May 31, 2009

Sunday Twins Notes, Game Balls

Just a few interesting tidbits from the past couple days...

-> Alexi Casilla was recalled after Nick Punto's groin injury ultimately forced him onto the D.L. Casilla got off to a great start in Triple-A after his demotion before hitting .275 over his last 10 games. Overall, he hit .316/.353/.392 with a 5/12 BB/K ratio and 6/4 SB/CS ratio. He had three extra-base hits through 79 at-bats, all of which were triples. The most alarming thing to me was his continued struggles against left-handers. Prior to his demotion, he was hitting southpaws at a .120/.120/.120 clip through 25 at-bats. And then before his promotion, he was hitting southpaws with a .211/.211/.316 line through 19 at-bats. Although it's a full .91 points higher in average and .286 points in OPS, but it's still not an acceptable line.

Ironically, in his first start in 25 days with the Twins, he faced David Price, one of the best, young southpaws in baseball. He went 1-2 with an RBI against Price. He went 1-4 with an RBI in the game. One positive note, he was apart of three double plays on the afternoon and looked a lot more poised both at the plate and in the field. Hopefully his demotion to Triple-A was the 'wake-up' call he needed.

-> Francisco Liriano struggled again on Saturday en route to his seventh loss of the season. He raised his ERA to 6.60 while allowing four runners to cross through four innings. Although he forced many ground ball outs, including many that found holes in his 47-pitch third inning, he still was very hittable and lost didn't look the same after giving up a solo home run to Joe Dillon. Many of the balls hit in the third inning were left up about waist high over the middle of the plate. A defensive lapse or two could have ended the inning early, which is why he should be given some slack, but he was still visibly shaken by the home run. He did come back and threw a good fourth inning, but it was yet another bumpy start for Liriano.

Liriano doesn't have the fastball he used to, yet he's throwing it nearly 60% of the time. For reference, in 2006, Liriano threw fastballs only 44% of the time. But the Twins have the 'set up the fastball' mentality that Liriano's stuck in and is getting hit hard because of it. Something needs to change, especially after hearing something like this after the game.
"I don't know, just...I don't know, just...I don't know what to think anymore."
The Twins need to do something and they need to do it fast. Liriano's confidence is probably at an all-time low right now.

-> One pitcher who hasn't been struggling lately is reliever R.A. Dickey. After posting a 5.73 ERA in April. Dickey has a 1.86 ERA in May and now has a respectable 3.26 ERA on the season. Since May 3rd, when he gave up two earned runs in two innings of relief against the Royals, Dickey has a 1.14 ERA along with a 1.02 WHIP and a 9/4 K/BB ratio. More importantly, he's been able to eat up innings for the Twins while helping preserve the bullpen. He's thrown at least four innings in his last four appearances. Of course there's the whole 'no pressure' argument, but nonetheless, he's been proving his value as of late.

-> La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Braves have a scout in Tampa Bay this weekend and they could be targeting Delmon Young in a trade. Young's value is at an all-time low and I don't see the Braves having the pieces to complete a trade. They have a couple great prospects, but I doubt they part with any of them. Kelly Johnson could be a possibility that the Twins would inquire about, but with nobody to replace him, they'd just be filling a hole while creating a new one. Also, Young is now 2-23 with 13 K's since his return and is currently hitting .236/.281/.274. The 23-year-old outfielder was away from the team for almost two weeks with the illness and later passing of his mother, Bonnie. The most alarming number is that he's hit just two extra-base hits in 106 at-bats. Two. I'm not sure why the Braves would want to acquire really the only outfielder worse than the ones that they currently have.

-> This afternoon, Nick Blackburn will face ex-Twin Matt Garza. Blackburn is coming off of four pretty good starts in a row and will try to give the Twins a chance to leave Tampa with a victory. Luckily, after the game, the Twins will get a much-needed off-day on Monday before facing the Indians at home from Tuesday through Thursday. Then they'll be on the road for ten straight games on the road.

Game Ball #48
May 27, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Denard Span - Center/Left Field
Line: 4-4, 2 runs, walk, stolen base

Game Ball #49
May 28, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Brendan Harris - Shortstop
Line: 2-3, double, walk

Game Ball #50
May 29, 2009 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 3-5, double, triple, run

Game Ball #51
May 30, 2009 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
R.A. Dickey - Relief Pitcher
Line: 4 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts