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The Twins are pretty bad right now. Brian Duensing actually pitched very well last night. Jason Kubel and Denard Span are doing their jobs. Matt Capps and Glen Perkins are doing very well in the bullpen.
That’s all I’ve got. Everything else is a struggle. Yes, I am an optimist, but it’s hard at a time like this. Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau aren’t back to the level that we may have hoped, or even expected. Joe Mauer hasn’t played in over two weeks. Delmon Young hasn’t played in nearly two weeks. Nishioka hasn’t played in the last 20 games. Excuses, yup! Explanation for horrific play? Certainly, to some degree. But there are still plenty of concerns.
Before the season, I predicted 94 wins for the Twins. Right now, put me down for 86. And yes, I still believe that will be enough to win the division, but we shall see. That is the beauty of the 162 game season. If this was a 16-game NFL season, the Twins would in the fourth quarter, about to fall to 0-3.
I just want to see the Twins play with their full arsenal of players for awhile and see what would happen. I want to see a lineup of: Denard Span CF, Tsuyoshi Nishioka 2B, Joe Mauer C, Justin Morneau 1B, Delmon Young LF, Jason Kubel DH, Michael Cuddyer RF, Danny Valencia 3B, and … pretty much anyone but Alexi Casilla at shortstop. Yes, even Matt Tolbert. Trevor Plouffe went 0-3 on Saturday and has three hits in his last 25 at bats in Rochester and his hitting .261. He’s not The Answer, but he’s a better answer. More on that in a bit.
Look at that lineup. There are solid hitters there one through eight. Right now, the Twins have nearly automatic outs in three or even four spots in the lineup. While Justin Morneau is struggling, Jason Kubel can hit fourth. Jim Thome can fill in off the bench. Drew Butera can return to playing once or twice a week. Steve Holm can go back to Rochester. Jason Repko can come in as a late-inning defensive replacement a couple of weeks. Hopefully that lineup could be used consistently over a month or two straight, and good things will happen.
On Twitter on Friday night, I asked if the Twins should just DFA Alexi Casilla? Would he be claimed by another team? Would we care? Well, at this point, we probably don’t care, but maybe we should, just a little bit. The biggest issue with the Twins middle infield decisions in the offseason, for me, was not that Orlando Hudson was let go. He was really bad in the second half last year offensively and defensively, and if the Padres wanted to give him two years, good for him. I honestly could care less about losing JJ Hardy. Hardy is an OK player. Can’t hit much, but terrific defense, when healthy. Of course, using Hardy with Healthy is kind of an oxymoron. The problem, as nick Nelson so eloquently pointed out, was that it left the Twins with very little depth. Very little margin for error. Last year, Casilla was the utility guy. This year, he would be counted on to start. Nishioka got hurt before he got a chance to relax and settle down. Casilla has been much worse than even his toughest critics could have guessed. However, somehow Casilla was solid in a utility role a year ago, and maybe he can be again. Depth was a huge concern, and despite his struggles, losing Casilla means even less depth.
Unless a better option is able to be brought in, of course. Jose Reyes’s name is certainly out there. The Mets most likely would not bring him back in 2012, so maybe he would be available. I’m convinced that to acquire Reyes now would take either Aaron Hicks or Kyle Gibson, at least one other top ten prospect, and more. There can be differing opinions on if that is too much or not. To those of you who believe that this 2011 Twins season is over, then why should the Twins give up a big chunk of the future for someone who will be here for a few months of the 2011 season? To those of you who have already given up on the 2011 Twins season, why would you want Kyle Gibson or Carlos Gutierrez brought up now?
Of course, if the pitching doesn’t get better, the added offense probably won’t matter much either. Scott Baker and Brian Duensing have been very good so far. Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn have been really inconsistent. Francisco Liriano has been horrific. I was wrong. In the offseason, I suggested that the Twins offer him a 4 year, $40 million contract extension. Wow!! That would have been a huge mistake. One of the things that the Twins brass considers when thinking about a long-term contract is how the player will respond to it. Liriano didn’t even have that security and he refused to work in the offseason. I think he made the right decision to not pitch in Winter Ball in the Dominican, but he still should have been preparing for the season. Maybe I’m crazy, but I believe that he will be fine again, at some point, hopefully soon. He has too much talent. I know in recent days that it has been made known that if Liriano struggles in his next start, he could lose his spot in the rotation. In my humble opinion, if that happens, that is something that I don’t think that the Twins can overcome, at least not if if lasts more than a start or two.
And finally, the bullpen. Matt Capps, Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins have been good. Everything else is a question mark. I still do not believe in spending a ton of money on a bullpen, but unfortunately, despite a lot of quality arms in the upper levels, no one else has stepped up. Jim Hoey has had his moments. Guys like Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, and Dusty Hughes have really struggled in their opportunities. Kevin Slowey got hurt. Joe Nathan has certainly had his ups and downs. I can’t help but believe that as the starters get more and more consistent and pitch later into games, the bullpen will clarify itself and players will adapt to their roles. Thinking that would happen right away was my mistake.
April was a horrible month for the Twins and for their fans. The Twins were just 9-17, worst in baseball. Their run differential is terrible. Fans? I have never seen such anger and irrationality. It’s difficult.
Hopefully May will bring upon much better days for the Twins and their fans!
Minor League Report
In 2009, the Twins drafted catcher Trayvone Johnson in the 30th round. He caught for the GCL Twins that season. When he reported to spring training in 2010, he found that the Twins decided to try him out on the mound. Before the short-season affiliates started, the Twins released Johnson. I chatted with him a bit last night, and he is excited to get the opportunity to play for an independent team in Maui, Hawaii, this summer. He will be catching for Na Koa Ikaika this summer.
Saturday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Day– Danny Ortiz, Beloit Snappers
Saturday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Liam Hendriks, New Britain Rock Cats
Red Wings Ramblings
Saturday – Red Wings 0, Buffalo 3 – Jeff Manship made his first start of the season. He went four innings and gave up two runs on six hits. He struck out five and did not issue a walk. Eric Hacker came in out of the bullpen. In two innings, he gave up an unearned run on a walk. He did not allow a hit. He struck out three. Carlos Gutierrez struck out three in two scoreless innings. The Red Wings managed just three hits.
Rock Cats Report
Saturday – Rock Cats 5, New Hampshire 2 – Liam Hendriks was tremendous again. The Aussie right-hander threw seven shutout innings. He gave up a run in the 8th, but his total line was one run on four hits in 7.1 innings. He walked two and struck out nine. Jack Stevens struck out two in 1.1 innings. He gave up one run on one hit and two walks. Cole DeVries picked up his fourth save by getting the final out. Steve Singleton knocked his 10th and 11th doubles. Yangervis Solarte went 3-4 with his ninth double. Evan Bigley was 2-4. Allan de San Miguel left the game early with an elbow injury.
Saturday – Miracle 4, Charlotte 5 – With Ryan Mullins unable to pitch due to a bad shoulder, Edgar Ibarra was asked to step in. The lefty gave up just one run on six hits in seven innings. He walked none and struck out two. Blake Martin pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and a walk. Bruce Pugh came in for the 9th. He gave up four runs on three hits and two walks and recorded just one out in the loss. Nick Romero went 2-4 with his fourth double and first triple. Brian Dozier hit his third and fourth doubles. Jhonathan Goncalves went 2-4 with his first double.
Saturday – Snappers 8, Peoria 13 (10) – The Snappers have been carried by their starting pitching and two hitters this spring. On this day, those two hitters and several others powered the Snappers offense which included six home runs. Unfortunately, the pitching didn’t come through in this game. Andrei Lobanov started and gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits and a walk in 4.2 innings. Blayne Weller continued to pitch well with 2.1 scoreless innings. Michael Tonkin came in and gave up two runs on four hits in two innings. Martire Garcia pitched the 10th and gave up five runs (4 earned) on four hits and a walk. As I mentioned, the Snappers hit six home runs in this game. In the first inning, Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Ortiz went back-to-back. Then in the 8th inning, Danny Ortiz, Michael Gonzalez and Josmil Pinto went back-to-back-to-back. Ortiz led the way. He was 3-4 with a walk and his fifth and sixth homers. Arcia was 2-5 with his eighth double and fifth home run. Michael Gonzalez hit his third and fourth home runs. Derek McCallum went 2-3 with a walk. For Pinto, it was his first home run of the season.
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.