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A lot of Twins fans a feeling a little big down these days. The team came into Thursday’s game against the Rays with a 4-7 record and having just lost a 10-5 decision with their ‘best’ pitcher. Twins fans are starting to realize just how important defense is when you don’t have any, and specifically you don’t have any range. That’s not the fault of the players. Their speed is what it is.
Twins fans are frustrated. Likely, the Twins are very frustrated.
And then came the lineup for Thursday’s game in Tampa against righty James Shields. A day after getting the day game after a night game off, Joe Mauer was not in the lineup for a second straight game. Was it just because Carl Pavano was on the mound and Drew Butera is his catcher? Was he hurt? Was he just being wimpy. Soon after, Gardy told reporters that he was “sore” and that was “all they needed to know.” For me, that made me think that he was fed up with Mauer. We have heard too many reports of Gardenhire’s frustration with Mauer’s subtle hints that he shouldn’t play. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was just sitting him again, benching him to some degree, because of that.
During the game, Drew Butera came through with an RBI single that gave the Twins a 2-0 lead. The Twins had 12 hits, and four of them were doubles, but again scored just two runs. Joe Nathan came in for the bottom of the 9th, to protect a two run lead. With one out, Felipe Lopez had a long at bat the ended with a double. Nathan then walked Ben Zobrist. On a 3-1 count, Joe Maddon sent the runners and Matt Joyce lined a ball to the gap which scored both runs and tied up the game. Nathan was able to get out of the 9th with the game tied. Nathan has been good. All closer’s blow saves, so that doesn’t worry me in the least. Plus, he held on so the Twins still had a chance in extra innings.
With two outs in the top of the 10th, Matt Tolbert singled and advanced to 2B on a passed ball. Danny Valencia came up big again with an RBI single to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.
Then Matt Capps came in to protect the one-run lead. He got the first out, but then Super Sam Fuld singled and Johnny Damon hit a walk-off home run to end the game. Again, Capps has been tremendous this season. So I’m not worried about him. But what are the odds that both of the Twins closers (who have both been good) would blow a save in the same game? The unfortunate thing, besides another loss and the record dropping to 4-8, was that Carl Pavano’s eight shutout innings were essentially wasted. Some may question the decision to take him out of the game. However, with 104 pitches, that’s just the way the game is played. And, had Nathan been able to close out the game, not one would even mention it.
But then following the game, the news came out that Joe Mauer was going to be put on the Disabled List with “bilateral leg weakness.” Whatever that is. From Livestrong.com:
Bilateral weakness in the leg muscles can be as mild as a generalized feeling of fatigue in your legs or as extreme as complete paralysis. Bilateral weakness indicates a problem in your central nervous system — in your brain, spinal cord or nerves. Many disease processes or trauma can cause bilateral weakness in your legs.
Please go here to read a lot more about bilateral leg weakness, the symptoms, causes, treatments and more. Now I know that sometimes players get put on the DL and an injury is needed to be called out. Sometimes what it is called is not exactly what it is. Even if it is bilateral leg weakness, as you can see, there are many levels of severity. Hopefully some rest, rehab and restrengthening will be in line and it won’t be long before he is back.
So, the Twins called up 31-year-old, minor league veteran Steve Holm from Rochester. He will likely get plenty of playing time while Mauer is out. He has played in 53 games in 2008 and 2009 for the San Francisco Giants, the organization that drafted him in 2001. That summer, he got to catch a 17-year-old Francisco Liriano. He spent a couple of summers catching Matt Cain. He has caught Tim Lincecum in the minor leagues, and Sergio Romo and many other big league pitchers. He is a defense-first catcher, but he can put together a solid at bat at times too. Rene Rivera and Danny Lehmann were likely also considered. None of the three were on the Twins 40-man-roster, so Holm had to be added. The Twins are now at 39 on their 40 man roster.
So, two weeks into the season, things could not be going much worse for the Twins. The one thing they thought they could count on, the offense, is not hitting or scoring runs. Delmon Young has returned to swinging at everything. Several of the Twins key hitters got off to a very slow start. Tsuyoshi Nishioka fractured his fibula and is going to be about six to eight weeks which really highlighted the Twins lack of middle infield quality and depth. That is accentuated by Alexi Casilla being really bad both offensively and defensively. Luke Hughes has been called up and held his own, but now Michael Cuddyer is getting time at 2B against right-handed pitchers which allows the Twins to get Jason Kubel and Jim Thome into the lineup, but it also really weakens and already weak defense. The Twins best pitcher’s work ethic was (Again) called into question this spring and he has been awful in his first three starts. Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares and (surprise surprise) Glen Perkins have been very good so far, but the back of the bullpen, where there were some concerns, have had some struggles.
And another concern in the offseason was what the backup plan was if (or when) Joe Mauer would go on the Disabled List. The answer, for me, was that if Joe Mauer gets hurt, it doesn’t matter who becomes the starter, it will be a big step down. At least the Twins do have very good defensive catchers that will work well with the pitching staff. They can bat 8th or 9th and any offense from them should be considered a bonus. Everyone knows that I was probably higher on Wilson Ramos than anyone, frequently discussing my plan for how he and Joe Mauer could split time between catcher and DH for years to come. However, he’s gone, he’s been gone since July, and Twins fans need to move on. Secondly, Matt Capps has been tremendous since coming to the Twins. (Doesn’t mean I think it was a good move long-term, but means that at least the Twins have had a great return in Capps) Others are upset that Jose Morales was traded in the offseason too. Again, he was out of options. He was not going to beat out Drew Butera. Getting anything out of him was what needed to be done. Obviously right now it would be nice to have Jose Morales around, but that doesn’t make the trade the wrong thing to do.
What more could go wrong at the start of this season? I hate to ask the question because, as we all know, things can always get worse. There are 150 games to go. It annoys me when people think that it can’t get better. But as I wrote yesterday, it seems that the more that the Twins have going against them, the more they come through, and the better they play. The Twins have played without Mauer before and done alright. The Twins played last year without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan and won 94 games. I’m not intimating that the Twins are better off losing its star players, but what I am saying is don’t jump off the bandwagon now. Now is when they need the support, not the complaining.
Thursday Night’s Twins Minor League Weekly Podcast– Travis had a previous commitment. I was a little worried about how I would fill 30 minutes, but somehow, someway, I found plenty to talk about and could have gone longer. I discussed how the teams are doing and who is off to a fast start, but I also mentioned the names of some guys who are really struggling through the season’s first week. I also went much more in-depth with the injury discussion and the catching carousel.
Catching Carousel: Joe Mauer to the Disabled List, Steve Holm promoted to the Twins, Danny Lehmann promoted to Rochester, Dan Rohlfing promoted to New Britain.
MINOR LEAGUE UPDATES
SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Day – Rene Tosoni, Rochester Red Wings.
Seth Speaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Logan Darnell, Beloit Snappers
Red Wings Ramblings
Thursday – Game 1 – Red Wings 3, Lehigh Valley 1 – Eric Hacker started the first game and was excellent. The threw six shutout innings, giving up just two hits. He walked none and struck out five. Phil Dumatrait came in for the 7th, but a hit and two walks later, the bases were loaded with a 1-0 lead. Jim Hoey came in. He struck out the first batter he faced, but he hit the second to allow the game-tying run. He struckout the next batter. In the bottom of the 7th, Rene Tosoni hit a two-run, walk-off home run to end the game. The Red Wings managed just four hits. Ben Revere had a double. Dustin Martin hit his first home run of the year to give the Red Wings their 1-0 lead earlier in the game.
Thursday – Game 2 – Red Wings 3, Lehigh Valley 5 (8 innings) – Kyle Gibson got the nod in the second game. He gave up two runs on five hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three. Carlos Gutierrez pitched a scoreless inning. Chuck James then threw a scoreless 7th inning. He started the 8th inning and gave up one run. He left with two runners on base. Kyle Waldrop came in and gave up a hit that scored both runners, but he got the final two outs. Matt Brown was 2-3. Dustin Martin hit his second home run of the day, and of the season. Rene Tosoni tied the game up at three with a two-run double.
Injury Notes – Trevor Plouffe suffered some whiplash and a slight concussion on Wednesday. He did not play on Thursday. Ben Revere bruised his knee on a stolen base attempt in the second game. Anthony Slama was activated from the Disabled List. Ryan Mullins was also activated from the DL, but he was optioned to Ft. Myers.
Rock Cats Report
Thursday – Rock Cats 6, Portland 2 – The Rock Cats finally got to play their home opener. Bobby Lanigan went the first six innings. He gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits. He walks two and struck out four. Cole DeVries did a great job out of the ‘pen again. He threw three innings of one-hit ball to record the three inning save. Joe Benson hit his third and fourth doubles in four at bats. Ray Chang launched his first home run. Chris Parmelee hit his fourth double.
Thursday – Miracle 7, Bradenton 8 – The Miracle found themselves down 7-0 after two innings, and 8-2 after three innings. They made a big comeback, but it came up just short. It was a rough start for Tom Stuifbergen, to say the least. He gave up eight runs (7 earned) on nine hits and a walk in three innings. Ryan Mullins came in and threw three shutout innings. Blake Martin then threw two scoreless innings. Jhonathan Goncalves went 3-5. Nate Hanson was 2-4 with a double. Steve Liddle went 2-5 with a double. James Beresford was 2-4 with a walk.
Injury Notes – Paul Kelly will again miss some significant time. He had a blood clot in his right shoulder. As I wrote the other day, He left the game earlier this week because his right arm was numb. He has already had surgery to remove the clots, but they still don’t know how long he’ll be out. Miguel Munoz appears to be headed toward Tommy John surgery. I was told that the ligament did not tear, but it actually came off of the bone (which just sounds painful, doesn’t it?). And Tom Stuifbergen had a rough start last night, but more worrisome, he left the game with shoulder pain. It will be evaluated, but hopefully it is nothing serious.
Thursday – Snappers 0, Clinton 2 (13 innings) – A day after getting just one hit in a 1-0 win over Clinton, it was another pitcher’s duel between the two teams. This one had no scoring until Clinton batted in the 13th inning. Logan Darnell started and went eight shutout innings. He allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out six. Blayne Weller gave up two hits and a walk in 1.2 innings, but did not allow a run. He struck out four. Clinton Dempster went 2.1 scoreless innings, but he gave up two runs in the top of the 13th before Matt Hauser got the final two outs.
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.