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Wednesday Morning Notes

23 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Good morning! After another fun podcast last night, some other projects, an oil change, a meeting, and some other stuff, I passed out. So, I got up early this morning and put together a few thoughts for you to discuss. But if there are other topics, please feel free to bring them up in the Comments. And please be sure to check out several of the other Twins blogs that I have linked to on the left side of this page for more. Have a great day!

SethSpeaks.net NIGHTLY Minnesota Twins podcast

  • No guests on the show last night, but had two people (including Fanatic Jack!) call in and talked about last night’s Twins win. The conversation went all over the place, but was all related to the Twins, so hopefully it makes for some good listening!! Check it out and let me know what you think. Tonight at 10, there will be another show. I already have one guest confirmed, and hoping for a second.

Twins 8, White Sox 6

  • The Twins went into US Cellular last night and outslugged the Chicago White Sox on their way to an 8-6 win. The Twins hit four home runs. Orlando Cabrera hit a two run homer in the first inning to give the Twins a 2-0 lead. With the game tied at five, Michael Cuddyer led off the sixth inning with a long home run, his 29th of the season. A couple batters later, Matt Tolbert hit his second homer of the year. It hit the top of the wall in left field, just avoiding the glove of Carlos Quentin. Then in the 8th inning, Jason Kubel hit his 24th home run to give the Twins a 8-5 lead.
  • Jeff Manship walked the first batter he faced in the first inning. Scott Podsednik stole second. Manship then got the next three outs, but Podsednik did score to cut the lead to 3-1. Manship had a 1-2-3 second inning and really looked good. Then came the third inning. Alex Rios hit a home run. Then a single. Then Gordon Beckham hit an 0-2 hanging curve for his 13th homer. It gave the White Sox a 4-3 lead. Two hard hit balls later, Manship was replaced by Francisco Liriano. The lefty went the next 2.1 innings. He gave up a run on a hit and two walks. Jesse Crain came in to the game with runners on 1st and 3rd and got out of the inning. He then threw another perfect inning. Jose Mijares pitched a scoreless seventh. Matt Guerrier’s first pitch of the 8th inning was deposited well into the left field bleachers by Paul Konerko. It cut the lead to 8-6. Guerrier had to work hard, but got out of the 8th inning with that same lead. Joe Nathan came in and threw a 1-2-3 ninth for his 43rd save of the year.
  • Jesse Crain improved to 7-4 and is as good as we have ever seen him.
  • Michael Cuddyer, in addition to his 29th homer, had a single and his 34th double. Jason Kubel added his 33rd double. Delmon Young was 2-3 with a sacrifice fly. Joe Mauer had an RBI double in the fifth that gave the Twins a 5-4 lead.
  • Tonight, Brian Duensing will make the start for the Twins opposite Mark Buehrle. Duensing has made two starts and two relief appearances against the White Sox this year. He is 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings. This will be Buehrle’s 41st career start against the Twins. He is 23-15 with a 4.00 Era. He has already made five starts against the Twins this year. He has gone 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA.
  • The Tigers beat Cleveland 3-1 last night behind a strong pitching performance from Edwin Jackson. Aaron Laffey was nearly as good, but a 3rd inning solo home run to Ryan Raburn meant he got the loss. Tonight, it will be Rick Porcello for the Tigers and Justin Masterson for Cleveland.       

Who Starts Sunday?

The Twins talker for today probably has to be who makes the start for the Twins on Sunday against the Royals in Kansas City. Jeff Manship’s name was written in, in pencil, for that start, but with his performance last night, we do need to ask if there is a better option for the Twins. It would be easy to say Francisco Liriano, but I’m not certain that’s necessary true. Are there even any other options? Armando Gabino, maybe? Where have you gone, Yohan Pino? I think the right thing is probably to start Liriano, but to have both Manship and Gabino, and Keppel and everyone ready to go. What do you think? Who provides the Twins with the best chance to win?

World Cup Update

  • Cuba beat Australia 2-1. Both James Beresford and Luke Hughes were 0-4. Beresford did have the lone RBI.
  • Canada beat Puerto Rico 3-0. Rene Tosoni was 1-4 with a walk, his fourth double and two RBI. Nelvin Fuentes went 1.2 scoreless innings for Puerto Rico. He gave up one hit, walked one and struck out two.
  • The Netherlands beat Chinese Taipei 11-2. Former Twins pitching prospect Alexander Smit gave up one run on four hits and two walks in six innings for the win. He struck out six.
  • Team USA beat Venezuela 6-3. Trevor Plouffe was 1-4 with an RBI. Terry Tiffee was 2-4 with two RBI.  

If you have any opinions, comments or updates, please leave them in the Comments section.

Twins Win Again

16 Sep

Also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

On Wednesday afternoon, the Twins completed a three game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 7-3 win. Michael Cuddyer drove in a run in the 1st inning, 5th inning and 7th inning on a single, a home run and a double to lead the way. Joe Mauer went 2-3 with a walk and drove in two runs. Nick Blackburn got the start and the win. He gave up two runs in the 7th inning after six shutout innings. Joe Nathan recorded his 41st save by getting the final two outs. The win temporarily cut the Twins deficit in the AL Central. 

  • Joe Mauer, in his last four games, has gone 10-13 with three walks. It has raised his batting average from .363 to .374.
  • In his last four games, Michael Cuddyer has gone 8-16 with two doubles and two home runs.
  • Are we able to say, yet, that Jose Morales is the team’s backup catcher? In this game, he went 2-3 with two doubles.
  • Matt Tolbert is apparently now the team’s 3B. But he went 2-4 in the game and plays a solid defense. In his last four games, he is 6-12.
  • The Tigers beat the Royals 4-3 on Wednesday night to put their lead back to 4.5 games over the Twins.

World Cup Update:

  • Wednesday
    • Nelvin Fuentes walked one and struck out one batter in his appearance for Puerto Rico.
    • Rene Tosoni went 2-4 with a double for Canada.

If you have any opinions, comments or updates, please leave them in the Comments section.

Are You Positive?

16 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

I was watching the Twins game last night, happy with another win. Much credit for the win has to go to the bottom of the lineup for coming up with some big hits. Nick Punto had three hits. Brian Buscher had a big run-scoring hit. Orlando Cabrera hit a game-tying home run. Getting production from guys like that will be key down the stretch. The Twins have won three games in a row, all without Justin Morneau. They got good starting pitching, and the bullpen has been very good of late. Sure, Joe Nathan is fighting through struggles (on his way to another 40 save season, mind you!), but the rest of the bullpen has been much improved. Meanwhile, Detroit has been playing quite poorly of late. They have certainly left the door open, at least a little bit. Why am I not getting excited? I mean, the Twins are 4.5 games back of the Tigers with 17 games to go. The odds of the Twins making the playoffs are not good, something like 11%, but they are technically still alive.

So why am I not excited? Is it because they haven’t had that extended run that we all thought they were capable of? Well, in reality, they did. They won 12 out of 15 games. And, let’s be honest, if they can win twelve or thirteen out of their remaining games, there is a realistic chance that those games in the Dome on the final weekend will be bigger than just a farewell to a stadium.

It’s mid-September. The Twins are technically still in this thing. Help me out! Is there reason to be positive and excited? I think there are.

1.)    Those infamous seven games remaining with the Tigers provide an opportunity.

2.)    The Tigers have been bad. Their pitching situation is arguably worse than the Twins. Yes, they have Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello, but their bullpen has been a mess.

3.)    Maybe the Twins front office did know what they were doing in NOT acquiring Jarrod Washburn. We are so quick to be negative on the guys that got away that we often forget to say thank you for all the cases in which that is a good thing (See also, Joe Nelson, Juan Cruz, Eric Gagne and too many more to mention in this).

4.)    The Twins have Joe Mauer.

5.)    The Twins have Denard Span.

6.)    The Twins have Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel.

7.)    Scott Baker has been very good of late.

8.)    Carl Pavano has been as good as expected.

9.)    Nick Blackburn had his struggles, but he has also shown a propensity for pitching really well in really big games.

10.)                        Brian Duensing is still doing something to keep hitters off balance.

11.)                        The Bullpen is much improved, now making the 7th through 9th innings a little easier to breathe in.

So what else do you have? Let’s start being a little more positive! Why not? Worst case, we’re wrong, but we still get to enjoy only three more weeks of baseball before the long winter offseason. Are there other reasons to be positive about?

I have to be honest and ask, aren’t you (like me) tired of being negative? This is a .500 team, why can’t the positive at least equal the negative? I mean, I too can look at the bottom of the batting order and see Nick Punto in the lineup. Last night’s lineup had Buscher, Matt Tolbert and Punto at the bottom. That doesn’t create much excitement. But it is what it is. We can complain as much as we want about Danny Valencia (or Brock Peterson) not being up here right now, but that isn’t our decision, so no need for us to dwell on it. (No, I don’t get it either!) We can complain when Mike Redmond catches, as he likely will today, but we need to get over it. It’s easy to look at Michael Cuddyer’s WPA, but I prefer to look at the .270 with 25 homers.

Seriously, sometimes it’s much more fun to just step back and enjoy the baseball. I know I need to do that. Let’s just enjoy these final three weeks or before we know it, it’ll be gone. And then the offseason starts and we can all analyze away!!  

World Cup Update:

  • Monday
    • Nelvin Fuentes pitched a scoreless inning for Mexico.
    • Luke Hughes hit a home run.
    • Matt Willams got a win for Australia. He went 1.2 innings and gave up an unearned run.
    • Rene Tosoni went 3-4 with his second homer and second steal of the tournament.
    • Trevor Plouffe went 2-3 with a walk, a double and a stolen base.
  • Tuesday
    • Trevor Plouffe was 1-3 with a walk and another double.

NFL “Expert” Picks Update

            Although the page is still a work in progress, I have set up the 2009 FB Picks web page. It will include the bios, updated standings and the weekly picks. Our panel did well in week one. As a group, our selections went 13-3. Six participants went 14-2 (Jeff Manship, Phil Mackey, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman, Josh Johnson, Brian Pietrzak and Andrew Kneeland). With no Thursday games this week, the Week 2 picks will be posted on Friday.

If you have any opinions, comments or updates, please leave them in the Comments section.

OUCH!

11 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

UPDATEGlen Perkins is going on the Disabled List with the shoulder strain. Gardy says that they will be promoting someone tomorrow as that player has not yet been notified and that they will notice the “AAA” team. SO, maybe not Slama, but I think we could be happy with Juan Morillo or Rob Delaney. Armando Gabino could be but since he threw 6.2 innings on Monday night, I don’t think he could help on Wednesday. Delaney threw 2.2 innings on Monday. Morillo threw tonight. If it would be Morillo, Delaney or Slama, they would have to make a 40 man roster move. Maybe that’s why the mention of AAA, someone would maybe have to be DFAd. Maybe that is the notification. That would make Slama still an option. We shall see.

UPDATE 2 – OK, I want to throw one more long shot name into the picture. Because I believe that the Twins need someone available tomorrow, and I think that pitcher should be able to go at least five innings, if necessary (since we don’t know what to expect from Liriano). Kevin Mulvey pitched on Tuesday night. R.A. Dickey got beat up on the mound on Monday night. Jeff Manship is due to make his next start on Wednesday. So, my long shot is Manship. The other way outside chance could be lefty Reid Santos who has been starting, and not that well, off and on for the Red Wings this season. He is not on the 40 man roster, and he could be easily replaced on the 40 man roster by Delaney, Slama or Morillo on the 25 and 40 man rosters on Thursday or Friday.

Going into the home stand, many said that the Twins needed to go 6-0 in it to have any chance to compete for the division title. 5-1 was almost mandatory. It is hard to disagree. With tonight’s rough, painful 14-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the Twins probably now need to go 5-0 the rest of the way. Of course, they need to go 5-0 by taking it one game at a time.

Nick Blackburn got crushed again. Joe Mauer had a nice three hit game. Delmon Young and Brendan Harris both had long home runs. This game is not worth dwelling on too much. Thankfully the Tigers lost.

One thought that I had as things were getting ugly was a needed change, so I took an educated guess and posted the following on LaVelle’s very entertaining blog (by the way, be sure to read this blog entry. Thanks to LaVelle for the mention!)

Here’s the Out On A Limb Prediction of the Night -

1.) because of how tonight has gone
2.) because of lack of bullpen ready for tomorrow
3.) because of Glen Perkins not being able to be used.
4.) because who knows what to expect from Francisco Liriano tomorrow night.
5.) because the Twins top decision makers are in New Britain…

Prediction – after the game, the Twins will announce that Perkins is going on the DL and Anthony Slama is coming up.

(Disclaimer – just a prediction. I know nothing)

Now I am posting this before hearing Gardy’s post game comments, so if there is a roster announcement, be sure to check back here for updates.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

Tuesday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Matt Tolbert, Rochester Red Wings

Tuesday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Steve Hirschfeld, Ft. Myers Miracle

ROCHESTER REPORT

Tuesday – Rochester 8, Buffalo 6 – Kevin Mulvey gave up six runs on 11 hits and a walk in 5.2 innings, and got a win. Tim Lahey gave up two hits in an inning. Juan Morillo came in and gave up just one hit and one walk over the final 2.1 innings for his fifth save. Matt Tolbert went 3-5 with his second home run and fifth stolen base. Steve Tolleson was 2-4. Brock Peterson was 1-2 with two walks and his sixth homer.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Tuesday – New Britain 3, Erie 5 – Erik Lis’s hot streak continues. In this game, he hit his 20th double and 15th home run. Rene Tosoni and Steve Singleton were each 2-4 while Yancarlos Ortiz was 2-3. Cole DeVries started and went the first 5.2 innings. He gave up five runs on eight hits and a walk. Alex Burnett either wasn’t as hurt as we thought or was pitching with a broken hand. He got four outs and struck out two. Kyle Waldrop gave up no runs on three hits and two walks in 1.2 innings. Frank Mata got the final out.     

MIRACLE MEMOS

Tuesday – Ft. Myers 5, Palm Beach 2 Steve Hirschfeld continues to pitch great and should not be under the radar at this point. In this game, he threw six shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out five. Matt Williams pitched a perfect seventh inning. Michael Allen got two outs in the 8th but gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. Blair Erickson got the final four outs for his 10th save.    

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Tuesday – Beloit 7, Clinton 5 Danny Rams had another good day with the bat. He went 2-3 with a walk, his seventh home run and three runs scored. Drew Thompson was 2-3. Ramon Santana had a big two-run, pinch hit double. Liam Hendriks started and gave up three runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings. He walked two and struck out four. Winston Marquez then gave up a run on three hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. He struck out two. Steve Blevins got the win. He struck out two in 1.1 perfect innings.  

E-TWINS EXTRAS

Tuesday – Elizabethton 12, Greeneville 3 – There was plenty of offense in this game, and Edgar Ibarra was the beneficiary. He threw five shutout innings, allowing just four hits. He walked four though, and struck out eight. Peter Kennelly struck out five over the next two innings. Ramon Acosta gave up three runs (2 earned) on three hits in the final two innings. He struck out two. Anderson Hidalgo hit his 7th and 8th doubles. Jonathan Goncalves hit his fourth and fifth doubles. Josmil Pinto was 2-5 with his eighth home run. Chris Herrmann was 2-4 with a walk and his seventh home run. Dan Rohlfing was 2-4 with his sixth double. Brian Dozier was 2-5.  

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.

Twins Crush Crew; Cuddyer Captures Cycle

23 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

A day after putting up twenty runs against the Chicago White Sox, the Twins bats continued to roll. The Twins scored three in the first inning on a Michael Cuddyer home run. They added four in the fourth inning. They scored in five of the first six innings, and ran away with a second consecutive easy win.  I was up in section 226, in the 8th row. It is just to the third base side of home plate, so very good seats really. There were some Brewers fans around, but happily it was primarily Twins fans. Here are some of my observations and some highlights from my scorecard:

  • Obviously Michael Cuddyer was again the story in this game. In his first at bat, he hit a LONG three run homer, well into the bleachers in left center field. In his second at bat, he hit the first pitch to the gap in left center for a ground rule double. In the fourth inning, he welcomed Mike Difelice to the game with a single up the middle to drive in a run. In his third at bat, a broken bat liner down the 3B line turned into a triple. As he was rounding second, the crowd figured out what was going on and that was a very neat scene. Following that at bat, his batting average was up to .293. For the game, hew as 4-5 with two runs scored and five driven in. When he came to bat in the eighth inning, the game was out of reach, so we were trying to figure out the benefit of him even batting there. Maybe have his name introduced by as he stepped into the batters box, Gardy could have put in a pinch hitter so that he could have left to another ovation.
  • More Cuddyer Tidbits – That was his second straight four-hit game. He has homered in three straight games, and four of his last five. He is on pace to hit .291 with 34 doubles, 11 triples, 26 homers and 113 RBI. And to think he got off to such a rough start in April.
  • A Quick Aside on the Cycle – Cuddyer’s triple was very exciting. What made it exciting? The fact that Ryan Braun pretty much looks like he could care less out in left field. He barely jogged to go retrieve the ball in the corner that Cuddyer hit. People can say all they want about Delmon Young being a bad defensive outfielder, but from what I saw tonight, Braun is not a guy who should be out there. Seriously, if I was Ken Macha, I may have made a mid-inning defensively change and got him out of there.
  • I was almost surprised when I was going through my box score after the game to see that Justin Morneau was 3-5. He scored three runs and drove in two. His triple was nearly a three run homer, but the other hits were just nice singles. He is such a well-rounded hitter.
  • Joe Mauer’s 14 game hitting streak came to an end, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t productive. He hit a sacrifice fly in his second plate appearance. He also walked twice. When he came up in the 8th inning, knowing it was his final at bat to get a hit, he still didn’t go outside the strike zone. I think that is pretty impressive.
  • Denard Span had a strong game too. He went 2-4 and also added a walk. He took a lot of pitches early in the game, and I think that is often overlooked. He hit a long home run off of left-handed reliever RJ Swindle.
  • The top four in the lineup combined to go 9-16 with nine runs scored and 10 RBI. The bottom five in the lineup went a combined 3-18 with two runs and an RBI. And that includes Brendan Harris who went 2-4 with an RBI.
  • Kevin Slowey got great run support again, but he really pitched well, even better than his line score might indicate. In 7.1 innings, he gave up three runs (2 earned) on eight hits. He, of course, walked none and struck out four. He is now 6-1. He has four walks and 39 strikeouts in his 55.1 innings pitched. In this game, he was really able to keep his pitch count low. Looking at the pitch count on the board, he threw just 27 pitches (21 strikes) through the first three innings. He had 41 pitches through four innings, 53 pitches through five, and 65 pitches through six innings. Four mid-inning pitching changes for the Brewers between the fourth and seventh innings had to catch up with Slowey a little bit.
  • Sean Henn got the final five outs. He looked very good against lefties Prince Fielder (jammed him and got a double play) and Jody Gerut (strikeout). Mat Gamel did double off of him, but Gamel looks to be a pretty legit hitting prospect. That isn’t a surprise to those of us that follow prospects, as he was highly regarded. I was somewhat surprised he didn’t start the season with the Brewers. With Casey McGehee getting the start tonight at 3B, and Gamel on the roster, Billy Hall can’t be feeling too strongly about his future with the Brewers
  • Of course, tomorrow is a new day. It was very important that the Twins were able to use just two pitchers in this game. With Anthony Swarzak set to make his big league debut, it will be nice to have everyone else in the bullpen ready to go at any time! Swarzak will face the Brewers’ Braden Looper at 6:10 at the Dome.      

 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

Friday – SethSpeaks.net Hitter of the Day – Nathan Hanson, Beloit Snappers

Friday – SethSpeaks.net Pitcher of the Day – Cole Devries, New Britain Rockcats

ROCHESTER REPORT

Friday –Rochester 3, Norfolk 4 – The Red Wings managed just three hits in this game. Luke Hughes was 1-3 with a walk to raise his average to .261. The first seven batters in the Red Wings lineup had at least two strikeouts in the game. Reid Santos made the start. He gave up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits in four innings. He walked three and struck out two. Armando Gabino came in and worked two scoreless innings. Juan Morillo gave up a run on three hits and no walks in two innings to take the loss.  

ROCKCAT RECAP

Friday – New Britain 3, Binghampton 1 Cole Devries got back on track with a great start. In seven innings, he gave up a run on seven hits. He walked none and struck out four to lower his ERA to 2.86. Rob Delaney came in, and with runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, he struck out the next two batters to get out of that inning. Anthony Slama came on and struck out two in a perfect ninth for his ninth save. Brandon Roberts went 2-5 with his second homer and two of the RBI. Danny Valencia hit his fourth triple.  

Be sure to read Travis Talks where he compares and contrasts Delaney and Slama.

MIRACLE MEMOS

Friday – Ft. Myers 3, St. Lucie 1Carlos Gutierrez was back on the mound in this game. In five innings, he gave up only an unearned run on two hits. He walked four and struck out four. Spencer Steedley continues to impress. In 2.2 innings, he gave up just one hit. He improves to 3-0 and his ERA drops to 0.83. Blair Erickson got the final four outs, two via strikeout. Chris Parmelee and Jair Fernandez each went 2-3 with a walk. Ben Revere was 1-2 with a walk. He also stole his 17th and 18th bases.  

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Friday – Beloit 7, Peoria 13 – The defense let the team down in this one. Dan Osterbrock gave up eight runs in just 2.1 innings, but just one of the runs was earned. He gave up five hits, and walked two as well. Bruce Pugh came in and gave up two runs on four hits (2 HR) in 2.2 innings. Steve Blevins worked two scoreless innings. Blake Martin pitched the final two innings and gave up three runs on three hits and a walk. Former Gopher Nathan Hanson went 3-5 in the game. He hit his second triple and second home run. Ozzie Lewis was 2-3 with two walks and his seventh double. Michael Harrington is hitting just .215, but in this game, he notched his 13th and 14th doubles. James Beresford and Dominic de La Osa each had two hits. Jonathan Waltenbury was ejected late in the game for calmly questioning a called strike.   

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

It’s Official… Casilla to Rochester, Tolbert to Twins

6 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

LaVelle guessed right. The Twins announced that they are sending Alexi Casilla to Rochester, and promoting utility infielder Matt Tolbert to the Twins.

With lefty Mark Hendrickson on the mound for the Orioles tonight, I would like to see Tolbert get into the lineup at SS, replacing Nick Punto because I would really like to see Brendan Harris in the lineup against a lefty. I think that Harris should be the team’s primary 2B for the near term, with Tolbert again filling the role of utility player.

I do have to say this. When Alexi Casilla started the season with the Twins in 2007, people were excited. He proved that he was not ready at the time and made several mental mistakes. That perception clearly has stuck around. They have been compounded at the start of this season with his .160 batting average and a couple of not-well-timed errors. But I also think that we need to step back a little bit and stop completely bashing Casilla. Has he made mistakes? Certainly. Should he have run out the popped up bunt? Of course. Should he have thrown home last night? Of course. I really don’t like when people question a person’s effort. I really don’t think that is fair. Can we question his baseball IQ at this point? That is fair. But let’s try not to mix the two.

Very Quick Posting

5 May

also available at http://www.SethSpeaks.net -

I’m going to have to issue an apology to everyone because there may not be a ton of written words in today’s posting. I am exhausted.

So, be sure to check out Aaron’s Baseball Blog and Nick’s Twins Blog from yesterday to read their minor league updates on some top prospects. They are very good reads. And of course, I encourage everyone to listen to last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Twins Podcast. The hour-long show included an interview with Twins reliever Pat Neshek who is in Ft. Myers rehabbing after his November Tommy John surgery. He certainly sounds much more positive than he did the last time he was on the podcast, which was the night after he found out that he needed the surgery. The 20+ minutes with Pat were excellent. Then we were joined by Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. He covers the Rochester Red Wings and blogs at a site called Extra Bases. It was fun to get a different perspective on several Twins minor leaguers who are at the level closest to the big leagues. Finally, Nick Nelson joined us for the final ten minutes and talked about the Twins 7-2 win in Detroit and several other key Twins topics. So, please listen to the podcast and let me know what you think. Your feedback is always welcome.  

TWINS 7, TIGERS 2

The Franchise, Francisco Liriano had another very solid start, and this time, with five Twins runs in the top of the 7th, he got the run support necessary to get his first win of the year. In 7.1 innings, he gave up two runs on struck out nine. Matt Guerrier came in and got all five batters out that he faced. Denard Span went 4-5 in the game with an RBI. Michael Cuddyer remains on fire. He went 2-3 with yet another walk and drilled a two-run triple over the head of Curtis Granderson. He is now 9-20 with nine walks. That’s a .450 batting average and an on-base percentage over .650 over his last seven games. Today the Twins will send Nick Blackburn to the mound against young Rick Porcello.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

ROCHESTER REPORT

Sunday –Rochester 4, Louisville 2 – Kevin Mulvey picked up his first win of the season with five innings of one-run ball. He gave up four hits and walked four as well. Mike Gosling gave up a run on a hit and a walk in an inning. He struck out three. Sean Henn then recorded his second save with two scoreless innings. Matt Tolbert went 4-6 to raise his average to .244. Luke Hughes was 3-4 with two walks. Dustin Martin was 2-4 with a walk. Drew Butera went 2-4. Jim Mandelaro mentioned too that Jason Pridie was 0-5 until a ninth inning single extended his hitting streak to 15 games. I also learned that Carmen Pignatiello was released to make room for Juan Morillo.  

 ROCKCAT RECAP

Sunday – New Britain 2, New Hampshire 8 Ryan Mullins continues to really struggle. He gave up five runs on 11 hits in just 3.2 innings. He struck out four. Frank Mata came in and gave up a run in 2.2 innings. Yohan Pino then gave up two runs in 2.1 innings. Zach Ward got the final out. Wilson Ramos and Whit Robbins each went 2-4.  

MIRACLE MEMOS

Sunday –Ft. Myers 8, Sarasota 6Mike McCardell won for the third straight start to improve to 3-2. In this game, he went six innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out seven. Kyle Waldrop pitched a scoreless seventh inning before giving up three runs in the 8th. Spencer Steedley came in and gave up a hit, but Blair Erickson got the save with two strikeouts in an inning. Danny Berg went 2-4 with his first home run. Deibinson Romero went 2-5 with his eighth double and a stolen base. Danny Lehmann went 2-3 with a walk and two stolen bases. Ben Revere went 2-5.Rene Leveret got a hit in his first at bat to raise his average to .368, but he left the game with some injury. Estarlin de los Santos has missed the last few games. Yangervis Solarte also is likely to miss the remainder of the season.   

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Sunday – Beloit 5, Great Lakes 1Brad Tippett had another very good start. He gave up one run on five hits in seven innings to improve to 2-0. He walked none and struck out eight. Danny Rondon gave up just one hit over the final two innings. Evan Bigley went 2-4 with his fifth double.

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

What Would You Do? Part 2 (Infield)

25 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Last night was the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. Be sure to put it on your iPod, or spend some time at work listening to it at work. Twins pitching prospect Zach Ward called in to the show at the beginning of the show. As you know, Ward spent most of the 2008 season in the New Britain bullpen. He then spent much of his offseason as a starter pitching in Puerto Rico. It was fun to learn a little more about Zach Ward. The two other guests were two new Twins bloggers. First, Wally Fish recently started writing two blogs, a Twins blog (TwinkieTalk.com) and a Royals blog (royaleswithcheese.com). Also, Jack Steal started his Twins blog (Fanatic Jack Talks Twins) this week and came on and talked Twins for awhile. It was a solid show, and there are a couple more Twins blogs that you should check out and potentially bookmark.

 

But for today, I would like to talk about three issues that seem to be hot topics as it relates to the Twins. I will post my thoughts, and ask for your thoughts. I would appreciate your comments on each. I’d like to read what you predict will happen, and what you think will happen. As we know, those two things can be very different.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————   

 

Backup Infielder – If the Twins go with 12 pitchers, they would have four bench spots. They would be comprised of the extra outfielder, the backup catcher, and probably two backup infielders. If they go with 11 pitchers, they could keep all three, which may be why they had Matt Tolbert out of CF for a game.  What would you do?

·         Brian Buscher – can play 3B and 1B, although not terribly well. Provides a very professional left-handed bat off the bench. However, he has not shown power throughout his career.

·         Brendan Harris – can play all four infield positions, very little range, but makes all the plays. Right-handed bat with plenty of pop.

·         Matt Tolbert – Can play 3B, 2B, SS, and fairly well. He is a solid switch hitter with good speed.

·         Seth’s Opinion – I really think that the Twins need to go with 12 pitchers, at least to start the season, as there are plenty of question marks in it. Therefore, I think only two of these guys can make it. Because of that, I would send Matt Tolbert back to Rochester to start the season. He doesn’t necessarily deserve that, but in my mind, you can justify that because he missed so much time in 2008. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go to Rochester for six weeks and play every day and everywhere. At that point, hopefully the bullpen questions have worked themselves out, and the Twins starters are able to consistently go 6-7 innings. At that point, they can go to 11 pitchers and Tolbert can come back up.

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