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Perfect Ending to Horrible Game

21 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

  • I’m generally known as the positive Twins blogger, right? Well, I kind of go against that in my most recent Star Tribune Your Voices blog titled Twins Need to Deal.
  • Also, be sure to listen in to last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. Doogie Wolfson joined me for the first 25 minutes, and stuck around while fellow TwinsCentric writers John Bonnes and Nick Nelson joined for the last half hour. There was a ton of Twins talk, primarily focused on the Trade Deadline, but on a ton of Twins topics. It was fun to have such a strong panel answer many Twins-related questions, and I think you will enjoy it, so please check it out and let me know what you think.
    • HELP! I have been meaning to ask this for awhile. Does anyone with any technical knowledge know how to put all of my podcasts onto a CD? I, of course, have no clue how to do it, or how long it might even take. If anyone can help me out, please let me know. Thanks!
  • As I mentioned last night, I spent some time chatting with Twins 3B prospect Danny Valencia last night and he agreed to doing an interactive Q&A with SethSpeaks.net readers. So, if you would like to ask the future Twin a question (or two, or up to 3), please e-mail me and I will send him the questions. I will accept questions until Wednesday night (around 10:00 p.m.).
  • And, of course, as the Trade Deadline is fast approaching, please consider picking up a copy of the TwinsCentric 2009 Trade Deadline Primer for just $9.95.

Cuddyer was safe. Clearly he was safe. Slow-motion instant replay showed that it really wasn’t that close. But it’s hard to be upset at the call. It’s not like the Twins deserved to win the game. Sure, all wins are great, but they did not deserve to win a game that they played that bad. Too many mistakes. Too many bad at bats against the A’s bullpen. Yes, Cuddyer was safe, but the Twins did not deserve to win that game.

Alright, that Twins/A’s game was crazy! Twins get off to a fast lead, but Nick Blackburn has nothing and struggles to get through five innings despite the offense (Even without Joe Mauer) scoring him 12 runs. Justin Morneau had two home runs and seven RBI before the fourth inning. Jason Kubel had a three run homer. It was his 16th. Michael Cuddyer had a solo homer. His 16th. Blackburn was awful. Brian Duensing came in and struggled in the 6th inning. Part of that was due to bloop hits, part of it due to an error. Then in the 7th inning, he gave up another three bloop hits to load the bases, so they brought Bobby Keppel in. Now, Keppel has been excellent in his very small sample size of innings. Orlando Cabrera hit a blooper down the right field line that landed in just the right spot and scored two runs. A walk to Scott Hairston brought Matt Holliday to the plate as the tying run… and he delivered a game tying home run, a grand slam tying the score at 13. Jose Mijares came in and on the first pitch Jack Cust hit a long home run to dead center field that gave the A’s the 14-13 lead. The game is three hours long, and it’s only the 7th inning, and it’s ridiculous. It’s hard to even be upset because outside of the two home runs in the 7th inning, the A’s have not hit much hard. And then the play at the plate at the end, and there you have it.

That said, Message to Bill Smith… The Twins still need pitchers I don’t care of they are starters or relievers. They need help. Tonight was just another illustration. This simply should not happen. I know, it does happen. It happens several times a year around the big leagues, but it should never happen. Let’s not forget that along with two web-gem-like plays from Nick Punto, he also had an error and could have been given another one. Let’s not forget that with Duensing on the mound, Justin Morneau didn’t catch a foul pop up that should have been an out. This was an ugly game all around. I know, it even happens to playoff teams. But again, if you’re counting on Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel and Jose Mijares, you’re not going anywhere. And yet yesterday, ground ball expert Cla Merideth, a 26 year old submarine pitcher was traded from the Padres to the Orioles for a 31 year old infielder who may have been designated for assignment within days by the Orioles.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Monday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Jason Pridie/David Winfree, Rochester Red Wings

Monday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Tom Stuifbergen, Elizabethton Twins – Steve Hirschfeld, Ft. Myers Miracle

ROCHESTER REPORT

Monday – Rochester 12, Pawtucket 5 – Yohan Pino had a successful AAA debut thanks to a lot of run support. The righty went the first five innings and gave up three runs on three hits. Two of those hits were home runs. He walked none and struck out three. Of the 65 pitches that he threw, 45 of them were strikes. Jesse Crain came in and struck out three in two one-hit innings. Crain in July has walked three and struck out 12 in 12 innings pitched. Tim Lahey gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out three. The offense was abundant for the Red Wings. Jason Pridie went 4-5 with five RBI and his 20th stolen base. David Winfree went 3-5 with his 22nd double and 13th home run. Matt Macri went 3-4 with his 18th double. Steve Tolleson went 2-3 with a walk. Matt Tolbert went 2-5 with a triple.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Monday – New Britain 1, Portland 19 – I am just guessing that Michael McCardell’s dreams for his AA debut went a little better than the reality that occurred. McCardell gave up 11 runs on 11 hits and three walks in just four innings. He struck out seven, and he really took one for the team in staying out there for so long. Carlos Gutierrez came in and was brutal again. He gave up four runs on four hits in his inning. Jose Lugo gave up two runs (1 earned) in the 6th innings, but he did pitch a scoreless seventh frame. Then Alex Burnett pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Anthony Slama came in for the ninth and gave up two runs on a hit and a walk. He did strike out two. Brandon Roberts went 2-4 with his 15th double. Steve Singleton went 2-4 with the lone RBI. Of course, going 2-4 dropped his batting average to .600.    

MIRACLE MEMOS

Monday – Ft. Myers 6, Dunedin 3 Steve Hirschfeld started for the Miracle and threw five shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out four. Blair Erickson struck out three in 1.2 innings. Joe Testa then gave up three runs (2 earned) on three hits and a walk. Loek Van Mil recorded the save with a perfect ninth inning. Estarlin de Los Santos went 2-3 with a walk. Ben Revere was 2-4 with fourth triple. Evan Bigley drove in two runs with his 11th double.   

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Monday – Beloit 3, Dayton 6 Liam Hendriks threw another really strong game for the Snappers. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out eight. Matt Williams came in and gave up two runs on three hits. Then Billy Bullock gave up two runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batter. Ozzie Lewis went 3-3 with two doubles. Michael Harrington hit his fourth home run.     

E-TWINS EXTRAS

Monday – Elizabethton 6, Burlington 4 (13 innings) Reggie Williams came to bat with a runner on and two outs in the top of the 13th. He gave the E-Twins a 6-4 lead with a two run home run. Ben Tootle recorded his first professional save with a scoreless bottom half of the 13th and the E-Twins improved to 21-6 on the season. Tom Stuifbergen started and threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out five. There was a half-hour rain delay in the 3rd inning that he did return from, but because of that, he was limited to the five innings. Tony Davis then struck out four in two one-hit innings. Matt Tone gave up three runs on two hits and a walk in his inning. The E-Twins still held the lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but Kyle Carr gave up a run on two hits and two walks and the game headed to extra innings. Kane Holbrooks through three shutout innings before Tootle closed the door. Williams also hit his fifth double. Michael Gonzalez went 2-3 with three walks. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-5 with a walk and his fifth double.   

GCL TWINS THOUGHTS

Monday –GCL Twins, GCL Reds – Postponed by Rain.

Please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

Where Are We Now?

16 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Alright, it’s late on Wednesday night and I’m just getting home for the first time since Saturday morning. Quite a bit has happened while I was away, and I was able to blog a few times, but I still feel like I’m way behind even though with the All-Star break for the Major Leaguers, AAA and AA have been going on, so I haven’t been missing much. Getting back so late, and with the Twins 2nd half not starting until Friday, I am going to wait a day to post my thoughts on some Twins awards for the first half. Let’s see, what has happens? Where are we?

  • You may have heard, on Monday, TwinsCentric 2009 July Trade Deadline Primer released, and of course, John, Nick, Parker and I thank you all for your support of that venture, but also just for coming to our sites every day and either just reading or even participating. One of my favorite things about blogging is the interaction with other fans whether you agree or disagree. With the release of the Trade Deadline Primer, there are over 30,000 words that we can all disagree on. Fun! There are still two weeks before the deadline, and for some reason, I truly believe that the Twins will do something, and something of significance. I am in agreement with those who believe that if the Twins do nothing, they will stay right around .500 and likely finish in 3rd (if not 4th) place in the division.
  • If you want to read a little unbiased opinion of the Trade Deadline Primer, fellow Star Tribune Your Voices blogger Doogie Wolfson wrote a review last night. Also yesterday, Aaron Gleeman blogged about the book. Thank you to both of them.
  • Let’s see… Alexi Casilla was promoted after the game on Sunday when Matt Tolbert was sent down. Just yesterday, the Twins sent Jose Morales back to Rochester to bring up a pitcher. The choice was Kevin Mulvey, a starter. Although I was initially surprised somewhat, it isn’t hard to understand. Jesse Crain and Juan Morillo are still walking too many. Rob Delaney has experienced some bumps in Rochester, and Anthony Slama still has not seen AAA. I am very curious how this bullpen will play out, or what this move really signals, if anything.
  • The bigger question I have is who will be starting for the Red Wings now that their top three pitchers (Mulvey, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing) are all with the Twins. Jeff Manship, who has been in Rochester for less than a month, is probably the team’s ace. If pitchers are promoted from AA (Say… Matt Fox, Ryan Mullins or Cole Devries), then who moves up to AA? If Mike McCardell, Tyler Robertson or David Bromberg get moved up from Ft. Myers to New Britain, then who moves up from Beloit? It could be interesting.
  • And with the promotion of Steve Singleton from Ft. Myers to New Britain on Tuesday, there are other questions. One would have to think that there is a chance that Brian Dinkelman could be promoted to Rochester now that the AA All-Star game is complete so that they both can get regular at bats. However, how do you allot playing time in the middle infield in Rochester if you’ve got Dinkelman along with Trevor Plouffe, Steve Tolleson, Matt Macri and now Matt Tolbert? Dinkelman and Tolleson have both played a little bit of LF, so that’s possible. It will certainly be interesting.
  • Back to the trade deadline stuff, I’m normally one to trust the Twins minor leagues system and I still very much believe in the farm system’s depth. But again, I truly believe that a move is needed this year if they truly want to compete. That is the opinion that I have generally heard. But Travis Aune takes a little different perspective, one that I normally have had in the past. I encourage you to read his thoughts.
  • Is it too early to start thinking about which six Twins minor leaguers the Twins will send to the Arizona Fall League? With the promotion of Singleton to AA, he certainly becomes an option. I spent some car time today thinking about this very topic. Typically the Twins haven’t sent a player there in back to back years. Last year, they sent Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Tim Lahey, Danny Valencia, Dustin Martin and Steve Tolleson. If that holds true, it becomes quite difficult to select which players would be selected. Another rule is that players from countries with Winter League teams can not participate. If healthy, I am sure the Twins would love to send Wilson Ramos there to get him additional at bats, but he will head back to Venezuela. So here are my guesses, and please feel free to agree or disagree with them. I think the three hitters will be: Rene Tosoni, Steve Singleton and Whit Robbins. If I were to name three pitchers today, I think they might send Michael McCardell (who could yet be promoted to New Britain, or go as a A-ball exception), Cole Devries, and Alex Burnett,  
  • Speaking of Alex Burnett, check out the Q&A that Josh Johnson conducted with the Rockcats righty reliever.
  • Nick Nelson ranted on the Madness of Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire… hard to disagree with the evaluation!
  • At Over the Baggy, Parker looks at Three Signings as part of his First Half Review.   
  • I accidentally watched the last few innings of the AAA All-Star game last night. Did You know that former Twin Michael Ryan is still playing? He plays for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the AAA Affiliate of the Florida Marlins. He apparently recently turned 32 years old. He doubles in the 8th inning.
  • Jesse from Twinkie Town investigates which Toronto Blue Jays relievers the Twins might have interest in.
  • Finally, be sure to go to www.CoryHepola.com and check out his blog. But be certain to check out his video story on Danny Valencia. Cory has done some really good stories, but this one is right at the top.

Oh, and again, be sure to check back tomorrow when we may be able to let you in on a little information that has been teased here and a couple of other places over the last few days.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Wednesday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – James Beresford, Beloit Snappers

Wednesday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Steve Hirschfeld, Ft. Myers Miracle – Tom Stuifbergen, Elizabethton Twins

ROCHESTER REPORT

Wednesday – Rochester – The AAA All-Star game was played last night in Portland, Oregon. The Twins/Red Wings representative was Justin Huber. He came in to pinch hit for the DH in the 5th inning and hit a sacrifice fly. He went 0-2 in his next two at bats.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Wednesday – New Britain – The Rockcats sent five players to the Eastern League All-Star game. Rene Tosoni started and played in CF the whole game. He was 0-4 with a walk. Brian Dinkelman entered the game at 2B and went 1-2. Whit Robbins pinch hit for the DH and went 1-2. Matt Fox pitched a perfect second inning, striking out one. It didn’t go as well for Anthony Slama. He started the ninth and got the first two outs. He gave up a run on a hit, a walk and a hit batter before being replaced   

MIRACLE MEMOS

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 13, Sarasota 0 Steve Hirschfeld got plenty of run support early as the Red Wings scored nine runs in the second inning. He didn’t need that much. The righty went the complete game route. He gave up no runs on three hits. He walked just one and struck out just two. He improved to 3-4 and dropped his ERA to 2.17. Ben Revere went 3-5 with a walk and his third triple. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-6 with his fourth and fifth doubles. Nick Romero and Chris Parmelee were each 2-4. Mark Dolenc went 2-5. Alexander Soto was promoted to the Miracle about a week ago and hit his first home run.     

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Wednesday – Beloit 9, Burlington 3 Liam Hendriks picked up his first Midwest League win. He gave up just one run on nine hits over 6.2 innings. He walked one and struck out four. Blake Martin gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. Matt Williams struck out three of the four batters he faced. James Beresford went 3-5 with his fourth and fifth doubles, and his ninth stolen base. Danny Rams went 2-3 with a walk and his first home run. Angel Morales was 2-3 with his 11th double and ninth steal. Dominic de La Osa went 2-4 with his seventh double.   

E-TWINS EXTRAS

Wednesday – Elizabethton 4, Danville 2 – Danville is the one team in the Appy League that really gives the E-Twins some struggles, so it is good to see this win. Tom Stuifbergen led the way and improved to 3-0. The Dutch righty went all nine innings. He gave up two runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out seven. Of the 20 outs that he got on balls in play, 18 of them were ground balls. Derek McCallum went 2-4. Josmil Pinto was 2-4 with his fifth double and two RBI.

GCL TWINS THOUGHTS

Wednesday –GCL Twins 3, GCL Reds 2 BJ Hermsen improved to 3-1 with a 1.54 ERA after giving up just one run on three hits in six innings. He walked none and struck out five. Andrei Lobonov struck out two in two scoreless innings, reducing his ERA to 0.96. Dakota Watts picked up his fourth save. He struck out three but gave up an unearned run in the ninth inning. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-4 with his first home run and three RBI.

Please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

Twins Promote Mulvey

15 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

In what I would have to consider a bit of a shocking move, the Twins decided to promote starting pitcher Kevin Mulvey today, optioning Jose Morales back to Rochester. Mulvey came to the Twins in the Johan Santana trade and has pitched well considering his age and the Mets excessive rushing of prospects.

I can’t say that I understand the decision at all. He can pitch long relief, and I have been told that he really seems to understand pitching. To me, that means starter, not reliever, so is something more going on?

Or, is this a simple way of trying to showcase Mulvey for a potential July trade?

Let me know what you think… are you as surprised as me?

SethSpeaks.net Top Ten Twins Prospects

5 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

After looking at Twins prospects 36-50 Tuesday, and 21-35 Wednesday, and Prospects 11-20 yesterday, it is time to look at my choices for the Top 10 Twins Prospects. Again, let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy this and again, please feel free to comment.  

What is a prospect and how do I rank them? First of all, prospect ranking is far from an exact science. The top prospects do not always pan out, and frequently other players seemingly come out of nowhere. I do this as much to recognize players as anything else. But I also have been following the Twins minor league system for several years now and have tried to learn what I can about how they operate, and what is needed for promotions, and what skills are important. I have not included players from the Dominican Summer League in these rankings because they need about 7 promotions before they would get to the big leagues. I daily review box scores from the games. I keep up with stats and some trends. For hitters, I like to look at OBP and SLG, but specifically at 2B and 3B coupled with body type to try to determine if HR are in their future. For pitchers, I will look at WHIP and innings and consistency and opponent’s batting average. One of the key stats I look at for both hitters and pitchers are walks and strikeouts which I think tell a lot about a player.

Now, sitting in Minnesota, I have little opportunity to actually see many of these players play. When it comes to prospects, you have to try to look beyond the stats. I have developed sources in and around the Twins farm system to try to get a closer perspective on the players, what their skills are, what they need to work on. I think it is vital to look beyond the stats to try to give a fair perspective. You also have to consider age and level of competition. You have to weigh potential ceiling with likelihood of reaching that ceiling.

With that, I am curious your thoughts on my top ten Twins prospects, or any of the top 50. Who is missing? (Note – I made a concerted effort not to include Jose Mijares just because I think he is now pretty established as a big leaguer.) In the comments, share your top 10, top 20, or whatever you like.

And again, to read much more on all ten of these players, go to www.SethSpeaks.net.

#10 – Rene Tosoni – OF – 22 (7/2/86) 

#9 – Kevin Mulvey – RHP – 23 (5/26/84) 

#8 – David Bromberg – RHP – 21 (9/14/87 

#7 – Carlos Gutierrez – RHP – 22 (9/22/86)

#6 – Anthony Swarzak – RHP – 23 (9/10/85)

 #5 – Angel Morales – OF – 19 (11/24/89) 

#4 – Wilson Ramos – C – 21 (8/10/87)

#3 – Danny Valencia – 3B – 24 (9/19/84)

#2 – Ben Revere – OF – 21 (5/3/88)

#1 – Aaron Hicks – OF – 19 (10/2/89)

So there you have it, my selections for the Top 10 Twins Prospects. What do you think? I would love your feedback and input. Who did I have too high, or too low? If you have any comments, opinions or suggestions, please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

Sunday Stream of Consciousness

1 Jun

also avilable at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Watching the Twins lose six in a row on the road earlier in the month was rather frustrating. Then they won 20-1 in Chicago before winning five of seven at home. Then they went back on the road and lost their first two games to the Rays. But more important than anything else, on Sunday, they were able to beat Matt Garza and that makes everything right with the world again. It was great seeing Brendan Harris touch him up for a home run. It was great to see Delmon Young come in to face him and get a single.

In the end, we see over and over and over again, whether at the Metrodome or on the road, that the key to a team’s success starts with that day’s starting pitcher. I know. It’s boring and sounds so cliché, but sometimes it’s important to remember how clichés got to become clichés! You’re only as good as your next day’s starter, right? Tom Kelly used to say that all the time, and well, it is one of baseball’s great truths. Friday night, it was Scott Baker giving up a three run homer to Evan Longoria. On Saturday, it was Francisco Liriano looking pretty clueless. On Sunday, it was Nick Blackburn looking pretty much in control the whole game with the exception of two solo home runs. Garza looked pretty good though and for awhile it looked like that would be enough for the Rays to sweep the Twins, but single runs in the 6th and 7th innings gave the Twins a 3-2 win. Sean Henn, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan finished the final three innings without allowing a run to preserve a win for Blackburn.

Why was the offense able to score in the 6th and 7th? Did they wear out Garza? I don’t know about that, but I know I did my part by leaving the house and going to watch the cartoon Up at the theatre. What as excellent movie, one of the best feature cartoon movies that I have seen! That’s right! I quit watching them and decided to enjoy the weekend! So, you’re welcome!

Plenty of topics to discuss, and as you can see, I am just rambling. That’s the beauty of titling something a Stream of Consciousness blog. I can ramble and that’s the purpose! That’s what I am going to do today, trying to touch on several Twins-related topics. I’ll write for awhile and just see where it takes us, so please enjoy and certainly feel free to comment.

As I have said, starting pitching is the key to everything. Right now, it seems that the Twins can count on Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey to give them decent starts and a chance to win. Anthony Swarzak came up to replace the injured Glen Perkins and has since made two very good starts. Perkins had really struggled for several starts before going on the Disabled List, so I am not certain if the struggles were related to the arm, or what. But I do know that I agree with the theory that a player should not lose his spot to an injury. That is why, after his rehab stint at Rochester, I believe that Glen Perkins should be given a couple of starts before possibly being shifted back to the bullpen if that is what needs to be done.

The problem is that Swarzak is a good pitching prospect, but nothing in his minor league numbers indicate that he will be able to sustain this level of excellence over a long period of time. As one who believes in minor league track record being an indicator of big league success, I also understand that there are exceptions to every rule. So of course you just run with Swarzak while he is the hot hand and just hope . The problem is that Swarzak could stay in the rotation because one of the two guys that we all counted on heading into the season, Francisco Liriano, has been horrific of late. He looks completely lost on the mound. It’s all about control of the fastball, and from pitch to pitch, he does not seem to know where the ball is going. It’s as if he still thinks he’s a dominant pitcher and he’s fighting himself so hard to get there again and overdoing everything. I really do not know what is best for him. He does have an option left, so he could be sent to Rochester, but I don’t necessarily think that is the best idea. He could be sent to the bullpen for awhile too, but who would he replace? R.A. Dickey continues to do great out of the bullpen. Sean Henn and Jose Mijares have been solid as lefty relievers. I guess this could be the opportunity to let go of Luis Ayala and see how Liriano responds. What do you think?

Scott Baker continues to get hurt by the big inning and/or the big home run. Friday, it was the three run blast by Longoria that essentially ended that game. Baker has really been very good most of his innings, but in each start he has had that one bad inning where he can not control the damage. Instead of giving up one or two, he gives up three to six. A team can come back from one or two, but it really puts you behind the eight ball when you’re always down by a handful of runs.

It is all so frustrating to me because the Twins are playing so inconsistently and average despite getting amazing production from Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel all season. In May, Michael Cuddyer stepped up his game big time while Joe Crede showed the power that he can have from the right side. This team is too talented to be playing like this and to not think that a division title is in reach. But what happens when three-fifths of the season-opening starting staff is not performing to expectations? Swarzak is already up. Kevin Mulvey could probably come up and be a solid back of the rotation type. What if Liriano can’t get things figured out? What if Glen Perkins then struggles? What if Baker doesn’t stop giving up huge innings? If you go through the season’s second half with two rookie pitchers in your rotation, that isn’t necessarily good. Brian Duensing and Philip Humber do not appear to be big league starter material and none of the starters at AA New Britain look ready.

We have spent the last couple of years wondering why the Twins would go after pitchers like Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson. Why did they insist on bringing in veterans who were not good instead of just trusting their own young players? Well, maybe now we are seeing why. And yet, I can’t be mad at the front office for not getting a veteran. All five starting pitchers showed enough last year that there was no need for a veteran starter. The starting pitching was supposed to be a sure-thing, the thing that would lead the Twins to a division title. Pedro Martinez, anyone?

The bullpen has actually been much better of late. The reason? Well, when Slowey, Blackburn and Swarzak have pitched, they have been able to go seven innings. Bill Smith is not above criticism for not going out and getting a bullpen arm to solidify the back end of the bullpen, and yet, I agreed with him that they didn’t need to prioritize it too high. We knew Joe Nathan would be fine, and he has been. Many assumed Jose Mijares would be solid, and since returning he has been good. I believed Matt Guerrier would be fine, and he has been. I thought Jesse Crain would take another step forward, to get back to what he was the first three years of his career, but since his disabled list stint, he has been non-trustable. Luis Ayala was a reasonable, cheap risk, but he has not been good at all. R.A. Dickey, as I have stated several times, has been just fine in the role that he was brought in to fill, so no arguments there. Again, the key is the starting pitching, but the bullpen arms are not above criticism either. Now, Juan Cruz has been alright for Kansas City. Nothing spectacular by any means, and I fully understand not giving up a first round pick to acquire him (although when I saw the dollars and years that he signed for, I thought that it made sense). But Cruz walks a ton and moving to the American League never seems to be a good thing for a relief pitcher. Other names that fans wanted at various times included Eric Gagne, Russ Springer, Joe Nelson, Brandon Lyon and others, and none of them have done well either. So again, I don’t blame the Twins in not being big players in the free agency market because free agents rarely have an impact worthy of the contract they sign.

(Meanwhile, Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama sit in AA, just waiting for a promotion. I agree with the thought that a player who dominates in AA is ready for the big leagues and could be promoted if necessary. But at some point, those two players should be moved up somewhere, whether it is to Rochester or to the Twins. I don’t pretend to know if they are ready to help the Twins today. I know their numbers indicate that they could probably both be pretty good. Slama needs to throw more strikes, and Delaney could give up some hits. But both have done enough at the AA level to move forward.)

(The one prospect that I believe is ready to play at the big league level offensively and defensively is Danny Valencia, and as long as Joe Crede is healthy, there is no reason to call him up. Could he be at Rochester? Certainly, and I think he would do well there, but Luke Hughes needs at bats too.)

The Twins understand that building from within is the best way to develop a team over the long haul. It is a philosophy that has been very successful for the organization. But then that success is dependent upon the players developing as they need to. The Twins have developed some very good players (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, Cuddyer, Span, Slowey, Blackburn, Baker, etc.). They were able to stare down Scott Boras and get Joe Crede for a very fair market deal. But the player development right now is kind of a question mark.

Look at the AAA roster. How many players there do you think will be contributors to the Twins at the big league level? More important, how many of them could help the Twins right now, today? Jose Morales could, and yet, I think Twins fans need to look at his track record and realize that he is not a .350 hitter. At the big league level, he could possibly hit .280/.310/.310, which frankly, isn’t terribly exciting. But he is one guy who could contribute on some level. Luke Hughes and Dustin Martin are two others that I think could contribute for the Twins if called upon, but neither of them is star caliber and I don’t know that either of them is really starter caliber. I still hold out hope for Trevor Plouffe to be a future Twins SS, but again, his batting average doesn’t indicate that he would be much better than Nick Punto at SS.

Which brings me to my next point… when the Twins locked up Nick Punto last winter for two years and $8.5 million, it didn’t bother me too much. I looked at the other free agents on the market at SS and none of them seemed to be much better than Punto, particularly for the price tag that they would insist upon. Edgar Renteria had already signed with the Giants for two years and $18 million, and he is no better than Punto. We heard rumors for players like JJ Hardy and Yunel Escobar, but the price tags in terms of players were so high that those options didn’t make sense. So although I would have preferred to go into this season with Punto not on the team, I understood that he was probably the best option available and the dollars and years that he got were certainly fair market value (in December, before free agent dollars seemed to completely disappear). My caveat to being comfortable with Punto was that he not return to 2007 form and just give 2006 or 2008-like performances. Again, that’s not to say he was good during those two years, but as a nine-hitter it would be acceptable. Well, to this point in the season, Punto has been even worse than he was in 2007, and worst yet, his defense has taken a major step backward. I always thought it was a bit overrated (because of the constant web gems), but he now has very little range and no arm.

The biggest problem with the SS situation is that there isn’t anyone close to ready to take the position from him. Brendan Harris will do just fine in replacing him. He is a far better option, so that is actually an upgrade right now. But I have noticed, as Gardy has said, that Harris does not do as well when he plays too much. But again, Plouffe isn’t ready. Steve Tolleson just got promoted to AAA this week, but I don’t think he would be ready to step in today (but maybe in a month?). There are not other options in the system right now.

It’s a good think that Justin Morneau has been incredible this year and Joe Crede has been everything that could be expected because Punto, Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert and Brian Buscher have been terrible. Casilla has been somewhat disappointing. Tolbert is what he is, as I have said all along,  he is a better version of utility player than Punto is. He’s a little better offensively (which doesn’t say much) and he’s not quite as good defensively (which does). I said that Buscher is a solid left-handed bat off the bench, a guy who takes good at bats and generally does what the situation calls for. I don’t think we have seen that this year, and his defense has never been real solid. I’m not certain how much value he provides to the team. In fact, that would be the one way right now that I could see the Twins bringing Jose Morales back to the roster. Morales could be the new left-handed bench bat, occasionally get some time behind the plate, and give Gardy the confidence to keep Joe Mauer in the lineup most games. Again, I feel it necessary to temper the expectations people seem to have for Morales, but I do think it is fair to say that he could contribute as much with the bat (and maybe the glove) as Buscher.

Watching Mike Redmond play baseball is painful. In years past, it was because he seemingly was always getting beat up behind the plate and yet still finding a way to hit .300 or higher while providing excellent defense and leadership from the backup catcher position. This year has been painful for a couple of new reasons. First, he simply can not throw any more. I don’t know how hurt he still is, but that has not improved over the season’s first couple of months. Secondly, if I’m an opposing defense and Redmond is up, I bring all the outfielders in to about 200 feet and swing the CF toward the gap in right center. You could almost put on a left-handed batter shift for him too. In the past, it was almost “cute” as told to us by Dick Bremer when he flails singles to right field or barely throw the hole on the right side. This year, those balls are being hit even softer. I don’t know how he continues to get any hits (and he has). I have no problem with keeping Redmond around for the rest of the season. I just sincerely hope that this is the end of the line.

Gardy-led teams are known for being overachievers. That is always the case when the expectations are low. But what about in those years when the Twins have come into the season with expectation? They have not played well. This year may be the biggest visual of that. This team has way too much talent to be flailing around .500. But to be fair, I don’t know if this team has ever had this many holes either. A broken bullpen. A horrific middle infield. Two 23 year old outfielders that need playing time to get better but provide so little to helping the team win. And now starting pitching problems that were not expected. I don’t think that can be pinned on a manager, and yet in some organizations, it is. I personally agree with the ideas of longevity, and we all know that Gardy and his coaching staff aren’t going anywhere, so it’s not worth worrying about.

In the end, it comes down to the players and making plays. It’s the players that will turn the season around, or they won’t.

Now I know, I don’t whine too often on here, and one thing that you can almost certainly not get from here that you can get most places is the seemingly sophomoric need to say the same thing every day. Could I write about Brian Buscher or Nick Punto being bad every day Sure. But why? What good is that? Why pile on?? I could write about being wrong about Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez daily, but why? What good comes from that? I prefer to write more often about being completely wrong about Denard Span and Nick Blackburn! So many of these above topics, you may not read here again until something happens. There are enough other topics that can be covered and a lot more positives. There is an entire minor league system of players dreaming of getting to the big leagues that is worth talking about.       

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Saturday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Danny Valencia, New Britain Rockcats

Saturday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – David Bromberg, Ft. Myers Miracle

Sunday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Whit Robbins, New Britain Rockcats

Sunday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Tyler Robertson, Ft. Myers Miracle

ROCHESTER REPORT

Saturday –Rochester 6, Lehigh Valley 3 – Jason Jones picked up his first win in the Twins organization in this game. The righty went 5.2 innings and gave up three runs. He allowed six hits (two homers), walked one and struck out four. Jason Pridie went 3-5 with his 13th and 14th stolen bases. Jose Morales went 2-4 with his fourth double. In his first AAA game, Steve Tolleson went 2-3 with a walk and a double.

Sunday –Rochester 1, Lehigh Valley 5 – Kevin Mulvey started this game for the Red Wings. He gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out six. Tim Lahey pitched a scoreless inning. The Red Wings managed just four hits. David Winfree hit his eighth home run.

ROCKCAT RECAP

Saturday – New Britain 6, Binghamton 5 – The Rockcats got a couple of big home runs and the second win of the season by Jay Rainville. Rainville gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. Frank Mata came in and gave up two hits and a walk before getting the final out of the sixth. Rob Delaney struck out four in two shutout innings. Anthony Slama recorded his 10th save with a scoreless ninth. Danny Valencia went 2-3 with his sixth homer and two RBI. Rene Tosoni was 2-4 with his seventh home run and three RBI. Whit Robbins went 1-2 with two walks.

Sunday – New Britain 15, Binghamton 7 – It was a big offensive game for the Rockcats, with nearly the entire lineup contributing. Whit Robbins led the way by going 4-6 with his 11th double. Brandon Roberts was 3-5 with a walk and his third homer. Erik Lis was 3-5 with his seventh double. Rene Tosoni went 2-5 with his eighth double and eighth home run. Matt Moses went 2-4 with a walk and three RBI. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4 with two walks. Yancarlos Ortiz went 2-5 with a double. Danny Valencia was 1-2 with two walks. Ryan Mullins was the beneficiary of the offensive explosion. He gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings. Yohan Pino gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in two inning. Zach Ward pitched a scoreless inning.  

MIRACLE MEMOS

Saturday – Ft. Myers 7, Brevard County 1 David Bromberg has continued to pitch well this season despite not getting as many strikeouts this year. This game was a little different. Bromberg went six innings and gave up just one run on six hits and a walk. He struck out 12 to improve to 5-0 and reduce his ERA to 1.94. Kyle Waldrop picked up his first save of the season by throwing three shutout innings. Chris Cates went 3-5. Mark Dolenc went 3-4 with his ninth double and ninth stolen base. Rene Leveret went 2-5 with his first stolen base. Deibinson Romero was 2-5 with his 11th double.

Sunday – Ft. Myers 2, Brevard County 0 Tyler Robertson improved to 3-2 in this game. He threw six shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out six. Santos Arias, Spencer Steedley and Blair Erickson combined to throw three shutout innings. The Miracle managed just five hits. Ben Revere hit his sixth double. Rene Leveret hit his seventh double.  

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Saturday – Beloit 2, Kane County 5 Michael Allen fell to 0-7 in this game, but he really has been pitching a little better as the season has progressed. In this game, he gave up four runs (3 earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out six in six innings of work. Bruce Pugh gave up a run on two hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out four. Michael Tarsi gave up two hits in a scoreless inning. The Snappers managed just six hits in this game. Nathan Hanson hit his seventh double.

Saturday – Beloit 4, Kane County 11 Dan Berlind gave up five runs (4 earned) on six hits and three walks over 5.1 innings. He struck out five. Joe Testa gave up three runs (1 earned) on two hits in two innings. He struck out three. Matt Williams went 0.2 innings and gave up just a hit. Curtis Leavitt gave up three runs on five hits in one inning. He struck out two. Jeff Lanning went 2-4. Angel Morales went 1-2 with two walks and his sixth homer. Ramon Santana hit his fifth home run and Michael Harrington got his first homer.   

Please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

Tuesday Night Baseball

27 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Yesterday’s Live Chat was excellent, I thought. It started at about 1:00 and finished about 3:30. There were a lot of questions, so I think you would enjoy reading through the transcripts. Let me know what you think.

The Twins had one big offensive inning against the Red Sox in this game. Five runs. The biggest hit of the inning was a Justin Morneau that may have been the hardest hit ball in the history of ever! That made a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 lead. Nick Blackburn struggled the first two innings. He really had to work to keep the score close. But after that, he really pitched well and seemed in control. Again, any time you can have a starter go seven innings and give up just two runs, you’ve got a chance to win. That helps the end-game scenarios play out much cleaner. Matt Guerrier comes in for the 8th, and Joe Nathan comes in to close it in the 9th. That’s really the right recipe for the Twins (or any baseball team in the Major Leagues, college, high school, Little League, anywhere).

  • Justin Morneau was 2-3 with a walk and the three run homer. He is now batting .347.
  • Nick Punto went 2-3 with a walk. You have to give credit where credit is due in this game. I won’t even mention the ugly throwing error he had late in the game!
  • Delmon Young made a very nice running catch in the middle innings. Jason Varitek lined out down the left field line. Young covered a lot of ground to make the catch on a ball that was tailing away from him as well. It was a very good play. He was again 0-4, and struck out twice, but he hit the ball very well the other two at bats and got nothing to show for it. After going 2-3 against the Mariners, Young was batting .303. Then in two more games before leaving the team to be with his mother, he went 0-7. Then he was gone for 11 days during which time he said good bye to his mom and helped the family bury her before coming back. Since returning, he is 0-2 with eight strikeouts which lowers his batting average to .243. He is on an 0-19 stretch. I would think a day off against Daisuke Matsuzaka would be in order, and maybe against Josh Beckett on Thursday.
  • On a related note, that’s the Matt Garza I recall. Giving up long home runs and yelling at the opposition. Ryan Garko hit a long home run off of him and basically sprinted around the bases while Garza yelled at him. Garza then hit Garko with a fastball the next at bat. Have to love the Mark Derosa came up next and hit another long home run.
  • Kevin Slowey will be on the mound tonight for the Twins.
  • Steve Phillips isn’t very smart. There’s a reason he works for ESPN, and isn’t a GM anymore.
  • With all the Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel and Span talk, Josh Johnson writes Joe Crede, Our Savior.
  • Travis Talks about the Francisco Liriano situation and options for what should be done. One option he presents is sending Liriano back to Rochester. First, Liriano does have options, but second, I would not send him down. If he is healthy, he needs to just work out his fastball command. That should be done at the big league level.
  • If you’re looking for reasons, as a Twins fan, to be optimistic, Brian from the Twins page on Examiner.com has three of them. Here is Part 1, and here is Part 2.
  • There are a couple more Forgettable Twins.
  •  You will want to listen to Sunday’s Twins Weekly show on KFAN with Phil Mackey. Check out both Part 1 and Part 2 of the 5/24 show.   

Here is a request for help from a Twins fan out of state, looking for someone to help him acquire a couple of things at the Twins Autograph Party. If you are interested, send me an e-mail and I will put you in contact with this gentleman:

  1. Is there anyone here that is going to (or considering going to) the Twins Autograph Party on Saturday June 20?  I have an item that I would like to get autographed by Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew, and seeing that I live in Philadelphia I am looking for someone to do the leg-work for me.  I would consider flying in for the day, but since I am out of work at the moment, I won’t even try to explain that frivolous expenditure to my wife.

    My proposal would be to find someone who would be willing to commit to going to the event, and standing in the alumni line (2:30-4:00) to (try to) get the two signatures.  In exchange I would pay the fee for the autograph card, which you could use to get your own autographs during the Current Twins session (12:30-2:00).  I would also pay your driving expenses including parking, plus a reasonable “time and effort” fee, which we will negotiate in advance.  I will send the item to you via FedEx and include a prepaid return envelope, as well.

    So, if anyone is wanting to go but not sure due to cost, maybe we could help each other out. 

    Thanks in advance for any assistance that anyone can provide.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Tuesday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – David Winfree, Rochester Red Wings

Tuesday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Kevin Mulvey, Rochester Red Wings

ROCHESTER REPORT

Tuesday –Rochester 5, Durham 2 – David Winfree hit a big, three run homer for the Red Wings in the bottom of the 8th inning to give Rochester the win. Winfree went 2-4 including his seventh homer. The Red Wings had just six hits. The other two runs for the Twins came off the bat of Trevor Plouffe who hit a two run homer, his fourth of the year. Mike Gosling picked up his sixth win of the young season. He gave up only a walk (and struck out four) in two innings. He came in to replace Kevin Mulvey who gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out six.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Tuesday – New Britain 0, Trenton 11 – The Rockcats had a poor game on the mound, in the field and with the bats, and that translates perfectly into a blowout loss. Ryan Mullins was the starter. He gave up six runs (4 earned) on 13 hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. Zach Ward then came up three runs on two hits and three walks in 2.1 innings. Yohan Pino gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in two innings. The Rockcats had two errors and just five hits. Matt Moses was 2-3.

MIRACLE MEMOS

Tuesday – Ft. Myers 1, Tampa 3 (7 innings due to rain)  Tyler Robertson gave up three runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up two hits but no runs in his inning before the rains came. The Miracle managed just four hits. Allen de San Miguel went 1-2 with a walk. Ben Revere was 1-3 with his 19th stolen base.   

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Tuesday – Beloit 1, South Bend 4 (8 innings due to rain) Dan Berlind falls to 1-4 with this loss. He gave up three runs (2 earned) on five hits in five innings. He walked four and struck out seven. Bruce Pugh then gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Blake Martin gave up a walk and struck out one in the 0.2 innings he threw before it rained. James Beresford went 2-4. Ozzie Lewis was 1-2 with a walk.  

Please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

Friday Morning Twins Notes

22 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The Twins losing streak ended at six games. And, it ended in style. The Twins beat the White Sox on Thursday afternoon by a score of 20-1! Normally I am not a fan of those types of games, but I really think that the Twins needed a game like that. As great as the offense was, I choose to start with the start of Nick Blackburn. He has been the Twins top starter much of the season. In this game, he threw just 83 pitches over seven shutout innings. He gave up just four hits and walked three.

But everyone wants to talk about the offense, and rightfully so. The first thing that should be mentioned is that Ron Gardenhire finally put Joe Mauer in the #2 spot in the lineup. He has always been a prototypical #2 hitter, the team’s top on-base percentage guy, but he was also the team’s best overall hitter, so it made sense for him to bat third. Now, he is proving himself to be a prototypical #3 hitter, adding power, and he is moved to the #2 spot. But it’s hard to argue because putting out-makers like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert into the second spot makes no sense. Also, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel have proven that they are worthy of hitting #3 and #4. Michael Cuddyer has been on a tear for a month now and fits into the #5 spot. Joe Crede has added some power, so he is ready to fill that #6 spot. Sure, the bottom of the lineup is pretty weak still, but at least they bat less than the top guys. It will be interesting to see if Gardenhire would use four left handed batters at the top of the order against a left-handed starter. (We will find out tonight when the Brewers send Manny Parra to the mound to face the Twins.)

As Nick Nelson said on the MNGameNight.com podcast on Thursday night, “as long as the Twins average 20 runs a game with Mauer in the two-spot in the lineup, they might as well stick with it.” Hard to disagree with that logic!

  • How did Joe Mauer do in that #2 spot of the lineup? Not too bad. He went 3-4 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. He hit two doubles and a grand slam. Adding a sacrifice fly earlier in the game, and he drove in six runs. Not a bad day at all.
  • Michael Cuddyer had another big game. He went 4-6 with his eighth double, sixth home run and three RBI.
  • Matt Tolbert hit his first home run of his big league career in the 7th inning. It gave the Twins a 20-0 lead. He had three hits and four RBI on the game.
  • Jose Morales had three more hits. He also walked twice. The time he got out, he flew out to the fence in right field. For his efforts, he was returned to AAA Rochester after the game. The move was obvious as Delmon Young had to be taken off of the Family Emergency list before Friday’s game.
  • Joe Crede hit his sixth home run, a long shot following the Cuddyer three-run homer.
  • Jason Kubel went 3-4 before being replaced by Carlos Gomez, who add another hit.

Now of course, we need to see what the team does to respond. The offense certainly has not been the Twins problem of late. Nick Blackburn has not been a problem at all. So, each game is very much dependent on that night’s starting pitcher. On Friday night, Kevin Slowey and his 4 walk to 35 strikeout ratio will attempt to keep the Brewers offense down. On Saturday, Anthony Swarzak will make his big league debut. On Sunday night’s Game of the Week, Scott Baker will try to put together a strong start. The Twins offense will face lefty Manny Parra, followed by righties Braden Looper and Dave Bush.

If you happen to be going to any of the Twins/Brewers game at the Metrodome this weekend, be sure to pick up a copy (or 13/14 copies) of the Twins scorecard. In it, you will be able to read the Twins Dugout Splinters. I wrote the Twins splinters for the weekend series. Also, if you are able to attend the Twins Autograph Party on Saturday morning, I would recommend it. It is a nice, fun event. You can get autographs if you want, check out some very interesting and fun memorabilia at the auctions, and even meet some players. It’s also just fun to people watch!

With that, here are some more Twins-related articles or stories for you to peruse while downing your Friday morning cup of coffee:

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Thursday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Nick Romero, Ft. Myers Miracle

Thursday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Kevin Mulvey, Rochester Red Wings

ROCHESTER REPORT

Thursday –Rochester 5, Norfolk 4 (12 innings) – The Red Wings enjoyed their off day, and came back with a little overtime effort. Kevin Mulvey started and had a lead going into the 9th. He got two outs but couldn’t get the third without the game being tied. All told, he went 8.2 innings. He gave up three runs on six hits. He walked none and struck out three. Mike Gosling improved to 5-1 with 2.1 scoreless innings. He struck out four. Bobby Keppel recorded his first save of the year. He gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the 12th. Alexi Casilla went 3-5 with his third triple. He is now hitting .353. Justin Huber went 2-5 with his third home run. Matt Macri went 3-5. David Winfree led of the top of the 12th with his sixth home run.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Thursday – New Britain 7, Reading 1 Ryan Mullins has been much better of late. In this game, he got his second win with six strong innings of work. He gave up one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out four. Frank Mata got four outs, allowing just a walk. Jose Lugo got the next four outs without a run scoring, but he did give up a hit and walked two. Yohan Pino got the final out. Brian Dinkelman went 2-5 with his third homer. Erik Lis was 2-4 with his third homer. Steve Tolleson and Brandon Roberts were each 2-5 with a stolen base. Jeff Christy was 2-4. Danny Valencia hit his fifth homer, and Rene Tosoni hit his sixth home run.  

MIRACLE MEMOS

Thursday – Ft. Myers 2, St. Lucie 1Nick Romero made his Florida State League debut, and had a memorable game. He played at 2B and went 2-3 with a walk. His final hit came in the bottom of the ninth inning, a single that scored the game-winning run. Chris Parmelee went 2-4. Mike McCardell started and gave up just one run on four hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out seven. Alex Burnett got the win by pitching three shutout innings. He gave up one hit and walked one.

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Thursday – Beloit 5, Peoria 7 – The Snappers scored five runs in the 8th inning to cut their deficit to 6-5, but it wasn’t enough. Dan Berlind started and gave up three runs on six hits and a walk in five innings. He struck out seven. Michael Tarsi made his first appearance of the year. He gave up a run on two hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out three. Curtis Leavitt came in for his Midwest League debut. He gave up two runs on a hit and two walks. But he did strike out three. Matt Williams gave up a run on two hits and a walk in his inning. Drew Thompson went 2-3 with a walk. Ramon Santana went 2-4 with his seventh double. Jonathan Waltenbury and James Beresford each had two hits in the loss.   

Please feel free to Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

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