June 30, 2008

Twins Update

Since I last posted, the Twins finalized the sweep of the San Diego Padres by beating Greg Maddux and Josh Banks. Then they took 2 of three from the Brewers which snapped their 10 game winning streak but started a new streak in which they beat one of the best pitchers in the NL in Ben Sheets.

Wednesday's Game Ball
Carlos Gomez - Center Field
Line: 3-4, run, 2 RBI, 2 SB's
Box Score

Thursday's Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 3-4, home run, 3 RBI
Box Score

Friday's Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-4, 2 runs, Go-Ahead HR, RBI, walk
Box Score

Saturday's Game Ball
Jason Kubel - Right Field
Line: 1-2, home run, 2 walks
Box Score

Sunday's Game Ball
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher
Line: CG Shutout, 3 hits, 8 K, win
Box Score

Michael Cuddyer has been placed on the DL with a strained tendon in his left index finger. Cuddyer was hitting .250 with 4 home runs and 34 RBI's since his return from the DL earlier this season. He missed 3 weeks in April with a lacerated/dislocated right index finger. It's not known how long he's expected to be out, but I think the Twins expect him back as soon as he's eligible.

To take his place, the Twins are calling up Denard Span who's been playing very good for the Rochester Red Wings this season. He was hitting .340/.434./.481 with 11 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs in 156 at bats. He will likely start quite a bit in right field while Cuddyer is out, but he will also play in center and left field when needed. It's great to see Denard back with the Twins, hopefully this time he can show enough to the Twins to keep him up longer, if not for good.

Three prominent Beloit Snappers have been placed on the DL. Chris Parmelee looks like he'll miss 4-6 weeks with a broken left wrist. Parmelee was hitting .239 with an OPS of .881. He was Beloits main run producer as he lead the team with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. His RBI total was 22 more than any other hitter on the team. In Parmelee's second go around in Beloit, his average and discipline isn't exactly where the Twins wanted it to be but his OPS is still good and he definitely has a good power stroke. The former 1st round pick was hitting .282/.393/.577 with 6 home runs and 20 RBI's in just 20 games.

Joe Benson will be missing time with a stress fracture in his lower back. He was hitting .248./.325/.380 with 16 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 27 RBI's. Benson was drafted in the 2nd round in 2006 and is also on his second go around in Beloit and he too has not had a great season.

Jair Fernandez will also be missing time with a right wrist injury. Fernandez was acquired by the Seattle Mariners for R.A. Dickey who was selected in the Rule V Draft by the Mariners and was given to the Twins to allow Dickey to be demoted to the minors. Fernandez was having a terrific season for the Snappers hitting .283/.333/.370 while handling the majority of the Snappers catching duties.

To replace them, the Snappers received Minnesota Native Andrew Schmiesing and Rene Leverett from Elizabethton. With Ben Revere still recovering from his tweaked hamstring, the last thing the Snappers needed was injuries to their outfield.

Jim Mandelaro of the Democratic & Chronicle has been very disgruntled with the Twins lack of help towards the disappointing Rochester Red Wings this season. One of the things he wanted to see the team do was sign former Red Wing/Twins outfielder Josh Rabe. After tearing up the Independent League but his back pain was just too much to bare. It's unforunate, but Rabe has a great future ahead of him in Law School.

June 27, 2008

Blog Update

Hey everyone. Sorry about the lack of posting this week. I had no intentions on doing this but I just didn't have time to write. Anyways, I don't have a post again today (sorry) and will be MIA until Monday. However, next week I'm going to give you my top prospect list for midway through the season, my all-stars for both the AL & NL and of course my thoughts on the surging Twins.

Here are a few things to read:
Have a great weekend, and as always...


June 25, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Ball
Brian Buscher - Third Base

2-4, home run, RBI

Other things to read:
Have a great day!

June 24, 2008

Anthony Slama Q&A

Anthony Slama was selected in the 39th round of the 2006 draft. At 24-years-old, he doesn't get the respect that he should for being one of the top pitching prospsects in the entire system. So far he has a 1.03 ERA in just under 70 innings pitched. He has struck out 112 in that same period of time while walking just 22 walks allowed. The 6'3'' right-handed pitcher has had a great 1/2 season so far in Ft. Myers with a 2-0 record and a 0.47 ERA in 38 innings to go along with his 63/12 K/BB ratio. If he keeps it up, he should be in New Britain before the end of the season. Hope you enjoy!

Josh's Thoughts: Before you were drafted by the Twins in 2006, what other teams were interested in you?
Anthony Slama: I'm not sure which teams were interested in drafting me, I had only a few converstaions with scouts before I was taken in the draft by the Twins.
Josh's Thoughts: What was it like to hear your name called on draft day?
Anthony Slama: I actually didn't hear my name. I was in the process of moving out of my college house and back to Orange County when my mom and dad called me.
Josh's Thoughts: What is your pitching repertoire?
Anthony Slama: I throw a fastball, slider and change-up.
Josh's Thoughts: What would you say is your strikeout pitch?
Anthony Slama: My strikeout pitch is my fastball.
Josh's Thoughts: How does it feel to be named a Florida State League All-Star?
Anthony Slama: I feel truly honored to be called an "All-Star."
Josh's Thoughts: When you were growing up, what team(s) did you follow?
Anthony Slama: I grew up a Dodgers fan.
Josh's Thoughts: Who were your favorite players when you were growing up?
Anthony Slama: Brett Butler, Roger Clemens and Mark Prior.
Josh's Thoughts: Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
Anthony Slama: My mom and dad and my coaches.
Josh's Thoughts: Do you feel that attending college has helped with your transition into professional baseball?
Anthony Slama: Definitely. College made me a more mature ballplayer and person.
Josh's Thoughts: What is your goal for the remaining of the season?
Anthony Slama: My goal is to pitch well, stay healthy, and help my team win.
Josh's Thoughts: What do you like to do in your free time?
Anthony Slama: I like to read, watch movies, listen to music and play computer games.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your interests besides baseball? Favorite music, movies, other hobbies etc.
Anthony Slama: I listen to a lot of Rock and I play a little guitar.

Josh's Thoughts: If you weren’t playing baseball, what else would you be doing?
Anthony Slama: Working at a job
Josh's Thoughts: Any nickname?
Anthony Slama: Slama
Josh's Thoughts: What is something people would be shocked to know about you?
Anthony Slama: I have a dog named David Bowie.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your goals for the season? Long term?
Anthony Slama: I want to win a championship this season and long term i want to play in the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins.
Josh's Thoughts: Thanks Anthony! Best of luck to you for the rest of the season.

June 23, 2008

Weekend Review

Heading into the series the Twins were 4 1/2 games out heading into the series, but with a Twins sweep over the Diamondbacks and a Cubs sweep over the White Sox the Twins moved within 2 games of first place.

The Twins outscored Arizona 18-6 in the 3 game set with the Twins scoring at least 5 runs in each of the games. But the pitching is what won this series for the Twins. On Friday, Scott Baker went 6 strong innings and gave up 1 run on 7 hits while he struck out 7 batters. Baker's lone run allowed came on a solo home run from Mark Reynolds. On Saturday, Nick Blackburn went 7 innings of 1 run ball to pick up his 6th victory of the season. He threw 63 of his 89 pitches for strikes and gave up just 3 hits all night. And then on Sunday, Livan Hernandez turned in his 2nd strong performance in a row giving up just 3 runs (1 earned) in 7 innings while he struck out 5 batters.

On Offense, Brendan Harris continued to play well going 4-8 with 4 runs scored, 2 doubles and 2 RBI. He is now 8-16 since the 2nd game of the Washington series and 4 doubles, a triple, and 2 RBI. He's definitely zoned in at the plate right now which has played a vital part to the Twins success. Another middle-infielder who has played an important role in the Twins success this season is Alexi Casilla who went 5-12 with 2 runs and 3 RBI in the series. Those two have played solid defense and have been great at the plate, and as long as they continue to play well I don't see anyone biting into their playing time.

Friday's Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher
Line: 6 innings pitched, 7 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 112 pitches, win
Box Score

Saturday's Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts, 89 pitches, win
Box Score

Sunday's Game Ball
Brian Buscher - Third Base
Line: 2-4, run, 2 RBI
Box Score

Matt Macri left Friday's game after he delivered a 2-run single to put the Twins up 2-0 in the third inning with a strained left calf. And then after Sunday's game, Macri was optioned back to Rochester to make room for Nick Punto as he comes off of the DL. Since arriving in Minnesota, Macri has hit .367 with 4 RBI's in 30 at bats. But still someone had to go down to Rochester and with Brian Buscher producing more. Buscher has hit .384 in just 26 at bats with 11 RBI's and has played great defense at third. Buscher has Buscher has just 12 RBI's less than Delmon Young and yet he has played only 10 games compared to Young's 72. Or even 17 RBI behind Joe Mauer's in 69 games.

Punto went 3-12 in his rehab all with the Ft. Myer's Miracle and will meet the Twins in his hometown of San Diego, California. He will likely see time at all the infield positions (besides first base) but will have to earn a starting spot in the lineup as the players currently at 2nd, shortstop, and third base are all playing very well right now.

Other Twins talk
  • Ben Revere was out for 4 games after he "tweaked" his hamstring in batting practice. He returned to the Snappers lineup tonight and played DH. The 2007 first-round pick went 1-2 but was replaced by Ramon Santiago in the 5th inning. Not sure yet if it was injury related or not.
  • John Sickel's "Controversial Prospect" post on Ben Revere.
  • La Velle E. Neal III looks into the Twins' "Milwaukee Surge."
  • Joe Christensen reports that Joe Mauer is now the American League leading vote getter for Catcher. Justin Morneau is 2nd for first baseman.
  • Francisco Liriano was hit hard on Saturday, but a poster on Howard Sinker's site felt optimistic about the start and was there to watch it first hand.

I will be back later (around) with another Q&A. So make sure to stay tuned.

June 22, 2008

One year ago...

One year ago, I started writing about my thoughts of the Minnesota Twins and I have to say a year later I feel very satisfied with where I'm at in terms of readership and views. I didn't expect there to be nearly this much support (either positively or negatively) for the things I write, basically I started it because I can talk about sports all day especially Twins baseball and so I thought that blogging would be a good cure for my obsession. Of course, it did more "harm" than good as I'm more obsessed with the Twins now than I was then.

I have been very grateful to have been able to do Q&A's with great players like Jeff Manship, Denard Span, Pat Neshek, Michael McCardell, Tyler Ladendorf and (we'll call him) "player X" (I'd say the player's name, but that would give away who it is and it will ruin the "suspense" that I'm sure not many of you even have waiting for me to post it which should come on Tuesday for those wondering). And really, I just want to say thanks to those players as well as others that I have come in contact with over the last year.

I really would be nowhere without the help of other bloggers. Seth Stohs of Seth Speaks has helped me a lot this year. He's given me probably 50% of my traffic and he really is the one that helped me get into blogging in the first place. We share a few things in common, we both love the Twins and in particular the minor leagues.

I'm a minor league nut and I just can't seem to get enough. One could speculate all day on the potential of each player. Howard Sinker, La Velle E. Neal III, Aaron Gleeman and Joe Christensen also helped me out by answering a few questions I had about blogging before I even got started.

Every day, I check out probably 40-50 different blogs. But there are a select few that I make sure I don't miss:
This guys all have fantastic blogs and even though I'm sure all of you already read them, I recommend that you read them if there are any of you who haven't. And there are other's that I know I'm missing that I check on nearly a daily basis, but if I listed them all off then I'd seriously have a list that would somewhat defeat the purpose.

It gets tough at times to blog, even though I don't write as much as some of the other bloggers I am still a college student with a very busy schedule. I'm not sure how blogging is going to be in the future as I'm transferring to St. Cloud and probably won't have as much time to blog at least as much as I'd like to. But I will try my hardest to continue blogging and I have no plans on quiting right now.

To everyone that has followed me on this blog for a while, thank you very much! Having anywhere near 65,000 views in a year is great, let alone for a new blogger. And I'm aware that I probably won't get that much this season as the majority of those views were from the Johan Santana trade saga which would usually bring me in over 400 views a day (I'm sitting between 100-300 on usual now). I have had a lot of fun with this and I hope that everyone enjoys this blog and what I write. Especially since I know that this site is not exactly visually appealing nor is this site great in the spelling/grammar department. So thank you for continuing to view my page even though it may be time to read at some times.

I will be back later with my thoughts from the weekend. So I hope you will come back and let me know what you think. Hopefully I will be around in a year to describe how great the last 2 years have been. Have a great Sunday and as always...


June 20, 2008

Tyler Ladendorf Q&A

Tyler Ladendorf was selected in the 2nd round of June 5th's draft. He's a well-rounded shortstop with a lot of potential on both offense and defense. Tyler was born in Des Plaines, Illinois where he attended Maine West High School where he was tri-sport athlete. Despite a history of labrum injuries, he was drafted straight out of high school in the 34th round of the 2006 draft by the Yankees. He was then selected in the same round a year later by the Giants. And after a great 2008 season in which he hit .542 with 29 doubles, 5 triples, 16 home runs, 83 RBI's and had 47 walks in 53 games. He had a ridiculous 1.060 slugging percentage which helped him become one of the top JUCO players in the country. He also was succesful stealing 31 out of 32 bases. After a great sophomore season, he improved his draft status immensely and it was really a no-brainer that he'd forgo attending the University of Oklahoma this fall and quickly sign with the Twins. Last night he made his debut with the GCL Twins and went 0-2 with a walk. Hope you enjoy!

Josh's Thoughts: Before you were drafted by the Twins, what other teams were interested in you?
Tyler Ladendorf: I had talked to every major league team, but the Braves, Pirates, Royals, D-Backs, and White Sox were probably the ones I had the most contact with.
Josh's Thoughts: You were chosen in the 34th round in 2006 & 2007 by the Yankees and the Giants, why didn’t you sign then?
Tyler Ladendorf: The last couple years were good oppurtunities to sign, but I knew going back to school would allow me to get that much better and allow me to get into the top two rounds.
Josh's Thoughts: What was it like to hear your name called on draft day?
Tyler Ladendorf: It was a big relief and it took three or four days for it to really hit me, but it was nice to celebrate it all with some family and friends.
Josh's Thoughts: Are you happy you were chosen by the Twins? What excites you about this organization?
Tyler Ladendorf: Definitely. I played with and against a couple guys already in the organization and they along with everyone else I've talked to have had nothing but good things to say about the way the Twins organization plays the game.
Josh's Thoughts: You are from Illinois, so are you a Cubs or White Sox fan? If neither, what team did you follow?
Tyler Ladendorf: I have always been a White Sox fan and in a way have learned to hate the Twins. So it will be a little different on the other side now, but a lot of my friends and family joke around that now I'm going to have to be a Sox Killer.
Josh's Thoughts: Who were your favorite players when you were growing up?
Tyler Ladendorf: One of my favorite players has always been Frank Thomas. As I grew up I always liked guys like Ozzie Guillen. I'm also a big fan of the older players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente.
Josh's Thoughts: Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
Tyler Ladendorf: Probably my mother and grandmother simply because they are the ones who raised me.
Josh's Thoughts: Do you feel that your two seasons at Howard College will benefit you in the long run? Would you encourage players to play in college before entering the draft?
Tyler Ladendorf: It definetly benefited me. I would encourage players to go to school for at least a year or two simply because the competition is so different and I think it will help to make that transition a little bit easier.
Josh's Thoughts: What do you like to do in your free time?
Tyler Ladendorf: I usually just kick back, relax and watch whatever is on espn. I'm a sports fanatic and I love to watch all sports so there's usually something on I'll like.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your interests besides baseball? Favorite music, movies, other hobbies etc.
Tyler Ladendorf: I like to golf and fish on days off. I like rap music like Lil' Wayne and T.I. I'm real big on scary movies if I have someone to go watch it with.
Josh's Thoughts: If you weren’t playing baseball, what else would you be doing?
Tyler Ladendorf: I'd be playing football or hockey which was two other sports I've played all my life.
Josh's Thoughts: What is something people would be shocked to know about you?
Tyler Ladendorf: I can't whistle.
Josh's Thoughts: What would you say is the strongest part of your game? Weakest?

Tyler Ladendorf: My strongest asset is definetly my athletic ability because I make some difficult plays look routine. My weakest asset is probably my power, but I realize that as i mature and get stronger that will come.

Josh's Thoughts: Is there a player in baseball that you believe your skills resemble? Who?
Tyler Ladendorf: I always thought i played a lot like Jimmy Rollins and the way he always makes the game exciting.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your goals for the season? Long term?
Tyler Ladendorf: My goals for this year is to be up in Beloit by the end of the year. Long term I'd like to be sitting in AA or AAA within three years ready for my call up to the Twins. I want to have a career not necessarily known for the numbers I put up, but that when I'm done playing people will say that I played the game the way its supposed to be played.
Josh's Thoughts: Thanks Tyler! Best of luck this season and hope to see you in Beloit very soon.

June 19, 2008

Thursday's Game Ball

Michael Cuddyer - Right Field
Line: 2-2, 2 runs, double, triple, 2 RBI's, 2 walks
Box Score

I'll be posting a Q&A within an hour, so stay tuned!

Slowey Back On Track

The Twins' bats came out to swing last night, showing why the Nationals are the worst team in the National League. The Twins scored 11 runs on 13 hits, and 11 of them came from 5 batters with Carlos Gomez getting 3.

Here is how the Twins hitters did:
  • Carlos Gomez: 3-5, 2 runs, RBI
  • Alexi Casilla: 0-3, run, walk
  • Joe Mauer: 2-4, run, walk
  • Justin Morneau: 2-4, 2 runs, 3 RBI
  • Michael Cuddyer: 0-3, run, 2 walks
  • Jason Kubel: 1-3, 2 runs, RBI, walk
  • Delmon Young: 1-3, run, double, 2 RBI's, 2 walks
  • Brian Buscher: 2-5, run, 2 RBI
  • Brendan Harris: 2-5, run, double, triple, RBI
The Twins jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the 2nd inning which gave Kevin Slowey some comfort as he limited the Nationals hitters to 1 run on 7 hits through 6 innings of work. The run came off of a Felipe Lopez home run. He was removed from the game after he walked Kory Castro to lead off the 7th inning on just 90 pitches.

This is Slowey's second great start after two poor performances in a row in which he gave up 12 runs on 17 hits in 9 innings. He took the loss in both and through 10 starts he has now factored into the decision in each of his appearances. He now has a two game win streak and is 4-6 on the season with a 4.37 ERA. He's given up the long ball 10 times in just under 57 innings pitched, but despite being crushed he still has a good 1.20 WHIP and an outstanding 4.33 K/BB ratio. He is slowly turning into a pretty good pitcher, but he still has to show that he can be consistent week in and week out. He also needs to cut down on the long-ball, but in all honesty, quite a few of the home runs have not come on necessarily bad pitches opposed to just good swings by the hitters.

The 24-year-old right-hander looks to be establishing himself into the teams rotation for at least the next few years. Next season, if all goes well the rotation may very well look like this:
  1. Scott Baker
  2. Nick Blackburn
  3. Francisco Liriano
  4. Kevin Slowey
  5. Kevin Mulvey

And that's not including a few other options that may also fight for a spot in the rotation. Guys like Brian Duensing, Philip Humber, Glen Perkins, and Jeff Manship. Hopefully with a full year from Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey in the majors hopefully this does not promt the team into going free agent hunting for another mediocre veteran just to provide his "presence" in the rotation and in the clubhouse. To say the Twins have options in the rotation is an understatement. This organization is filled with quality pitching in each level and that doesn't seem to be changing after another very strong draft with some good pitchers being taken.

Unfortunately for the Twins, last night the White Sox also won so the Twins stayed 4.5 games back behind the division leaders. The Indians lost and the Tigers won, which mean put the Indians back into 4th place in the division.

Glen Perkins will take the mound tonight in hopes of sweeping the Nationals.

Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-4, 2 runs, 3 RBI
Box Score

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

June 16, 2008

Mike McCardell Q&A

Quick note, I will be back tomorrow with my thoughts from this weekend.

Mike McCardell was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of last summer's draft. He had a very successful season with both the GCL Twins and the Elizabethton Twins. In 12 games (10 starts) the 6'5'' Pennsylvania native had a 7-1 record with a 2.14 ERA. He showed great control, walking just 8 batters in 63 innings while str
iking out 95. He had a ridiculous 0.761 WHIP. He attended Division II Kutztown Unniversity in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Mike has had a fantastic 2008 campaign but was slowed up with a right-elbow injury. He is 3-1 with a 3.15 ERA and still is showing great control with a 50/14 K/BB ratio. Mike may have been promoted to Ft. Myers if it weren't for his injury, but I expect him to be there before the end of the season. Hope you enjoy!

Josh's Thoughts:
Before you were drafted by the Twins, what other teams were interested in you?
Mike McCardell: A lot of teams throughout my senior year of college gave me paper work to fill out and came to see me pitch. But no one team more than another.
Josh's Thoughts: What was it like to hear your name called on draft day?
Mike McCardell: I didn't hear it, I read it off of the computer. It was pretty exciting, all my friends were calling me and I was talking with my parents. It was a very exciting time for me.
Josh's Thoughts: What is your pitching repertoire?
Mike McCardell: I throw four-seam and two-seam fastball, a change-up, and a curveball.
Josh's Thoughts: What would you say is your strikeout pitch?
Mike McCardell: I would definitely have to say my curveball. If I keep it down it can be effective.
Josh's Thoughts: What is your process between starts?
Mike McCardell: The Twins have a program of lifting and running between starts and how much to throw each day. I believe it is very effective and has helped me a lot.
Josh's Thoughts: When you were growing up, what team(s) did you follow?
Mike McCardell: Well, growing up just outside of Philadelphia I loved the Phillies growing up. Especially the '93 Phillies team which went to the World Series.
Josh's Thoughts: Who were your favorite players when you were growing up?
Mike McCardell: Favorite players were Phillies greats John Kruk and Curt Schilling. I Also really like to watch Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson also.
Josh's Thoughts: Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
Mike McCardell: I had a lot of influences growing up, and a lot of people have helped me get to where I am to day. I have to thank my parents for everything. They have been with me through it all, from all the rides in little league to crying on the phone with my mom on last years draft day. I can never thank them enough. Also have to thank my coach at Kutztown, Chris Blum for all his help and support. I wouldn't be where I am today with out all my teammates and guys I have played with. Especially the guys on the Crawdads, an Adult League team in West Chester, PA that I played on in HS and early on in College.
Josh's Thoughts: Do you believe that attending college has helped make your transition easier so far in your career?
Mike McCardell: Yeah I wouldn't be where I am today without going to college first and learning so much, not just on the field but off the field too. It's helped make the transition so much easier.
Josh's Thoughts: What is your goal for the remaining of the season?
Mike McCardell: My goal is to just keep getting better every start learning as much as i can and keep trying to move up the ladder.
Josh's Thoughts: What do you like to do in your free time?
Mike McCardell: Well we don't get too much free time during the season. If we get an off-day some of my teammates and I like to go hit the links for the day or just try and have some fun.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your interests besides baseball? Favorite music, movies, other hobbies etc.
Mike McCardell: I love comedies. I like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Adam Sandler. For movies, I like Wedding Crashers, Happy Gilmore, and definitely Major League. And I like all kinds of music, especially country. Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, its all good.
Josh's Thoughts: If you weren’t playing baseball, what else would you be doing?
Mike McCardell: I don't know what I would be doing without baseball. Probably something outside, I cant see myself behind a desk.
Josh's Thoughts: Any nickname?
Mike McCardell: Everyone has been calling me "Mac" forever.

Josh's Thoughts: What is something people would be shocked to know about you?
Mike McCardell: Nothing really. Maybe that I played both ways in College. I played first and third base as well as pitcher.
Josh's Thoughts: Is there a player in baseball that you'd compare yourself to?
Mike McCardell: Maybe Curt Schilling. I love his competitiveness and how he goes about his job.
Josh's Thoughts: What are your goals for the season? Long term?
Mike McCardell: Like I said, just to keep getting better.
Josh's Thoughts: Thanks Mike. Best of luck to you the rest of the way!

June 13, 2008

What is going on?

It seems as if everything is going wrong with the Twins these days. Just off of a 6-game losing streak, the Twins put together a great win on Wednesday. Then Thursday came around and the Twins were destroyed 12-2 as Livan Hernandez's self destruction continues out on the mound. The veteran allowed 7 runs on 12 hits in just 3 innings of work. I can't say I never saw this coming. Just yesterday, I said this:
The Twins will face Aaron Laffey tonight. Laffey is 3-3 with a 2.98 ERA this season through 8 starts. But the 23-year-old left-hander is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two stars against the Twins in his career. But with his success at home this season and the Twins inability to hit off of left-handers, I don't like the "Good Guys'" chances tonight. Especially with Livan ".344 OBA" Hernandez on the mound for the Twins. This game could be ugly (and yes I'm crossing my fingers, hoping that I get a big plate of crow to eat).
And obviously, 7 runs in a game constitutes as an "ugly" game. Hernandez is really starting to look like the 2008 version of Ramon Ortiz, which is something that I pointed out in late-April. Now, with one pitcher already gone (which I will get to later), it looks like the Twins may try unloading Hernandez sometime soon if he continues to have horrific outings like last nights. I don't know who the Twins would replace him with, but with both Brian Bass and Boof Bonser also struggling, it looks like the best option may be Francisco Liriano. However, the Twins will not rush Liriano which means if they decide to make a move in the next week or two, it could be Casey Daigle, Brian Duensing or Kevin Mulvey who would get the call instead.
The offense was putrid last night. Justin Morneau went 3-3 to raise his average up to .306 on the season, and Matt Macri hit his first home run of his Major League career, but other than that the offense was pretty non-existant. Joe Mauer and Brendan Harris were the only other players to get hits in the game. Mauer went 2-4 with his 15th double of the season. Harris added a single. The rest of the team (besides those four) combined to go 0-18 with one walk, 3 K's and 12 men left on base.

Both Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez were robbed of hits, one by Jamey Carroll the other by the first base umpire and so both of their double-digit hitting streaks came to an end. Mike Lamb did add a sac-fly later in the game, after he replaced Morneau at first base.

Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base

Box Score

This weekend, the Twins will travel to Miller Park to face the Brewers.
Friday: Kevin Slowey (2-6, 5.15) vs. Dave Bush (2-6, 5.85 )
Saturday: Glen Perkins (2-2, 4.58) vs. Jeff Suppan (4-4, 3.78)
Sunday: Scott Baker (2-1, 3.60) vs. Seth McClung (3-3, 4.07)
The organization announced the release of two pitchers yesterday. Juan Rincon was released after a year and a half of terrible relief pitching. This season, he had a 6.11 ERA and showed terrible control. The move has been expected for quite some time, and nobody including Rincon was surprised. Rincon did however try to buy his time on the team by telling the team that his neck was sore. However, the Twins didn't buy it, and even if he did have a sore neck, would it have really made a difference in their decision? I guess we should admire his desire to stay a Twin, but I'm just happy the Twins did not delay the inevitable and they cut him instead of placing him on the DL. Because if it didn't happen yesterday, it would have happened shortly after he was activated from the DL.

Rincon now has a 72-hour window to accept an offer to be outrighted straight to Triple-A Rochester. He's expected to decline and if/when he does, will become a free agent. If Rincon accepts, it sounds like he will join the Red Wings rotation instead of bullpen to hopefully help him get more work which should help him find his command again.
Brian Buscher has taken his place on the roster. Buscher was hitting .319 with 12 doubles, 8 home runs and 30 RBI for the Red Wings in 53 games. Buscher will provide a steady bat off of the bench for the Twins. And with Mike Lamb struggling at the plate, Buscher may see his fair share of playing time at third base.

The Twins also released left-handed pitcher Errol Simonitsch. Once considered a top pitching prospect, Simontisch had a shoulder injury in '07 which caused him to miss all but 10 games and he just could not get back on track this season. He made 6 starts with New Britain this year and went 1-4 with a 9.96 ERA. For a soon-to-be 26-year-old who has yet to make it past AA, this move should not come as a surprise to anyone. Last week, I said:
It looks like Simonitsch's days may be numbers in New Britain's rotation as Jeff Manship will likely replace him within the next few weeks.
So far, it looks like I'm half right. But we'll have to wait until next week to see if I was completely right. Frank Mata took his room on the roster. Mata had thrown 14 great innings of relief in Ft. Myers and has some experience in the Eastern League, which makes this a fairly reasonable move. Mata threw one inning of relief last night and got a strikeout. As far as replacing Simonitsch in the rotation, I think that Jason Miller will probably get a start before Manship is promoted. The Miracle are now off for the FSL All-Star Game which is on Saturday. The Twins are expected to make a wave of promotions sometime soon after this weekend.

There were quite a few roster moves from Rochester on Thursday. First, the bad news. Jose Morales sprained his left ankle, and was placed on the DL. It's the same ankle that he severely sprained last summer which caused him to miss nearly the entire last month of the season. Jeff Christy has been promoted from New Britain to assume the backup role now that the Wings only have one healthy catcher. Denard Span has been activated from the DL, as has Alejandro Machado. Unfortunately, it sounds like Span still is having pain while he swings a bat, which means that he likely won't be able to have an impact in a game for a little while still.

And important news! I have received word that the Red Wings have called up Trevor Plouffe from New Britain. He should be in uniform with the Red Wings tonight. This is the first movement of a "highly touted" prospect (besides Ben Revere) this season. Hopefully he can provide an offensive spark for the Red Wings.

Also, the Twins have agreed on a contract with first-round pick, Aaron Hicks. The deal is expected to be announced on Friday and it sounds like his signing bonus will be around $1.7 million. It sounds as if the Twins will send Hicks to the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League which is usually for 2nd year players and college players. Yesterday, I noted that the Twins had signed 6 players from last weeks draft. Now, I've gotten confirmation that they have signed a few more (besides Hicks):
Danny Ortiz (4th round)
Dan Osterbrock (7th round)
David Coulon (15th round)
Javier Brown (37th round)
I've also heard that David Martin (17th round) will sign as soon as LSU's season is over. And the Twins are close to signing Kolten Wong (16th round), but Wong is still mulling over a scholarship to Hawaii.

June 12, 2008

Liriano may return sooner, rather than later. (Update) Rincon released

Update 3:00 PM: The Twins have in fact released Juan Rincon. His locker was cleaned out and was seen leaving the stadium in Cleveland. It looks like his sore neck didn't trick the Twins into keeping him around any longer. The Twins haven't officially made the move, but Brian Buscher will be called up to take his place.

Also, Erroll Simonitsch has also been relesed by the Twins. I brought it up last week that I thought Simonitsch's days in the organization looked to be numbered, and it was a move that looks to be a prelude for the wave of promotions that should be coming by early next week.

Francisco Liriano turned in one of his best performances of the season on Tuesday night, and now has 3 straight quality starts in a row, and 6 in his last 7 games. He has been walking fewer and fewer batters, although his control still is not where they want it to be, which is him throwing strikes around 70% of the time. But really, for how much progress he's made after missing an entire season, I think him throwing 60% strikes is a very good thing. Especially when he is a power pitcher. Still, the Twins will want him to continue pitching well before he ultimately is promoted.

Over his last 6 games, he's only walked only 9 batters (when he walked 14 in his first 4 games), and 4 of the walks came in the same game. In that same stretch of games, he's struck out 32 batters which is a fantastic 3.6 K/BB ratio. That from a pitcher without missing a season is great, let alone a pitcher who underwent one of the biggest surgeries that a pitcher could go through and come back throwing like that. His velocity still isn't where it was rumored to be in the Dominican Republic when he touched 95 mph on the radar, but he's showing that he can get it done with an 88-92 mph fastball instead of his old 96-98 mph heater. His velocity should get back to where it was eventually, but it's great to see him have great numbers without the velocity as it's showing that he has to actually pitch the ball instead of just merely throw it past the hitter.

The one thing that has been fairly alarming is that Liriano is his ground ball-fly out ratio. Prior to his injury, one of the things that made Liriano so special was because he had tremendous strikeout numbers, but when he did not strike out the hitters, he generally got them to ground out. That has not been the case yet, as he has a 64-53 ground out-fly out ratio. Still, I expect those numbers to get better with more time.

Now, I don't believe we'll see the "old" Liriano from back in 2006 when he made the American League All-Star team anytime this season, but I believe we'll see flashes of the '06 version. It's not known when the Twins plan on promoting him. But with the way the Twins' roster is set up, the only way I see Liriano making the rotation (right now) is if one of Kevin Slowey or Glen Perkins' struggles continue to the point that they need to make a move. Ron Gardenhire has made it clear that Liriano will not pitch from the bullpen when he is promoted.

I would like to see the team trade Boof Bonser to a team for a mid-level prospect. It clears room on both the 25-man roster and the 40-man roster and it gives the Twins an easy option for promoting Liriano. Although, that would give the team 3 left-handed relievers (since I don't see the team placing Slowey in the bullpen), so the most probable move that the Twins make is to just demote Perkins (or Slowey) to Triple-A as both still have options.

Liriano probably needs to have two more great starts before the Twins make a move, but he definitely is close and Twins fans everywhere should feel great about seeing Liriano have such great success this soon after his return.

The Twins have signed Tyler Ladendorf (2nd round), Bobby Lannigan (3rd round), Evan Bigley (10th round), Michael Harrington (13th round), Steven Blevins (21st round), and Alex Curry (25th round).

The Twins expect to make at least one roster move prior to Friday's interleague game and that move would be at the expense of one of the Twins current relief pitchers. And there are three candidates that are expected to take the boot; Brian Bass, Boof Bonser and Juan Rincon.

Bonser & Bass both are being used as long relievers, and Bass has proven himself to be more valuable to this team thus far than Bonser has. However out of the two, Bass is most likely to be unclaimed via waivers at this time, as Bonser does have the making to be a solid starting pitcher whereas Bass will likely stay in the bullpen throughout his career (ala Matt Guerrier).

Rincon is the most likely to get the boot, despite having a career 3.69 ERA, he has struggled for the second straight season and he seemingly continues to get progressively worse. Right now, he's sitting with a 6.11 ERA and has shown terrible control. Seth Stohs points out that he's complaining of a "sore neck," which could potentially just make the move easy for the Twins as they could put him on the DL, but I wonder why they would just delay the inevitable. This would be Rincon's second time since November that he's escaped from leaving Minnesota. If you recall, he failed his physical during the Twins-Rays trade in which resulted in the Twins sending the Rays a top Minor League relief pitcher Eddie Morlan (incidentally, Morlan has been on the DL since April with a sore shoulder). I say, just cut Rincon now and with his "injury" he is more likely to clear waivers which would mean that he could try and work on his problems in Rochester.

The Twins haven't said for sure, but indications are that the team plans to call up Brian Buscher from Rochester. Buscher has been hobbled with patellar tendinitis and was limited to DH duties until recently. He has had a good season in Rochester and his bat may prove to be good enough to keep for a while as Mike Lamb has struggled recently.

It looks like the Twins will wait until after the Florida State League All-Star Game this Saturday. All the players have earned a spot in the game, and they deserve a chance to play in it. I've been an advocate to move players faster (particularly the college players), but I do agree with waiting until after Saturday. Especially since they've waited this long anyways.

The Twins beat Paul Byrd and the Indians last night to snap a 6-game losing streak. The win was great for several reasons. The bats woke up after being nearly dead, they snapped the streak, they moved up on both Cleveland and Chicago, and Nick Blackburn made a great start after his last start which was disastrous. Still, he and the Twins edged out an 8-5 win against the Tribe.

Blackburn threw a great game. He got through 6 innings on just 94 pitches, but the Twins decided against putting him back on the mound in the 7th
inning despite striking out the final two batters he faced in the 6th and that proved to be very costly for the Twins. Boof Bonser entered the game and got two men on scoring position before Dennys Reyes entered the game and gave up a 3-run home run to Grady Sizemore before Jesse Crain came in to set the next 4 Indians down with 3 K's and a fly ball. Joe Nathan then came in for the first time since last Wednesday and set the Indians down in the 9th to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Despite having a career 10-3 record with a 3.50 ERA against Minnesota, the Twins hitters hit Paul Byrd hard with 6 runs in 3 innings before he left the game. Jason Kubel had himself a great game, going 3-4 with a two-run home run his 8th of the season. He drove in 2 runs and now has 5 RBI's in his last 3 games. Justin Morneau also had a great game. The Twins' first baseman went 2-5 with two RBI doubles. He had 3 RBI's on the day and has now driven in 47 RBI's on the season. Michael Cuddyer also added an RBI double which set up Kubel's home run.

Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla both extended their hitting streaks to 11 and 12 games and both stole a base. Casilla went 1-3 with an RBI single. He also showcased fantastic defense again, and was apart of both of the double plays that the team turned. Gomez went 2-5 and his stolen base was his first since May 25th. Since then he was 0-5.

The Twins will face Aaron Laffey tonight. Laffey is 3-3 with a 2.98 ERA this season through 8 starts. But the 23-year-old left-hander is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two stars against the Twins in his career. But with his success at home this season and the Twins inability to hit off of left-handers, I don't like the "Good Guys'" chances tonight. Especially with Livan ".344 OBA" Hernandez on the mound for the Twins. This game could be ugly (and yes I'm crossing my fingers, hoping that I get a big plate of crow to eat).

Tuesday's Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 IP, 8 Hits, 1 Run, 1 Walk, 1 Strikeout

Wednesday's Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base
2-5, 2 doubles, 3 RBI

June 10, 2008

Miracle clinch first-half title, promotions on the horizon?

This weekend, Twins Director of the Minor Leagues Jim Rantz said in regards to promoting players, "we'll move them now if we can clinch the first half." Well, last night with Rantz in attendance, the Ft. Myers Miracle beat the Vero Beach Devil Rays 6-4 to clinch the first half title and a playoff berth.

It now seems likely that as early as today we'll be hearing about our first big names being promoted throughout the organization, and it could drastically change the fate of a few teams. Although the Twins would prefer to wait until next Saturday's FSL All-Star Game to promote a few of their players, the time is right to get them on with their careers.

Danny Valencia in my opinion is the first player that should be promoted. With the injury to Luke Hughes, New Britain has been forced to start Toby Gardenhire at third base in place of the injured Hughes, although he has been an adequate fill-in. Still, Gardenhire is best suited as a role-player and not a starter. So with the injury to Hughes, I think that Valencia's name will come up early in terms of being promoted.

Valencia is 23-years-old and was drafted in the 19th round of the 2006 draft and has showcased a fantastic back thus far through the system. He's a career .309 hitter who can spray the ball to all parts of the field. He is the Twins best third base prospect, and if he gets off to a great start in New Britain, hopefully he can get a taste of AAA before the end of the season. Although I'm aware that may be a little much. Still with the "black hole" at third base in the major leagues, hopefully the Twins move him along if he adjusts to the Eastern League. To make room for Valencia, Felix Molina could be a player that gets the boot.

(Left to Right): Valencia, Delaney, and Manship should all be in New Britain shortly

Next, I see Rob Delaney being promoted with Jay Sawatski being released. Delaney emerged last season as a potential top prospect after posting a 1.02 ERA and converting 35 saves with an 83/16 K/BB ratio in Beloit and Ft. Myers. He was still behind Eduardo Morlan in terms of potential for future closers, but with Morlan gone, Delaney looks to be the next best option down the road. This season, he is 1-2, with a 1.42 ERA and a 34/4 K/BB ratio to go along with his 13 saves. Delaney and fellow bullpen member Anthony Slama are off to a tremendous start in Ft. Myers this season, and both of them deserve a promotion.

Jay Sawatski is off to a terrible start this season. The 26-year-old southpaw has an 8.55 ERA through 33 2/3 innings this season. And with 5 southpaw's on the active roster, the Rock Cats could get by without Sawatski.

Jeff Manship should be called up to help out the mediocre Rock Cats rotation. The Rock Cats rank 9th (out of 12) in ERA, and part of that is because of Jay Rainville's 7.58 ERA , Oswaldo Sosa's 6.32 ERA and Errol Simonitsch's 9.39 ERA. All of them have started this season, and for the most part all have been terrible.

Manship through 26 starts at Ft. Myers is 15-8 with a 3.00 ERA and a 122/45 K/BB ratio in 150 innings. He clearly has earned his promotion to New Britain and could make a start or two in Rochester later in the season if he does well early off.

Other players to keep an eye on:
  • Brian Dinkelman, Second Baseman (.297/.399/.419, 18 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 229 AB)
  • Anthony Slama, Relief Pitcher (2-0, 0.54 ERA, 11 saves, 33 1/3 innings, 55/11 K/BB ratio)
  • Juan Portes, Infielder/Outfielder (.288/.336/.400, 12 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 215 AB)
And don't think that players will just be moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain. Other players such as second baseman Steve Singleton and relief pitcher Matthew Williams will probably move from Beloit to Ft. Myers. There are many players that could be promoted/demoted/released, and I believe that we will figure it out in the next week or so, since the Short-Season Rookie Leagues start play a week from today. And with that, the signing of many '08 draft picks will precede the start of the season.

The Twins lost yesterday, which means yes they were swept by the division leading White Sox in 4 games. The starting pitching was certainly better. Glen Perkins pitched 5 1/3 innings, but was pulled from the game after walking Jim Thome in the 6th inning. Two batters later, Jesse Crain gave up a beach ball over the center of the plate for Nick Swisher who put it into the right-field seats. And after that, it was all downhill for the Twins.

Matt Guerrier took the loss after he gave up a double, single, RBI fielder's choice, home run, walk, single and another walk in the 7th. Brian Bass came in, but it was too late, the White Sox scored 3 in that inning to put themselves up 7-5 for good.

Guerrier was terrible, and took the loss which was his second of the season. His ERA went from 2.83-3.57 and gave up his first runs in over 9 innings of relief. Bass threw 1 2/3 innings of 1-hit relief and struck out 2 after he replaced Guerrier.

Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel drove in all 5 of the runs, while Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau scored twice. Cuddyer lead the way, going 2-3 with 3 RBI's and a walk. Mauer went 1-4 with a walk. Jason Kubel went 1-4 with two RBI's. And Justin Morneau went 3-5 with his 11th double of the season.

Carlos Gomez went 1-4 with a double and a walk, but was caught stealing for the 8th time this season. He definitely has not been as effective on the base paths as he was earlier this season. After he stole 11 bases compared to being caught just once, he's now 6 for 13 in steal attempts since then. And he has zero in his last four attempts. Although he has been almost dead on the base paths, he does have a 10-game hit streak.

Craig Monroe started at DH and went 0-3 against John Danks and is now 0-13 in his career against the southpaw. Monroe also struck out in his last at bat against Scott Linebrink.

Alexi Casilla returned to the lineup after missing Sunday with a sore lower back and went 1-5 but was apart of 2 doubles plays. He now has a hitting streak of 11 games. There should have been 3 double plays, but Matt Macri threw a ball a little off of his target at second base and they didn't end up getting any out. Macri went 1-4 at the plate but had that error which proved to not be costly.

Game Ball
Michael Cuddyer - Right Field

2-3, 2-run double, RBI single, 1 run scored, walk

June 9, 2008

Inconsistency with Twins young starters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6, 2008

Meet Aaron Hicks

The Minnesota Twins selected a prep star with their first, first-round pick in the draft yesterday. The team chose Aaron Hicks who is a right-handed pitcher as well as an outfielder from Long Beach, California. The Twins drafted him to play outfield, despite the fact that he has a mid-90's fastball and one of the best curveballs in the draft.

Hicks' record on the mound this season is 8-2 with a 1.16 ERA and has 112 strikeouts in just over 72 innings this season. At the plate, he is hitting .473 with 21-extra-base hits and 37 steals in 34 games.

Hicks is considered one of the most athletic players in the draft, and a legitimate 5-tool prospect who scouts have compared to as a young, switch-hitting version of Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and ex-Twin Torii Hunter. He is 6'2'' and a 170 lbs. He has a great arm, and outstanding speed. I suspect that the Twins will likely start him in center field, but even with his speed, it would not surprise me to see him moved to right field down the line.

Hicks immediately becomes one of the highest potential players in the system, but like those other players, he is a long ways from helping the Twins out. Some feel that since he does have so much potential at the plate, that he can progress quickly, but I believe the Twins will go incredibly slow with him as he needs help on every aspect of his game. He has a smooth swing and is more of a gap-hitter right now, but he's been said to have enough potential to be a legitimate 30-30 guy at the major league level. That's a lot of pressure being put on him, but if he does have that kind of raw potential hopefully it doesn't take him too long to develop it.

Hicks' signability likely won't be like that of Ben Revere's from a year ago, which was a quick and easy process, but I don't see the Twins taking too long before they get him in uniform.

I originally was against the Twins picking Hicks, as I feel that they have a bigger need at infield depth, but I can't disagree with them picking him. He is a natural at the plate and even though the Twins have two starting outfielders at the age of 22 right now, Hicks likely won't be ready to make his debut in the majors for a good 5 years or so, which means that he could replace one of those two at that time if the Twins decide to go a different way. I also believe that every team needs depth in the outfield, and with Hicks now in the system, I think the Twins have depth throughout the minor leagues. He will likely head to the GCL Twins after he signs, and will likely follow the same path that Ben Revere did this season which means he'll likely start next year in Extended Spring Training, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself already.

The Twins are going to have a lot of high-potential, but very raw prospects in the Rookie leagues this season with Reggie Williams, Danny Rams, and Angel Morales all set to play for either the GCL Twins or the Elizabethton Twins.

Yesterday, the Twins also selected:

Pick 27: Carlos Guitierrez - He's a right-handed relief pitcher for the Miami Hurricanes. He missed the 2007 season due to Tommy John Surgery and was the "surprise pick" of the first round. But before start getting upset remember, the "surprise pick" of last year's first round was Ben Revere and I think we can all (so far) sit back and laugh at all of those who despised the pick. The Twins are drafting him in hopes to turn him into a starter, but with him just having one-pitch, he might take a little longer than expected to progress. However, if he does learn another couple pitches, it won't be long after before he's making his way through the system.

Pick 31: Steven "Shooter" Hunt - First thing's first, great name! Shooter is a perfect name for a pitcher. Hunt is one of the most highly-touted pitchers in the draft, but he hasn't been great at Tulane this spring and he's fallen quite a bit. Scouts believe that the Twins got a great value pick with this pick and he could be one of the best pitchers in the draft. He has good control on his mid-90's fastball and has a good curveball. He has a good frame and should be able to move through the system quickly. I was told that he reminds the Twins of Scott Baker.

Pick 60: Tyler Ladendorf - Landendorf is a 20-year-old junior college shortstop with good power and good defense. He has above average speed despite having a 6'2'' 210 lbs. frame. He has been drafted in each of the last two drafts, but both were in the 34th round so being taken in the 2nd round it will probably be enough for him to sign. He has a strong enough arm and the bat to possibly switch to third base someday. He lead all JC players with a .542 average and a 1.060 SLG%. He hit one home run as a freshman and 16 as a sophomore. He had 82 RBI's and 31 stolen bases (in 32 attempts) as a sophomore as well.

Pick 92: Bobby Lanigan - Lanigan is a 21-year-old Right-Handed starter from Adelphi University. He is 6'5'' and has 93-mph fastball with a great slider. He is a DII pitcher, which is probably his only downside. He certainly fits into the Twins model for pitching, and I think he'll have a good career in the system. He is the first player drafted from Adelphi University in 15 years.

Pick 126: Danny Ortiz - Ortiz was the second player chosen out of Puerto Rico in the draft, and it was the second straight season that the Twins chose a Puerto Rican outfielder within the first 4 rounds (last year the team chose Angel Morales in the 3rd round). Ortiz is just 5'11'' but has great speed and a very quick bat which helps him get surprising power. He doesn't have as much potential as Morales does, but the Twins definitely filled up their outfield depth with great speed on the corners as well in center in the Rookie Leagues.

Pick 156: Nick Romero - Romero is a 20-year-old junior from San Diego State University. He is a switch-hitting third baseman with a good bat. He doesn't project to be a great power hitter, but don't tell him that. He hit 12 home runs this past season, but he has questions on his bat speed. He is a switch hitter with a good eye at the plate and a good approach. He's a former shortstop with a solid glove. He could progress quickly through the system.

Here's a video of Romero at San Diego State. He hit a home run off of the 4th pick of the MLB draft, Brian Matusz. He was drafted by the Orioles.

Pick 186: B.J. Hermsen - Hermsen is a two-sport athlete from West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa. He's a 6'7'', 240 lbs. right-handed pitcher with a low-90's fastball, great slider and curveball and an occasional changeup. The 18-year-old broke his left collarbone in football this past year and his stock fell because of it. But recently he showed off a 92 mph fastball and impressed scouts with his breaking balls. He's a "close to home prospect" that the team missed out on in James Hand from Chaska who was chosen by the Marlins with the 52nd pick in the draft. Hermsen is a very intelligent pitcher with a scholarship to Oregon State which some feel may be cause a problem to the Twins trying to sign him.

The rest of the draft will conclude today. The remaining 44 rounds will start at 10:30 am. Make sure to go to MLB.com to check on who the Twins select.

The Twins lost yesterday's game and the series to the Orioles. Scott Baker returned from the disabled list and threw 5 innings and gave up just two runs on 5 hits and 99 pitches. He gave up a two-run home run to Nick Markakis, but otherwise was very effective. It was definitely an encouraging start considering the plan was for him to throw 85-90 pitches. Probably the most encouraging stat was that he threw 72% of his pitches for strikes, which is a very good number, yet he did it while coming off of the D.L. That has to sit well with the Twins coaching staff.

Brian Bass continued to struggle on the mound, giving up the go-ahead run in the 7th inning on an Adam Jones home run which proved to be the game winner. It was Bass' second loss of the season. After an O.K. April, Bass was absolutely terrible in May and isn't off to a great start in June. The Twins may end up taking their chances on placing him through waivers to clear up a space on the roster. I don't see it happening right now, but certainly within the next few weeks. Especially if he continues to struggle. Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow combined for two no-hit innings, but it was too late.

Alexi Casilla continues to just be outstanding both offensively and defensively since his callup. He went 3-5 with a run, a double and an RBI single. He is now hitting .343 through 70 at bats this season, and he looks to have a starting gig and the #2 spot in the order on lock right now. Mike Redmond also had a 3-hit game while filling in at catcher for the resting Joe Mauer. He got the Twins on the board early in the first inning with an RBI double which scored Casilla.

Nick Punto had a 2-3 game, with two doubles and a walk, but again after he has a good offensive game, he is forced to miss a couple of weeks. More on that in a little bit.

Game Ball
Alexi Casilla - Second Base

3-5, run, double, RBI
Box Score

As I mentioned, Nick Punto is going to miss a couple weeks after re-aggravated his left-hamstring which forced him to miss 24 days in May. He injured it last weekend against the Yankees, and with the Twins now carrying just 3 bench players, he's been forced to play with the pain.

The Twins sent Matt Macri back to Rochester to make room for Baker, and the Twins caught Macri before his flight to New York to rejoin the Rochester Red Wings, so he's now with the team as they head to Chicago.

It's unknown what this will do to the Twins lineup. The club inserted Punto into the starting shortstop gig after Brendan Harris' troubles on defense, but now with Punto injured again, it looks like Harris will be the starter yet again. The Twins have tried taking Harris out of the starting lineup a couple times now this season, only to have his replacement get injured. With three infielders now on the D.L., and with the Twins carrying 13 pitchers, a move may need to be made. One thing is for sure, the All-Star break cannot come soon enough for these guys. They are definitely beat up right now.

Yesterday, Francisco Liriano got off to a rough start in Buffalo. He walked the first batter, hit the second batter, got the next two hitters out before giving up a 3-run shot to put the Wings down 3-0 in the 1st inning. Liriano settled down after that and induced 8 ground ball outs and struck out 6 more batters over the next 5 1/3 innings. He threw 96 pitches through his 6 innings, but his control was erratic at times and he threw just 53 for strikes. However, thanks to good games by the Red Wings hitters and Ricky Barrett for preserving the lead with 3 perfect innings of relief, the Wings gave Liriano his first win of the season.

Steven Tolleson hit his 5th home run of the season last night to help give the Rock Cats a 4-2 victory over the Altoona Curve. It was a three-run shot for Tolleson who started in center field. Errol Simonitsch held the Curve to just 1 run through 6 innings of work to pick up his first win of the season. Unfortunately, it looks like Simonitsch's days may be numbers in New Britain's rotation as Jeff Manship will likely replace him within the next few weeks.

Wilson Ramos helped the Miracle improve to 40 wins last night with a 3-4 game with 3 RBI's. He had a two-run single in the third inning and backed it up with an RBI single in his next at bat in the fifth. The 20-year-old catcher is hitting .310 with two doubles, a home run and 11 RBI's over his last 42 at bats. Yancarlos Ortiz, Whit Robbins and Ed Ovalle added RBI's of their own. Robbins' RBI came on a bases-loaded walk. Alex Burnett gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, but his terrific bullpen combination of Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney threw 3 scoreless innings of relief. Slama was not "on" giving up a few walks and throwing a wild pitch while allowing 3/4 runners to steal bases.

Chris Parmelee powered the Snappers to an 8-6 victory over the Kane County Cougars. Parmelee hit his 9th and 10th home run of the season and drove in 4 RBI's. He added a single to give himself a three-hit game. The Snappers won giving Michael McCardell his 2nd win of the season. McCardell struggled, but he is too good of a pitcher to continue giving up 4+ runs in a game, I have confidence that he will turn it around soon.

On a sad note, and surprisingly Danny Vais has decided to call it quits despite having a great season thus far. The 23-year-old reliever was 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA through 29 1/3 innings in the Ft. Myers bullpen.

Have a great weekend and as always... GO TWINS!