run every first pitch as it's obviously not working. I'm still confident that he will turn it around, but it may be time for MLB's current "Iron Man" to take a day's rest and gather himself. It's sad that he's played in 52 games and has just 14 RBI's when the light-hitting Alexi Casilla has played in just 12 and now has 12 RBI's on the season. He has already surpassed last seasons RBI total despite playing in 44 fewer games. Young needs to turn it around, and he needs to do it soon. The Twins have shown plenty of confidence in him so far, and he needs to start producing.

After going 3-4 last night, Mike Lamb is now hitting .407 (11/27) over his last 7 games and has a double, triple, home run along with 5 RBI's. He's increased his average from .218-.252 and has been just absolutely tremendous. It's finally starting to look like he's turned the corner and is ready to start showing that he's worth the money the Twins spent on him this off-season.

Jesse Crain lowered his ERA to 2.53 in May and picked up his third win of the season and second in consecutive games. Crain still has been hurting the team as much as helping them as he's on several occasions put the next reliever in a tough situation after putting multiple players on base, but that has to do with his lack of control and I think that he's been a great surprise this season after coming back from rotator cuff & labrum surgery on his right shoulder. And really, I know he's been hard to watch on several occasions, but being that I expected next to nothing from him, it's been great to see him have good numbers this season.

It looks like Nick Punto is ready to return from the D.L. and unfortunately, it looks like Matt Macri is the likeliest of options to be sent back down. I say it's unfortunate because with the strong play of Lamb, Brendan Harris and Casilla, he has not been able to crack the lineup besides a game in Detroit. Howie Clark is another option to be sent down, but he will need to clear waivers before being able to rejoin the Red Wings, which is why I believe the team will be sending Macri down. It's bitter sweet because obviously I love the way our infielders have been playing, but I really wanted to get a better look at Macri, and his opportunity looks to be diminishing.

Last night, Livan Hernandez looked very poor out on the mound at times and great at others. Unfortunately, he turned in his second poor performance in a row which has now raised his ERA .72 points and he may start settling into the pitcher the Twins expected to see. He is still a good source of innings, but I don't believe anyone expected to see him with a sub 4.00 ERA this season and I think the Twins will start seeing more and more sluggish performances by Hernandez as the season goes on. Charley Walters believes the Twins should explore trading him sometime soon as his trade value looks to be the highest it's going to get right now, but I don't think the Twins would get much if anything for him right now, and if they really wanted to explore a trade for him, they should wait until closer to the deadline. The reason for that is because contending teams may overpay for an inning-eating veteran and the Twins may end up with a solid young player in return. Of course, if the Twins are in contention, I don't see them even considering trading him. But then again, it's a new 'regime' in the front office and Bill Smith has already shown that he's not afraid of pulling the trigger if he feels it's the right deal.

With Hernandez now seemingly struggling on the mound, I believe he has moved down the Twins "power rankings" for starting pitchers. Mine go as followed:
  1. Nick Blackburn
  2. Livan Hernandez
  3. Glen Perkins
  4. Kevin Slowey
  5. Boof Bonser
Scott Baker would be 5th, but he's been on the DL since May 3rd. Everyone believes that unless Bonser turns in an absolutely stellar game against the Yankees (which would be a very tough task without this kind of pressure), then he'll be heading to the bullpen. Of course, nothing is set in stone, but with the way Perkins has pitched, I'd be very upset if he were demoted to either Rochester or the pen for the sake of keeping Bonser in the rotation. Slowey is another option, but really sending him to Rochester would be pointless as he's proven time and time again with dominating performance against I.L. league hitters. Unless Bonser really shows up against the Yankees he's done, of course it may not matter one way or another if Ron Gardenhire already has his mind made up.

Last night, the Twins Minor League Affiliates all got great outings by their starting pitchers. Danny Graves (Rochester), Ryan Mullins (New Britain) and Jeff Manship (Ft. Myers) were all credited with wins while Arias Santos was not part of the decision. The 4 starters combined to go 26 2/3 innings and had a 1.01 ERA. Mullins, Manship and Santos did not give up an earned run (although Mullins gave up two unearned runs), but Graves was hit for 3 runs and was just one out away from picking up a quality start.

Randy Ruiz had two hits again last night to bring his average up to .273 on the season. He is now hitting .366 his last 10 games and hit .615 (8-13) in the series against the Charlotte Knights. The Red Wings swept the series and won three games in a row for the first time this season. This is just the 3rd time this season the Red Wings have won 2 or more games in a row. The team has lost 2 or more games in a row 9 times including losing streaks of 7 and 5 games.

Erik Lis went 2-3 last night and raised his season average up to .292. Despite hitting just .265 over his last 10 games, Lis is now hitting .379 in the month of May and looks to be adjusting to the Eastern League just fine. Lis will continue to climb prospect lists this season and may get a few at bats in Rochester by seasons end. Lis has great gap power and has legitimate home run power. If the team is in need of a left-handed DH in the next couple years, Lis may fill that role nicely.

Danny Valencia's triple in the 5th inning of last nights game was his 3rd of the season. Valencia is definitely in line for a call up after spending nearly an entire year in the unfriendly Florida State League. Valencia is hitting .444 over his last 10 games and .418 in May. His average is up to .347 and despite missing a few games with a hand injury, he is just 1 RBI behind the league leader who has 21 more at bats. Ed Ovalle is another Miracle batter who may be in line for a call up after hitting .302 with 4 doubles, 6 triples, and 4 home runs in 159 at bats this season. Ovalle has really turned it on recently and now has a 10 game hitting streak and has raised his average .37 points in that time frame.

Before going 0-3 last night, Joe Benson was hitting .306 over his previous 10 games and had 5 runs, 4 doubles, a home runs, 8 RBI's and 4 stolen bases in that span. Benson still has terrible plate discipline, but he looks to be making slight adjustments at the plate. Neither Benson or Parmelee have been great this season, but both may be called up if there is room in Ft. Myers. I just don't see them staying in Beloit all season. Either way, despite their averages (which is correlated with their terrible K/BB ratio), both have been alright this season with OPS' of .759 for Benson and .859 for Parmelee. Both need to cut down on their strikeout totals if they want to really be great prospects. But both still have plenty of potential and will be figured into the systems plans for a long time.

Make sure to check out "Diana's Mailbag" over at Rookie Whites, it has great updates on several intriguing Twins prospects in Extended Spring Training and she gives us a look at who's expected to be in Elizabethton when the defending Appalachian League Champions open their season on June 17th.

Seth Stohs celebrates his 5th Anniversary of "Seth Speaks" today, and it's definitely deserving of high praise. Seth has been one of the most well-known Twins bloggers on the internet since he started and it's been all for great reasons. He offers non-biased views of not only the Twins, but also their minor league affiliates. I know many have been to his sight as the majority of my sites traffic is from his site, and I'd just personally like to thank Seth for all that he gives to Twins fans like myself and others. Without him (and in all honesty), you probably would not be reading this from me and I'm sure many would not have such great knowledge of the Twins system without his site. Thank you, Seth! (I figured I can try to repay you by making this entire section linked to you since I receive so much of my traffic through your site, although I'm aware it will never be enough).

May 28, 2008

Is Kubel our "Mr. Clutch?"

Sorry I've been MIA over the last few days, it was a busy Memorial Day Weekend. The Twins went 2-1 against the Tigers, and they did it despite being outscored 18-24. The reason for the large score by the Tigers is because of a 19-3 shalacking on Saturday. But on Sunday, the Twins came back and the third game just like they did in the first game, on great pitching.

Jason Kubel continues to be a very "clutch" hitter for the Twins. On Sunday, the "Birthday Boy" broke a 1-1 tie in the 8th by hitting his 4th grand slam of his career. Probably his most memorable ame in 2006 against the Boston Red Sox which was a walk-off Grand Slam to give the Twins the victory (I was at the game, which is why I remember it), although this one was every bit as important.

Kubel's career numbers have not been spectacular. He's a career .263/.316/.428 with 29 home runs in 843 career at bats at the major league level. It's definitely a different line from what the Twins expected after he hit .320/.385/.499 with 108 doubles, 20 triples, and 49 home runs in 1,654 at bats. He also had much better plate discipline than he's so far shown in the majors. He without a doubt was one of the best young hitters to come through the Twins system in recent memory, but due to a devastating knee injury in the Fall of 2004, Kubel has struggled to get back on track after missing all of the 2005 season.

Kubel may not have shown that he has what it takes to be an every day player, but he is definitely making himself known as a good hitter when the pressure is on. He's a career .288 hitter with runners on base, a career .296 hitter with runners in scoring position, a career .319 hitter with RISP and two outs, and he's a career .471 hitter with the bases loaded. Sure, those numbers are not astonishing, but he definitely looks to be a lot better when there is pressure on him then when there isn't. He and Michael Cuddyer are now tied with the team lead with 4 grand slam in their careers.

Kubel's numbers this season look a lot worse than they are. Many predicted him to break out this season, and a .255/.295/.428 line definitely would not warrant any optimism at this point. However, he has really made solid contact on quite a few of his hits and seems to be driving the ball well. Sure it means nothing when they're being caught, but I for one am not ready to push the panic button on Kubel receiving most of the at bats as the DH.

(All of Kubel's stats were prior to yesterday's game.)

Here are a few notes from the series:

Kevin Slowey pitched a great game on Friday. He went 6 innings and gave up 0 runs on 4 hits. However, his control was not his strong part in the game and ended up walking 4 batters, very uncharacteristically of Slowey. It was his best outing of the season, and he lowered his ERA from 5.49 to 4.21 in the outing and picked up his first win of the season.

Both Boof Bonser and Brian Bass were knocked for a combined 16 runs in just 4 1/3 innings on Saturday. Although Bass was horrible, the real concern centers around Boof Bonser who is now 0-2 with a 9.59 ERA over his last 5. It's so surprising because he was great in April as he was 2-4 with a 3.75 ERA, but in May he's just been horrible. It now sounds like Bonser may be a candidate for the bullpen as the other starters are definitely pitching better than him.

Glen Perkins continues to pitch well since his promotion. On Sunday, Perkins went 7 1/3 innings of 1 run ball and continued to get ahead of nearly every hitter he faced. In just his fourth major league start, Perkins improved to 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA. It's hard to believe that possibly our two best pitchers right now are guys that weren't figuring to even start in the rotation before the season. Now both Perkins and Nick Blackburn look like they could very well be important pieces to our rotation.

Mike Lamb looks like he may be ready to break out of his season-long slump. He had a great series against the Tigers as he went 5-7 with 4 runs scored, a double, triple, and his first home run. Lamb signed a 2-year $6.6 million deal before the season to hopefully be a consistent hitter in the Twins lineup before a prospect was ready to take over at that position hopefully within the next year or two. And up until now, he looks to have been a major disappointment. Hopefully he keeps this up and proves to be a wise investment for the low-spending Twins.

Alexi Casilla has been a great spark plug for this team so far since his promotion. If it weren't for Adam Everett's injury, we might have missed out on seeing Casilla shining for us over the last week or so. He won't continue to hit for power, which he's showcased now with two home runs, but he should get better on defense while getting more comfortable at the plate. Although Gardenhire has had mixed feelings on whether to play him at shortstop or second, and it may be the best move to move him to shortstop because of his strong arm and range, it looks like he may be at second for a while as Brendan Harris has really looked much more comfortable at shortstop opposed to second base. Hopefully Casilla can keep it up, but it's definitely encouraging to see him hit well after he struggled mightily in Rochester before his call-up.

Matt Macri made his first Major League appearance on Saturday, starting for Mike Lamb at third base and had quite a debut. He went 2-3 with two singles. He also drove in a run, scored a run, walked, struck out, and stole a base. He got a little taste of everything and I was really impressed with him. He (like Casilla) was also struggling at Rochester hitting just .263/.324/.434 with 13 extra base hits in 99 at bats. He was injured for a few weeks, but came back and had two multi-hit games in his last 3 before his called up.

Here's how the rest of the lineup did:

Alexi Casilla: 3-12, 1 run, home run, 4 RBI, 2 walks
Howie Clark: 0-1, K
Michael Cuddyer: 2-10, 1 run, 1 RBI, 3 walks
Carlos Gomez: 3-15, 2 runs, 1 RBI, stolen base, walk
Brendan Harris: 2-13, 1 run, 2 RBI
Jason Kubel: 3-8, 2 runs, 4 RBI, walk
Joe Mauer: 4-10, 2 runs, 1 RBI, 4 walks
Craig Monroe: 0-4
Justin Morneau: 4-12, 2 runs, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, walk
Mike Redmond: 1-1
Delmon Young: 1-9, 2 runs, 4 walks

Game Balls

Mike Lamb - Third Base
Line: 2-3, 4 runs, triple, home run, 1 RBI, 2 walks

Matt Macri - Third Base
Line: 2-3, run, RBI, walk

Glen Perkins - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 1/3 innings pitched, 7 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 4 K's, win


Former Twins farmhand Luis Maza was recalled by the Dodgers on May 12th after hitting .402/.468/.528 in 127 at bats in the Pacific Coast League. On Saturday, the Dodgers recalled another former Twins farmhand when they placed Andruw Jones on the D.L. They recalled Terry Tiffee who spent 7 seasons in the Twins organization after being drafted in the 26th round of the 1999 draft. He was hitting .422/.464/.609 with 24 doubles and 4 home runs in 192 at bats in the PCL. The Dodgers plan on using him not only at first and third base, but also in left and right field if needed.

Speaking of former farmhands being promoted, Alex Romero was recalled by the Diamondbacks yesterday after they placed Eric Byrnes on the D.L. Romero was waived by the Twins prior to the 2007 season so the team could keep Chris Heintz on the 40-man roster. Obviously he was claimed off of waivers and has been a great player for the Diamondback organization ever since. Many had a problem when the Twins made that move, and this will obviously make some fans upset to see. He was hitting .331/.374/.438 in 130 at bats in the PCL. Although his minor league numbers have been strong, he does not figure to be much more than a #4 outfielder, especially in the Diamondback organization which has many young outfielders on the depth chart.

Here's a humorous story about a young 22-year-old center fielder and his Milk Duds.

It looks like Nick Punto won't return to the Twins roster until Saturday at the earliest. Punto has been out since May 8th when he strained his hamstring against the White Sox. In that game, Punto went 2-5 with a double, triple, 2 runs and 5 RBI. He probably could be back with the Twins earlier than Saturday, but his wife is scheduled to give birth on Friday so the Twins will decide to hold off on reinstating him. It's not known who he will replace on the roster, but my guess is Matt Macri despite playing well in his only game thus far.

Although it's early, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the only position players who look to have a shot at going to the All-Star Game.

Twins-Royals Thoughts

This game turned from excellent to horrifying in the span of about 3 minutes. Nick Blackburn was cruising through the entire game and with a 3-0 lead was given the opportunity to pitch the ninth for the complete game shutout. But after hitting Alex Gordon in the foot and then a single by Miguel Olivo, Joe Nathan came into the game to try and relieve Blackburn and pick up his 13th save in as many opportunities this season. The next batter, Mark Teahen hit a ball down the left field line and just out of the reach of the diving Delmon Young. The ball hit the wall in foul territory and bounced to the fence in left field. Young came up firing but Teahen was safe by a mile and tied the game up with a 3-run inside-the-park home run.

After the inning, it looked as if Young was trying to console Nathan and looked to try and basically say "it's my fault", but Nathan ignored the 22-year-old and instead decided to pout on the bench. Of course I don't know the whole story, but Nathan is 33 going on 34 and Young is 22 going on 23. If Nathan can't understand that it was a tough play and a well hit ball then I think that's pretty childish of him to ignore Young who is trying to turn his reputation around. I admire Young trying to make the play, and he knows he should have just played it safe, but I think there's no reason for a clubhouse leader like Nathan to give Young the cold shoulder when he tried to take the blame. It was really disappointing to see that happen, but he's a 22-year-old who let his instincts take over, I'm sure that has happened to Nathan. I'm not going to get too much into this because (like I mentioned, I don't know the whole story), but in my interpretation, that is what I saw and I think Nathan should have shown more maturity.

Blackburn tried to return what K.C.'s starter Brian Bannister did to the Twins in April, which was pitch a complete game, but unfortunately it didn't happen and despite pitching a great game, Blackburn was not part of the decision. Blackburn's line was 8 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 2 runs, 4 K's, 92 pitches (75 strikes). It was without a doubt his best start of the season, and he now has a 3.39 ERA on the season (through 11 starts).

Michael Cuddyer was the Twins best player on offense last night. Cuddy went 3-6 to make his average jump .12 points. He also drove in two runs including the game-winning run in the 12th inning. Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau also had 3-hit nights while the rest of the team combined for 3 hits.

The bullpen really pitched well last night for the Twins. Dennys Reyes, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain combined for 3 innings of shutout ball. Crain picked up the win, his second of the season and his 22nd of his career. Guerrier was credited with the save which was his first of the season and third of his career.

Tonight, the Twins will send Livan Hernandez to the mound to make his 12th start of the season, and his 3rd against the Royals. He is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts against K.C. Zach Greinke will take the mound for the Royals. The 24-year-old right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA this season and is 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 11 appearances (7 starts) against Minnesota.

Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Blackburn really pitched a great game last night. Unfortunately, Baseball is a very unpredictable game and we saw that last night. Blackburn was cruising through the game and came into the 9th inning with only throwing 85 pitches. He threw 92 total and he showed his great control again while throwing 75 of the pitches for strikes. Blackburn's ERA this season should be at 3.11 instead of 3.39, but he couldn't get through the inning and it's not how the cards always fall. I'm definitely very impressed by Blackburn after this start and I think he's definitely showing that he is in fact the Twins #1 prospect.

Down on the Farm

Hitter of the Day
Randy Ruiz - Designated Hitter - Rochester Red Wings
Ruiz has not had the type of season many envisioned he'd have after a great Spring Training. However, over the past 10 games, he has 5 multi-hit games, including yesterday's 4-5 performance. Two of Ruiz's hits were doubles bringing his season total up to 13. Ruiz also drove in one and scored 3 times while helping the Red Wings beat the Knights, 12-0.

Pitcher of the Day
Cole Devries - Starting Pitcher - Ft. Myers Miracle
After having a rocky April, Devries has really pitched well in May. Despite having 13 fewer strikeouts in 2 more innings, the Eden Prairie native has lowered his ERA from 5.o8 to 2.40 this month and now sits with a 4-4 record and a 3.70 ERA. And in his last 3 starts, Devries is 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings.

Touch 'Em All!
Rochester Red Wings: None
New Britain Rock Cats: None
Ft. Myers Miracle: None
Beloit Snappers: None (Off-Day)

Box Scores
Red Wings beat the Knights, 12-0.
Rock Cats lost to the Defenders 6-4.
Miracle beat the Reds, 5-0.
Snappers had an off-day.

May 23, 2008

Twins recall Macri

The Twins lost their second game in a row, this time losing a heart breaker in extra innings off of a Josh Hamilton home run. The Twins played well yesterday, but it just wasn't enough. For a more in depth look at the game, here's Over The Baggy's recap.

Last Nights Game Ball
Carlos Gomez - Center Fielder

Gomez had himself a very good game yesterday. He played stellar defense again for the Twins, robbing Milton Bradley of a potential extra base hit by diving head first for a ball onto the turf (it was the second straight game he's made such a play). Gomez also was stellar at the plate, going 4-5 with a home run and 3 RBI's. Gomez is now hitting .318 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI's and has a .920 OPS in the month of May.

Adam Everett has been placed on the 15-day D.L. for the second time this season, both of them for the same injury. Yesterday, the Twins decided to shelve the 8-year vet after he was experiencing pain in his right shoulder for the second time this season. The injury has made Everett's defense less than desirable by not being able to make routine throws around the infield as well as he's capable of. Everett has a solid glove, but his throws have hurt the Twins this season. It looked even recently that the injury was behind him, but of course things aren't always the way they appear.

By placing Everett on the D.L., the Twins recalled Rochester infielder Matt Macri. Macri was hitting .263 with a .758 OPS this season for the Red Wings. He missed almost 3 weeks with a strained left calf and has played 4 games with the Red Wings since returning. The Twins pondered on bringing up either Trevor Plouffe or Luke Hughes straight from Double-A, but with their reluctance of promoting them even to Triple-A, I'm not sure if this was ever actually a strong consideration.

The injury further depletes the Red Wings roster. With Denard Span already out because of injury and players like Bobby Korecky, Macri, Howie Clark and Alexi Casilla in the majors because of other injuries, the Red Wings needed some help. The Twins chose not to promote either Plouffe or Hughes despite them having good seasons thus far (and them being in the same level for a year already), but instead they chose to promote the struggling Felix Molina. Molina has been horrible at the plate this season, but there's still a spot for him in the lineup nearly everyday. Molina has been in New Britain since midway through the 2005 season, so this promotion is definitely long overdue, but I have to wonder why the Twins are being so reluctant to promote a player who can help the Red Wings offensively as they've been abysmal this season. I'm happy to see Molina finally get to Rochester, but I still believe that either Trevor Plouffe or Luke Hughes would have been a better option.

I expect the Twins to be making many roster changes within the next month or so, but it has been sad watching the Twins deplete the Red Wings team without giving them really any help from Double-A. Either way, I'm happy to see Macri get the call as he's a new face, and as unfortunate as an injury is, it's nice to see Everett not in the lineup for a little while. And it's also nice to see Molina get the promotion, although I think the Twins should promote another player or two to Rochester such as a guy who can play multiple positions like Luke Hughes?

May 22, 2008

Is Atkins the answer?

The Minnesota Twins lost to Sidney Ponson and the Texas Rangers last night, 10-1. Ponson went the entire way and gave up just 1 run on 6 hits. Ponson is now 3-0 with a 2.95 ERA this season. This happened just one night after the Twins scored 11 runs. The problem with the Twins has been their inconsistent play both at the plate and on defense.

Prior to yesterday's blowout, the Twins ranked 8th in the AL in runs scored and 2nd to last in home runs. Obviously, home runs don't mean everything in baseball, but the Twins inability to hit the long ball has definitely hurt them this season. Hitting home runs is not the only problem for the Twins, they also ranked 3rd to worst in the league with a .316 OBP. With a team with little power, they need to be getting on base much more than what they are.

I think the Twins could find a quick fix, but it would come at a price. Yes, I'm talking about making a trade. It's unlikely for teams to make big trades this early into the season, but I think that if the Twins don't make a change soon, they will get lost in the division quickly.

My trading partner is the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have two players that they may consider shopping right now, Matt Holiday and Garrett Atkins. The reason for the teams desire to trade is that they're really struggling right now, they won't put that kind of money into the team, and they have a top prospect in the wings that is waiting for a chance to play at the major league level. Ian Stewart is the prospect I'm referring to and he's a third baseman, but the team seems unwilling to just move him to second base where they'd be able to keep both Atkins and Holiday while Stewart would man the right-middle of the infield. Now, before I go any further, I know that the Rockies could very easily trade a guy like Todd Helton, making room for Stewart that way, but there have been more hints of the Rockies potentially one of Atkins or Holliday, which is why I bring up their names.

Holiday is the more desirable player, however the Twins don't really have room for him on the roster, unless of course if they ended up moving Michael Cuddyer to the infield or to designated hitter. Also, acquiring Holiday would require a king's ransom, which I don't see the Twins giving up anytime soon. Thus, Garrett Atkins makes the more logical sense for both clubs for multiple reasons; (A) the Twins have a big hole at third base, (B) the Rockies would be able to keep Stewart in his natural position, (C) the Twins should have enough money to re-sign him to a long-term deal where the Rockies seem to be unwilling.

Atkins is currently hitting .332/.355/.511 with 11 doubles, 7 home runs and 28 RBI's this season. That's obviously a lot better than .223/.254/.269 with 6 doubles, 0 home runs and 19 RBI's this season. Atkins has been solid defensively this season, but he has struggled as of late.

Although Atkins has preformed well over his career, his name has been linked to trade rumors for a few seasons now, and with Stewart now ready to make the jump to the majors it now looks like this might be the right time for them to finally pull the trigger on a trade. Sure it may sound crazy that the defending N.L. Champions would consider trading one (possibly two) of their best players from a year ago, but it happens fairly often with small market teams (ala Florida Marlins) and the Rockies owner does not seem willing to sign both Atkins and Holiday to long-term deals.

So, this is what I believe the Twins should do: trade Brian Dinkelman, Anthony Swarzak and Oswaldo Sosa to the Rockies for Garrett Atkins. The Rockies may be looking for more major league ready pitchers, so if they wanted a guy like Brian Duensing, Philip Humber or even Boof Bonser (obviously in place of one of the other players), I would not mind.

This would hardly put a dent into the Twins depth at starting pitching in the minors, so I don't see why the Twins would be totally objected to doing this. Of course, no team wants to give up a potential All-Star pitcher, but the Twins have been so afraid of pulling the trigger in the past that it definitely hurt them offensively as the team has had no problem with producing pitchers where they've had many problems producing hitters. And as of right now, it looks as if there's nobody in the organization worth talking about that can really do anything great on offense (with respect to Luke Hughes and Erik Lis), at least anytime in the next year or two.

With the loss of Swarzak and Sosa, the Twins still have guys like Glen Perkins, Duensing, Humber, Deolis Guerra, Tyler Robertson, Alex Burnett, Michael McCardell, Jeff Manship and others that would make up a lot of depth in the pitching department. And that's not including guys like Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker who figure to be apart of our rotation at the major league level for at least the next few years.

With Atkins in the mix, here's how I would arrange the lineup:

CF - Carlos Gomez
C - Joe Mauer
3B - Garrett Atkins
1B - Justin Morneau
RF - Michael Cuddyer
DH - Jason Kubel
LF - Delmon Young
2B - Brendan Harris
SS - Adam Everett

I know Ron Gardenhire likes Mauer in the third spot of the lineup, but he is not a prototypical #3 hitter, whereas Atkins fits that role better as he has much more power. If Gardenhire insisted on hitting Mauer third, I would consider putting Atkins 4th (although I know hitting Morneau 5th is ludicrous) and putting Kubel in the #2 hole where he hit .328/.409/.586 with 4 doubles, a triple and 3 home runs in 58 AB's last season. Hitting Kubel in front of Mauer obviously seemed to work out very well last season, so I think it would be worth a try.

And now I want to go to my next point. And that is that I'm not placing on the blame for this team's lackluster offense play on Mike Lamb, because I could very easily place it on Michael Cuddyer, Adam Everett and even Delmon Young. Those guys have all underperformed equally if not on offense, then definitely on defense. And if it weren't for Matt Tolbert's injury, Mike Lamb being benched would not be the only move that I'd want to see this team make. Inserting Matt Tolbert into the lineup in place of Adam Everett would be a great idea, unfortunately Tolbert figures to miss about 2 months with his thumb injury, shooting down any thought of this.

This entire team needs a big wakeup call, and I think that adding an All-Star caliber player to this offense could do quite a bit for our offense. Coming into the season, many thought (especially myself) that this teams offensive woes were going to be something of the past, and the arrival of Young, Lamb, Harris and Gomez was going going to make our weak offense strong. However, the offense has really not changed. The team still struggles to hit for extra-bases and the teams OBP is down from a year ago. This team looks great one day, and awful the next. The inconsistent offensive play has been something many Twins fans are used to, but it is time for a change.

I'm not calling Garrett Atkins the answer to all of our problems, but he would definitely be a big help to our struggling offense. Heck, if the Twins really wanted to make a splash, trade for both Atkins and Holliday, moving Cuddyer to second base... but I know that's really asking for too much.

Last Nights Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Note: Really, I just can't give the game ball to any of our hitters. Sure Adam Everett had a triple, Carlos Gomez had a double, and Joe Mauer had two singles, but if it weren't for a botched defensive play by Alexi Casilla, Blackburn would have only given up just 1 run in the 6th inning, instead of 7. Blackburn was pitching very well before his defense failed him, and then after he really was shaky and lost all confidence in his pitches and left a few of them up. But again, he should not have been in that spot anyways, so I can't really blame him all for it. Blackburn finished the game going 6 innings and gave up 7 runs (only one earned) on 10 hits. Blackburn showed great control again and walked just one batter while striking out 4. Blackburn now sits at 4-3 with a 3.55 ERA.

May 21, 2008

Twins play small ball in win

Just one night after one Red Wing picks up his first Major League win, another picks his up last night when the Twins beat the Texas Rangers 11-4.

Glen Perkins made his third major league start and picked up his first win of his career. The former Minnesota Gopher and first round pick went 6 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits. He cruised threw the first 6 innings untouched before hitting a snag in the 7th inning. Perkins was very effective throughout the game and got ahead of hitters early. He showcased fantastic control again and threw just 27 balls out of 96 pitches. Perkins' future isn't necessarily clear as to where he fits in longterm, but he definitely has shown that he can start at the major league level as well as pitch in relief. So, at least he has given the Twins a couple of options.

Brian Bass came into the game with the bases loaded in the 7th inning and came out untouched after setting down two of the Rangers best hitters in Michael Young and Josh Hamilton. Bass pitched 2 2/3 innings and gave up 3 straight singles in the 9th to allow the Rangers score their 4th run of the game. Bass was the only reliever not used in Monday's game, so a great job by him and Perkins by helping relieve the relievers (yes, that was a pun) for an evening.

The batters teed off on Rangers starter Doug Mathis. Mathis was hit for 9 runs (6 earned) in just 2 1/3 innings pitched. The Twins got on the board early with an Alexi Casilla RBI single after Carlos Gomez lead off the game with a first-pitch triple. Gomez returned to the starting lineup after sitting 3 games (coming in later in two of them as a pinch runner) and went 1-5 with a triple, but looked to have possibly tweaking his injured wrist late in the game, but hopefully that's all it was. It could have been 2 runs in the first inning, but Casilla got a late jump on Joe Mauer's double and was forced to hold up at 3rd. The offense then errupted in the 3rd inning for 7 runs on 5 hits and an error. Everyone in the lineup contributed in some way or another. Sure some more than others, but it was really a good team effort.

Mauer and Casilla were last nights top performers at the plate. The two combined to go 5-8 with 3 RBI's and 3 runs scored. Justin Morneau and Mike Lamb also had multi-hit games. Morneau went 2-4 with an RBI single and Lamb went 2-3 with an RBI single and a sac fly. Delmon Young hit his 3rd double in his last 3 games. Coming into the game with a 25/5 K/BB ratio and a .275 OBP went 1-2 with his 5th double of the season and walked twice to raise his OBP to .284.

Game Ball
Glen Perkins - Staring Pitcher

Perkins had another fantastic start last night. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs (2 earned) on 96 pitches. Perkins cruised through the first 6 innings before hitting a snag in the 7th in which the Rangers scored 3 runs. Perkins got a head of the Rangers hitters often and had superb control throughout the game. It was Perkins' 3rd start of his career and he now sits at 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA. He also has a 12/2 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings pitched.

Tonight, the Rangers will send Sidney Ponson to the hill to face off against Nick Blackburn of the Twins. After going 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA in 7 starts for the Twins last season, Ponson is off to a great start for the Rangers with a 2-0 record and a 3.52 ERA in 5 starts. However, he faces off against Nick Blackburn who's also off to a great start. Blackburn is 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA, but he was hit hard last time against the Rangers for 5 runs on 11 hits in 6 innings.

After a poor start in April, the Red Wings have just completely shut down and are now 5-15 in May. The offense isn't scoring runs, the starters aren't going deep into the games, the bullpen isn't helping them out, players are being promoted, players are getting hurt. Basically everything that could go wrong for the Wings, has gone wrong. It's a shame since there was such high hopes for the club heading into the season, as many thought they had a good shot at taking the International League Title.

And the news just keeps getting worse for the Red Wings. Denard Span will be out for 3-4 weeks with a broken finger.

One positive for the Red Wings however is the progression of Francisco Liriano. Liriano turned in his 4th solid performance in a row yesterday for the Red Wings. Yesterday, Liriano went 7 innings giving up just 8 hits, all singles, while allowing 2 runs to score and walking just 1 batter and striking out 3. Liriano threw 91 pitches, 62 of them for strikes and he now has a 2.76 ERA in his last 4 starts and has 8 walks opposed to 16 K's. He still has a little ways to go before I'd like to see him in the majors again, but he's definitely getting closer.

Ben Revere failed to get on base with either a hit or a walk (unless if I'm mistaken) for the first time since being promoted to Beloit from Extended Spring Training. He's off to a fantastic start.

Danny Valencia returned to action after missing 4 games with a hand injury. He went 2-4 and had an RBI double in his first at bat.

Minor League Hitter of the Day
Tommy Watkins - Left Field - Rochester Red Wings

Watkins was zoned in at the plate yesterday reaching base all 5 times he came to the plate. He had 2 walks, and 3 hits one of which was his first extra-base hit of the season. Unfortunately for Watkins, Denard Span went 0-5 in the game, failing to get on a single time which hurt Watkins' RBI opportunities. Watkins now has 10 walks on the season, and 5 in the last 2 games.

Minor League Pitcher of the Day
Tyler Robertson - Starting Pitcher - Ft. Myers Miracle

Robertson had his best start this season last night. The 6'5'' 20-year-old left-hander went 7 innings of shutout ball and gave up just 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 4. Robertson kept the ball low in the zone and induced 13 ground ball outs opposed to 4 fly ball outs. Roberston won his 2nd game in his last 3 starts and is now 2-2 with a 3.04 ERA and has struck out 49 batters in 50 1/3 innings.

Touch 'Em All!
Rochester Red Wings: None
New Britain Rock Cats: None (Game postponed)
Ft. Myers Miracle: None
Beloit Snappers: None
Box Scores

Red Wings lost to the Chiefs, 3-2 in 10 innings.
Rock Cats - Senators game was postponed due to rain.
Miracle beat the Hammerheads, 5-0.
Snappers lost to the LumberKings, 4-2.

May 20, 2008

Twins use 20 players to get the win

It was a very interesting game, to say the least. Michael Cuddyer started in center field, Alexi Casilla hit his first major league home run, a pitcher had to hit, and the team still got the win with 7 runs despite Justin Morneau and Cuddyer combining to go 0-10 at the plate.

Boof Bonser pitched better than in his past 3 starts, but had to exit the game after throwing just 79 pitches because the Rangers stated teeing off against him. After he left, the Twins used 6 relievers, everyone but Brian Bass, before they could get the win. Jesse Crain, Joe Nathan and Bobby Korecky were all great, whereas Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes and Juan Rincon all struggled. Korecky was nails, coming into a tough situation, bases loaded and one out in the 11th inning with Ian Kinsler and a career .360 hitter with the bases loaded in Michael Young up to bat. He got set both of them down, keeping the game tied when it looked like the Twins might lose it.

Korecky then had to come on in the bottom of the 11th inning to hit, as the Twins forfeited the DH option after Brendan Harris (the original DH) came into the game as a defensive replacement. It was the first time that Korecky has had to hit in a game since 2003, but looked like Dustin Pedroia and knocked a single into right field. Unfortunately, it proved to be worthless as both Justin Morneau & Michael Cuddyer failed to drive him in from 3rd base.

Carlos Gomez got an infield single to lead off the 12th inning for the Twins and was moved over to 2nd on a Delmon Young grounder to shortstop. After Mike Lamb was intentionally walked, Howie Clark stepped to the plate and hit a walk-off double just over Josh Hamilton's head to give the Twins, and Korecky, the win. It was a very eventful game, and if you want to see how the Twins used 20 different players, make sure to check out the boxscore.

Brendan Harris, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel accounted for 7 of the teams 13 hits in the game. Mauer had two RBI singles, one of which tied the game up in the 9th inning to put the game into extra innings. Alexi Casilla went 1-4 with a three-run home run, his first of his career. Delmon Young hit his 3rd triple of the season, and his 2nd in as many games.

Michael Cuddyer started the game in center field, and held his own, but it will be nice to see Gomez back there (hopefully) tomorrow.

Game Ball
Bobby Korecky - Relief Pitcher

I could have easily picked Howie Clark for this, but I had to choose Korecky. The 28-year-old rookie relieved Juan Rincon in the top of the 11th inning with the game tied and the bases loaded with one out and got Ian Kinsler to pop out to Michael Cuddyer before striking out Michael Young. And then, he came on in the bottom of the inning and was forced to bat and came through with a single. He then set down Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and David Murphy in a row in the 12th before Howie Clark gave the team the walk-off win, giving Korecky his first win as a Major Leaguer.

What's going on in the minors?

Joe Benson is catching fire in Beloit. With his RBI single in the 7th inning of last nights game, he extended his hitting streak to 9 games in which he's hitting .400 (14-35) with 5 doubles, 2 triples and 7 RBI's. He's now hitting .317/.386/.540 in May. The one alarming thing about Benson is still his plate discipline. He now has 50 strikeouts in 155 AB's (42 games) and has walked just 15 times.

Speaking of Beloit, Benson's teammate Ben Revere is also on fire. By going 3-4 last night, Revere is now hitting .432 with a 1.051 OPS through 81 at bats since arriving in Beloit in late April. Over his last 6 games, Revere is 15-27 with 2 doubles, a triple, 6 RBI's and 3 stolen bases. If he keeps this up, I believe the Twins won't be able to keep him in Beloit all season (although I'm sure they'd like to) and could be in Ft. Myers sometime around the All-Star break.

Jay Rainville pitched his best game this season, going 7 strong innings and giving up an unearned run on 3 hits while striking out 8. Rainville picked up his 3rd win of the season, but still has 5 loses and a 7.53 ERA.

Danny Valencia missed his 4th game in a row with a hand injury. He's currently hitting .396/.448/.717 in May with 7 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 17 RBI in 14 games. Valencia was promoted with Johnny Woodard and Brian Dinkelman on June 22nd of last year, so he almost has a full season in Ft. Myers and should be getting to New Britain sometime within the next month (as should Dinkelman if there is room in the infield), if he can come back from this injury.

With a 3-4 performance last night, Trevor Plouffe improved his average to .328 in the month of May. He has 6 multi-hit games in his last 10 games and has really made himself a strong candidate to move up to Rochester where they are thin in the infield.

Zach Ward continued to dominate from the bullpen in New Britain, with two more scoreless innings of relief, he now has a 0.32 ERA through 28 innings this season. He has only given up one earned run in 17 appearances. With his dominance in the bullpen, I don't believe the team is going to even consider putting him in the rotation anytime soon.

May 18, 2008

Twins struggle in Denver

The Minnesota Twins went to Coors Field for the first time in the regular season in the teams history. The Twins took game one off of a great pitching performance by rookie Nick Blackburn to pick up his fourth win of the season, and his first on the road. Blackburn went 7 very strong innings, throwing only 88 pitches. He gave up just two runs on 6 hits to lower his ERA to 3.77. He also struck out 5 to bring his season total to 30. Blackburn is next set to face off against Sidney Ponson and the Rangers on Wednesday night at the Metrodome.

Livan Hernandez pitched well in game two, but still picked up the loss. He carried a no-no into the 6th inning, but gave up 8 hits over the next inning two and 1/3 innings. He ended up giving up 3 runs in the 6th-8th inning and took the loss 3-2. Hernandez now sits at 6-2 with a solid 3.88 ERA and will take on Vincente Padilla and the Rangers in the Thursday matinée.

Kevin Slowey continued the solid pitching on Sunday, but was not quite as good as either Hernandez or Blackburn. Slowey gave up 3 runs in 5 2/3 innings and took the loss, his fourth of the season. Slowey was hit with two solo home runs, one by Clint Barmes in the 3rd inning and one by Todd Helton in the 6th inning. Slowey has given up exactly 3 runs in each of his first 4 starts this season and has yet to pitch over 5 2/3 innings in a game. Slowey's been hit hard by home runs this season, giving up 6 bombs in just under 20 innings. Slowey will take on Armando Galarraga of the Tigers on Friday in Detroit.

Offensively, Delmon Young had a great series. The 22-year-old left fielder came in hitting .263/.309/.296 with 3 doubles and a triple. After going 7-12 with 3 doubles and a triple, Young is now hitting .287/.328/.348. He still has to continue hitting for power, because a .676 OPS is terrible, but it definitely is encouraging after he released this quote just last week:
“It’s usually about 150 at-bats, about May 15, and that’s when I get going. I always have a timing issue with my rocking leg kick, and that’s why it takes a while to get going. And just getting used to the Dome, with the depth perception.”
Well, coming into the series (which was on May 16th) he had 152 at bats, so if he can start going now, I think Twins fans will be very happy.

Justin Morneau went 4-11 with 2 walks and a 2-run home run. He was very frustrated on Sunday and ended up breaking a bat in the dugout in disgust for his teams performance. The Twins came into the series hoping to have a great series, but instead the offense was nearly dead for the series with Young & Morneau accounting for 11 of the teams' 23 hits. On Sunday, the team had 4 times that they had a runner on 2nd or 3rd with less than two outs that they did not execute on. It happened three times in the first three innings.

Despite going 1-7, I was fairly impressed with Adam Everett this series. Despite playing shotty defense on Sunday, he really gave the ball a few nice rides, two times in which I thought they were going to go over the fence. I know that hitting the ball far means nothing if it's caught (ala Jason Kubel), but given that he has never shown power throughout his career, it definitely was nice to see. Everett did have two sac-flys in Friday's game.

The pitchers weren't half bad this series... at the plate. On Friday, Nick Blackburn went 1-3 but would've been 2-3 if he did not get scared when the ball came his way. He hit the ball towards second baseman Jeff Baker and when he threw the ball to first, Blackburn tensed up and slowed down because he thought he was going to get hit by the ball. He later beat out an infield single to shortstop. Livan Hernandez went 1-2 and put down a bunt on the suicide squeeze to pick up an RBI. Slowey almost had a blooper to right on Sunday, but went 0-2 in the game. A 2-7 series was better than Michael Cuddyer who continued his struggles at the plate going 1-12 with a triple.

Game Balls!

Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 5 K's, win, 88 pitches (And also 1-3 at the plate)

Livan Hernandez - Starting Pitcher

7 1/3 innings pitched, 8 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks, 0 K's, loss, 101 pitches (And also 1-2 with an RBI at the plate)

Delmon Young - Left Field

Line: 2-4, double, triple, run

Tonight, the Twins will host the surging Texas Rangers. Opening pitch is set for 7:10 PM with Boof Bonser taking on Scott Feldman. Bonser has struggled over his last 3 starts giving up 16 runs in 16 innings of work. Hopefully Bonser can avoid the "big inning" and pitch a good game to regain some faith for the team and the fans.

Injuries continue...

As I mentioned on Friday, Matt Tolbert has landed on the disabled list and it looks like he may need surgery to repair his injured thumb. Tolbert slid head-first into first base last Thursday and tore a ligament in his thumb on the play. Howie Clark was called up to take his place and went 1-4 with a double on Sunday while starting at 3rd base.

You may be wondering why I did not mention Carlos Gomez in the recaps above. After going 1-5 at the plate, Gomez made an amazing catch to end the game, but payed a price. While catching the ball, he slammed into the wall and injured his right wrist. He sat out Saturday and came in to pinch run on Sunday. Craig Monroe took his place in the lineup and went 0-8 at the plate. If Gomez needs more than another day or two to recover, the Twins may consider putting him on the D.L. to be safe, while calling up Denard Span who has been on fire in AAA-Rochester.

In the minors, Rene Tosoni broke his foot during the 6th inning of Friday's game against the Tampa Yankees and will likely be done for the season. It's really a shame. Tosoni is a 2nd year player who played just 2 games of Single-A last season before opening the season in Ft. Myers. He was hitting .325/.430/.452 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, and a home run in 126 at bats. Hopefully he can recover and come back strong next season. Luckily, Eli Tintor is eligible to play on May 27th after his 50-game suspension is up.

Down on the Farm

For information on the Twins Minor Leagues, make sure to go to Seth Speaks for game recaps from Yesterday, and Friday & Saturday.

May 16, 2008

Tolbert heading to the DL

Matt Tolbert has been placed on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. Tolbert slid head first into first base yesterday trying to beat out an infield hit and while getting out, he ended up hurting his thumb on the play. It's not known how long he'll be out, but I'd expect a couple months. Howie Clark has been called up to take his place.

Clark is a 34 year old utility infielder who has spent time in the majors with the Blue Jays and Orioles. He signed as a minor league free agent this off-season and is currently hitting .284/.331/.422 with 7 doubles, 3 triples and one home run in 116 at bats. Not great numbers, but over the span of the last 6 games, he's 12-23 with 4 doubles, a triple and 4 RBI's.

Get Out The Broom

The Twins were swept by the Blue Jays yesterday. Again, the base-running blunders killed the teams chances of getting ahead and the Blue Jays held the Twins to just 7 hits en route to a 3-2 win that had to be settled in extra innings. Glen Perkins pitched a good game. In just his second career start in the majors the Minnesota native went 6 innings and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6. The bullpen pitched well until Jesse Crain came in in the 11th inning and loaded up the bases while giving up the go-ahead run. Matt Guerreir, Dennys Reyes and Joe Nathan combined for 4 innings of shutout relief while allowing just 3 hits and striking out 5. Crain took the loss, his second of the season and it raised his ERA up to 4.61 through 13 appearances.

Offensively, Justin Morneau carried the way again going 2-4 with an RBI double. It was his second 2-4 game in a row, and he's now officially on fire. Over the last 6 games, he's 12-23 (.522) with a double, triple, home run and has 6 RBI's. He and Mauer are the only twins hitters currently hitting over .300. Jason Kubel had his second straight 2-4 performance as well, and finished the series 5-9 with 2 doubles, a home run and 3 RBI's. Craig Monroe was the only other hitter worth noting as he went 1-3 with a double and a walk. Joe Mauer, Mike Lamb and Carlos Gomez all sat until being used as pinch hitters and defensive replacements late in the game.

Kubel and Brendan Harris both ran through stop signs at third base (unless if they're actually that slow) and were both gunned down at home plate. I'm assuming they ran through (although Dan Gladden and Jon Gordon never really said so on the Harris blunder), because both were out by a "mile." It's the second game in a row that base running potentially cost us the game.

Game Ball
Glen Perkins - Starting Pitcher

6 innings pitched, 2 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Tonight, the Twins make their first (ever) trip to Coors Field to face the Colorado Rockies in the clubs first series of inter-league play. Nick Blackburn will try to continue his solid pitching against Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies who has struggled mightily this season. Hopefully the Twins can hit a few home runs in the National League's version of the "Home Dome."

Down on the Farm!

Hitter of the Day
Erik Lis - Left Field - New Britain Rock Cats

After hitting a measly .202 in April, Erik Lis has caught fire in May hitting .457/.500/.761 with 11 doubles in 12 games. Yesterday, he went 4-5 with 2 doubles and an RBI. Between Wednesday and Thursday, he had a span of 5 at bats and all 5 resulted in 5 doubles. He's been a hitting machine and after having a great season in the Florida State League in '07, he should start gaining more support on prospect rankings if he keeps this up.

Pitcher of the Day
Francisco Liriano - Starting Pitcher -Rochester Red Wings

It feels really good to type Francisco Liriano's name in here. After struggling in the majors, Liriano has steadily improved in each of his starts. Yesterday, he lasted 8 innings and gave up just 3 runs on 7 hits while walking just one and fanning four. The one walk was his lowest this season and probably the most encouraging stat is this: 93 pitches, 61 strikes. His command still isn't what it was, but he's definitely improving and to get to 8 innings on 93 pitches means he was pretty effective. Twins fans must all feel very good after seeing him do so well in this start, but he still has a long way to go.

Touch 'Em All!

Rochester Red Wings: None
New Britain Rock Cats: Luke Hughes (10)
Ft. Myers Miracle: None
Beloit Snappers: None

Box Scores

Red Wings lost to the Clippers, 3-1.
Rock Cats lost to the Mets, 7-6 in 11 innings.
Miracle beat the Yankees 6-5 in 10 innings.
Snappers lost to the LumberKings, 4-2.

May 15, 2008

Twins lose another

Boof Bonser got hit hard again, in just the first inning, he found himself trailing the Blue Jays 4-0 with one out after he gave up a grand slam to Matt Stairs. Scott Rolen kept fouling pitches off and battled Bonser's 7 fastballs and 4 sliders that came his way before he drew a walk. The walk loaded the bases and set up a Stairs home run, it was deja vu for the Twins after Rolen battled Kevin Slowey for 15 pitches the night before setting up a Matt Stairs solo homerun. Perhaps the Twins should avoid these two at all costs, because they've hurt the Twins quite a bit in each of the first two games. Like Bonser's previous starts, he pitched well besides his one big inning. After a disastrous start, Bonser settled down and went on to last 6 innings giving up 5 runs on 5 hits. Bonser now sits with a 2-5 record and a 5.37 ERA. His rotation spot isn't necessarily in jeopardy right now, but he does need to turn it around so it does not get to that point.

The bullpen was fairly strong. Juan Rincon has really picked it up since Neshek went down with his injury and added another scoreless inning of relief last night. He now has a 3.38 ERA. Jesse Crain allowed an unearned run, but is it really unearned when it was you who caused the error? Nathan struck out two in his loan inning of relief, it was his first non-save appearance since April 27th and it was just his second appearance since May 4th.

The offense drew 9 hits off of Roy Halladay, 11 all together. Unfortunately, the team couldn't hit Halladay hard enough and the 31-year-old former Cy Young winner is still undefeated against the Twins in 9 career starts (11 games). Justin Morneau got the Twins on the board in the bottom of the 1st inning with a two-run home run to center field. It was his 7th home run of the season and he now has 31 RBI's. Morneau finished 2-4 with 2 runs scored. Jason Kubel made his return to the starting lineup and cemented himself for at least a couple games with a 2-4 performance with two RBI doubles. Matt Tolbert and Delmon Young also had two hit nights. Carlos Gomez and Young both made mistakes on the base paths which may have costed the Twins the game.

Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base

2-4, 2 Runs, Home Run, 2 RBI

Today, Dustin McGowan will take the hill against Glen Perkins. It will be McGowan's second start against the Twins and Perkins second start of his career. Should be a good game, unfortunately it won't be on television.

Down on the Farm!
Hitter(s) of the Day
Jair Fernandez - Designated Hitter - Beloit Snappers & Denard Span - Center Field - Rochester Red Wings
Alright, so I couldn't pick just one player who I could give this "award" to. Fernandez helped conduct the Snappers offensive attack with a 4-5 performance with 3 runs, 2 doubles and 2 RBI's. Fernandez was acquired from the Seattle Mariners prior to the season in return for Rule V pick R.A. Dickey who was option to AAA. The 21-year-old from Colombia is hitting .367 with 7 doubles, and 9 RBI's in 60 AB's.

Span had himself another great day. The 24-year-old former first round pick went 3-4 with a 4 runs, a doubles, a home run and 2 RBI's. He walked once (which was an intentional walk) and stole his 13th base in his 15th chance. Span has absolutely exploded in the past 3 games. Prior to these games, 3 extra-base hits all season (all doubles) with 4 RBI's. Now, he has 5 doubles, 3 home runs, and has 9 RBI's. It's going to be hard for the Twins to keep him in Rochester if he keeps this up.

Pitcher of the Day
Mike Tarsi - Starting Pitcher - Beloit Snappers

Tarsi hasn't had the season he envisioned after dominating the Appalachian League in 11 starts last season, he went into yesterday's game with an 0-6 record and a 7.30 ERA. Out of his 8 starts, he was 0-3 with a 17.18 ERA. Since then, he's 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA. Last night, he continued to turned what looked at first to be a horrid start into a great start. After giving up 3 runs in the first inning, Tarsi settled down and got through 6 innings and gave up just the three runs. The 6'8'' southpaw struck out 7 and now has a solid 33/11 K/BB ratio. Hopefully he can continue to improve.

Touch 'Em All!

Rochester Red Wings: Denard Span (3)
New Britain Rock Cats: David Winfree (9)
Ft. Myers Miracle: Danny Valencia (5)
Beloit Snappers: Chris Parmelee (7)

Box Scores

Red Wings beat the Clippers, 10-7.
Rock Cats lost to the Mets, 5-2.
Miracle beat the Reds, 5-3.
Snappers beat the LumberKings, 11-3.