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Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers

22 Jan

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

For the most part, the Twins spring training rosters are pretty well set. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another reliever brought in, and there could be some more minor league signings. I thought it would be late enough in the offseason to start taking a look at the Twins organizational depth. So, over the next two weeks, I’ll go position by position and name the players throughout the farm system with a few thoughts. In doing so, I’ll be trying to figure out what the Twins minor league rosters will look like.

I’m going to start with the catcher position and work through all of the positions. First and foremost, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera

Maybe it’s hopeful optimism, but I’m not worried about Joe Mauer in 2012. 2011 started out with injury, a bad diagnosis made public, and a not-so-subtle hint of confusion surrounding his health, his toughness and how even his teammates and managers didn’t always understand what the situation was either. If Mauer is healthy, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball, offensively and defensively. Ideally, he could again catch 110-120 games and if he does so, we know that he will likely hit .320/.390/.490 or so with 35 or more doubles and potentially a dozen home runs.

Doumit was a tremendous signing early in the offseason. His career numbers in the NL show that he has posted an OPS very similar to Jason Kubel’s. Offensively, I expect the same type of hitter as Kubel. That’s probably a little optimistic. I think Doumit (along with Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes) will be the primary DHs, unless Justin Morneau can’t play 1B and they have him DH. Doumit can also catch 30-40 games a season to give Mauer a day off from behind the plate. He’s not too good back there.

Butera is the opposite. He has no chance offensively, particularly when overexposed as he was last year. Butera is the actual backup catcher, in my mind, since Doumit should be starting every day. As a true backup catcher, he’s fine, plays good defense, does a good job against the running game, and works well with pitchers. When he has to play most days and gets 400 plate appearances, that isn’t the design. In reality, the Twins have a bunch of versatility on their major league roster, so I might prefer to have Butera in Rochester. If Mauer or Doumit is hurt one game, the other could catch the rest of that game, and Butera could be up the next day. Of course, that would assume the Twins utilized the DL well, something they did very poorly the last couple of years.

Rochester Red Wings

Rene Rivera, JR Towles

We saw in 2011 what Rivera could do, and it was pretty much just as bad offensively as Butera. He just swung more crazy and more often. Defensively, he is obviously quite solid.

JR Towles comes over from the Astros where he was once a top prospect in baseball. He never really hit with the Astros, although he never really got much consistent playing time. There may be some hope here for some optimism.

New Britain Rock Cats

Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann

Butera, Rivera and Towles are pretty much the same. I may be wrong, but everything I’ve seen, read and heard from players throughout the system, Lehmann is the best of that group. He won’t hit a lot, but no worse than Rivera and Butera did, and his defense is just as good, if not better. I’ve talked to a lot of pitchers in the Twins system the last couple of years and all agree that they love throwing to Lehmann.

Chris Herrmann is the Twins top catching prospect, and it isn’t terribly close. He made a very strong impression in 2011 at Ft. Myers and in New Britain. He didn’t hit for average, but he gets on base a lot. He also hits a lot of doubles with a smooth left-handed swing. He runs very well for a catcher. Part of his value is his versatility. In college, he played mostly in the infield. Early in his Twins career, he played mainly in the outfield and played well there. Pitchers say that his defense behind the plate has improved, and he now throws out a solid percentage of would-be base stealers. He could be a versatile backup player with the Twins by September, and he is also good enough to be the primary backstop for the team as well should they move the $184-million-dollar man to another position at some point.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Josmil Pinto

Rams made a good impression last year at big league spring training and was very good in April. At that point, he got hurt and played through it, but his numbers were not what he and organization would have wanted. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but isn’t touted as a great defender. It’s just a gut feeling, but Rams is very talented, and I think once he gets to New Britain, we’ll start seeing some of his power potential turn into some power numbers.

Rohlfing played infield in high school and the Twins moved him to catcher. After awhile, he was moved to the outfield. Last year, he was pushed to New Britain where he held his own as a backup catcher. When he was sent back to Ft. Myers, he was in the lineup most every day, either behind the plate or in the outfield and he played well. He was invited to spring training this year because he has made an impression on the right people.

Josmil Pinto put up huge numbers in E-town a couple of seasons ago, but he really struggled in 2010 in Beloit. He returned to Beloit and did alright before being moved up to Ft. Myers. He has a strong arm, but it’s likely he’s a DH because he does struggle behind the plate.

Beloit Snappers

Andy Leer, Philip Chapman, Matt Koch, Matt Parker, Jairo Rodriguez, Kyle Knudson

This is where you start realizing that not all of these players will remain in the organization beyond spring training. There will likely be some injuries and others also added to the Disabled List for depth.

Andy Leer is from North Dakota and went to college at the University of Mary. He was an infielder with the Snappers in 2011, and at Instructional League, he was moved behind the plate. Philip Chapman and Matt Koch were both drafted in 2011. Chapman hit well, but he was a college guy playing in the GCL. Koch signed late and played in a dozen or so games in Elizabethton. Both are old enough that they should move up to Beloit, but based on numbers, one could stay in Extended Spring Training. Matt Parker was a non-drafted free agent singing a couple of years ago. He’s a defensive guy. Knudson played with Beloit in 2011, but he missed most of the second half of the season with a groin injury. He’s one that they will need to keep because he is solid defensively and has some offensive potential. Jairo Rodriguez is a strong-armed backstop without much offensive upside. 

Elizabethton Twins

Kelly Cross, Michael Quesada

Cross was drafted out of high school in 2010 and signed late. He got into just a couple of games. He really struggled last year with the GCL Twins, but he’s a guy that they’re going to have to push quickly because he’s only got one more season that he can play in the short seasons. 

Quesada was one of the better hitters with the GCL Twins last year and showed good power. Some scouts really like his potential. 

The Twins typically draft a couple of college catchers in the first ten rounds or so, and they go to Elizabethton as well. So, it’s really impossible to predict who will play any position in Elizabethton or the GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Chris Herrmann, 2.) Danny Rams, 3.) Dan Rohlfing

SUMMARY

Joe Mauer is an All Star, an MVP, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and he’s paid like it. A couple more big seasons and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, he has to stay healthy. Chris Herrmann is likely a year away from being ready for the big leagues. He is likely the one player in the minor leagues that has the chance to be a starting catcher. There are several terrific defensive catchers whose ceiling is backup catcher, not that that is a bad thing! 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail Seth Stohs at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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How the Twins won 8 out of 10

12 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before we start, a quick reminder:

World Series Contest

I am going to be holding some contests here and on Twitter and Facebook over the next week or two thanks to A&E who has now come out with “A&E Minnesota Twins Vintage World Series Films DVD.”  It includes both the 1987 and 1991 teams! The ’87 team beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. The ’91 World Series was the first that had two worst-to-first teams as the Twins and the Atlanta Braves played one of the greatest seven-game series ever, including Jack Morris’s amazing Game 7. So be sure to look here and other places for some contests for a free copy.

On Saturday afternoon, the Twins scored five first inning runs and Scott Baker threw a complete game as the Twins won for the eighth time in ten games. First, it was a four-game sweep in Kansas City. Then they won two out of three in Cleveland against the division leaders. With the win on Saturday, the Twins have won two of the first three games of this four-game series against arguably the best team in the American League, the Texas Rangers.

After playing horrible baseball through the first 54 games of the season, the Twins have found a way to play great baseball over the past ten games. They have managed to do that without Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and in recent days without Denard Span or Justin Morneau.

Do I believe that this type of success is sustainable? With the current roster? No. But as those aforementioned players come back, along with Glen Perkins, the team is certainly moving back in the right direction.

So, how did a team that was playing so poorly suddenly run off eight wins in ten games? I went to the numbers and it has been a combination of good starting pitching, great bullpen work and very strong offense. Here are some of the numbers for you to consider:

  • Over those ten games, the starting pitchers have thrown 65.1 innings. They have given up 70 hits, walked 11 and struck out 41. That’s a 2.62 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. They have given up eight unearned runs, four of them came on Friday night in Brian Duensing’s seven run second inning. Scott Baker and Carl Pavano each threw a complete game during that time frame and seven innings in their other start. Brian Duensing threw eight shutout innings in one of his starts. Anthony Swarzak picked up his first career win to start this run. Francisco Liriano returned with five shutout innings.
  • As good as the starters have been, the bullpen has been even better. There may be a direct correlation there as well. Starters go longer and pitch better, maybe it’s easier to come in and perform. But they have come through in some tough situations. In those ten games, the bullpen has a 1.09 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 24.2 innings. They have given up just 16 hits, walked eight and struckout 12.
  • Ben Revere made the comment in his Fox interview following Saturday’s win that he likes being a leader and getting the team going. I assume that he meant that he enjoys being a leadoff hitter and setting the table for the game. Revere has been a catalyst, but he has not been the only offensive performer over the past ten days. Here’s proof that a lot of people are contributing:
    • Revere has gone 13-44 (.295) with two walks and a double. He has scored seven runs, driven in four runs. He also has three stolen bases.
    • Alexi Casilla has gone 14-42 (.333) with four walks and three doubles. He has four stolen bases, has scored six runs and driven in four runs.
    • Michael Cuddyer has gone 12-38 (.316) with four walks. He has four doubles, three home runs, six runs scored and ten RBI.
    • Delmon Young has gone 14-40 (.350) with a walk, three doubles and a long home run. He has scored seven runs and driven in six.
    • Matt Tolbert has gone 10-33 (.303) with a walk, three doubles, five runs scored and six RBI.
    • Luke Hughes has gone 9-25 (.360) with a walk, three doubles and seven runs scored.
    • Drew Butera has gone 8-20 (.400) with a walk, three doubles, six runs scored and six RBI.
    • Before his concussion, Denard Span went 4-14 (.286) with a double, a triple, a run scored and three RBI.
    • Jason Repko was 3-12 (.250) with a double, a run and three RBI. He played a huge role in one of the wins in Kansas City.
  • Before missing a couple of days lately, Justin Morneau had gone 2-24 (.083). Danny Valencia has gone 5-35 (.143) with four walks, a double, two runs and two RBI. Rene Rivera has gone 3-16 (.188) with a walk, a double, two runs and an RBI.

So again, in order to go on a nice ten-game run like the Twins have, it takes a whole team. The Twins have been able to get strong starting pitching and bullpen work. They have received offensive contributions from some unlikely sources, some young players and some of the veterans that much had been expected earlier. Ben Revere has been a catalyst, and Michael Cuddyer has been an incredible run producer.

And, as a fan, the best thing is that the Twins have been fun to watch again. Not just because of the wins, but primarily because the brand of baseball is just much better.

Of course, as we are now down to 98 more games, the Twins will need to play very well for the next nine or ten ten-game stretches. Are they capable? As those injured players return, how will they impact the Twins team? Are you surprised to see any of the above numbers? Feel free to comment here.

Twins Winter Caravan

20 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011 – The Handbook is now available for pre-order, so if you are interested in a copy (or copies) of the book, scroll down this page for details on the handbook and on how you can pre-order. Pre-order available through Friday. Also, I will be on The Jack Michaels Show this morning about 10:05 to talk Twins. Those of you in the Bismarck area can catch it on ESPN 710. Those in other areas of the country can click here to listen live.

Have you ever been to one of the Twins offseason events? The weather is frigid. Allegedly, here in northern Minnesota, the temperature when I wake up in the morning is going to be around 30 degrees below zero with a wind chill factor of 50 below. Seemingly the Twins send out their representatives into areas all around the Upper Midwest right during the winter’s most frigid, cold conditions. However, they get great turnouts because, frankly, Minnesotans are ready for baseball talk. Spring Training is now less than a month away. The Twins roster is pretty well set. Twins fans of all types are ready to talk baseball. Those of you that read blogs like this one know all the moves that have been made, but many fans don’t follow it quite that closely. In fact, many Twins probably didn’t know that JJ Hardy had been traded, or that the Twins let Orlando Hudson go. I’m sure everyone with any interest in the Twins knew about the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the re-signing of Jim Thome, but many fans just literally watch the games and go on with their lives. (part of me misses that! Not really!)

But the Twins Caravan goes all over the Upper Midwest and visits schools and nursing homes, hospitals and car dealerships, and at night, they go to major events bringing hundreds of fans out. Last night, I went to Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, MN. First of all, what an incredible arena for high school hockey. When my daughter and I walked in, we watched a little of the Thief River Falls Prowlers high school hockey practice. Soon, we realized that Jeff Manship and Drew Butera were participating in the practice. I guess I should clarify; Drew Butera was participating. Manship was trying not to fall down. After a while, the team was all in a circle, and Butera gave a nice pep talk to the team, in part, thanking them for letting them play a bit. Now, I was a little bit slow, but knowing the event was supposed to start at 6:00 and not a lot of people were in the arena. Well, Engelstad has a huge conference room in the basement that fit the 500+ people that were there.

Let me side track just slightly here. I brought my 4 ½ year old daughter, Jozie, with me to this event. She loves the Twins. At times, I suppose I should feel bad. The poor girl has no chance. I mean, as she was turning four, in May, she knew the Twins lineup. I would say, “Joe” and she would shout, “Mauuuuerrrr!” I would say, “Justin” and should would say “Morneau.” I would say “Michaelllllllllll” and she says, “Cuddya!” I say, “Denard?” and she says, while raising her eyebrows up and down, “Span Man.”  Thome, Young, Kubel. Slllooooowweeeyyyyy.  We’re now working on Nishioka. At one point, my sister just shook her head and said, “Wow… maybe next on your list of things to do should be Letter Recognition, or Addition?” Of course, her favorite of all remains TC Bear.

So anyway, the two of us got there and guess what they had for their pre-caravan meal? You bet! They had nachos! And yes, I stuffed my face!

We sat down in the third row, sitting in front of the big TV screen. A bit later, TC Bear came in and started taking pictures with kids. Jozie wanted to go to him. She was talking all big and brave, and even noting how other kids were being scared of TC, probably because they don’t know him as well as she does. But when we got to the front of the line, and it was her turn… she clung to me, and we had to get our picture taking with TC together… which was fine.

Anyway, the show began with Kris Atteberry as host. He thanked everyone for coming out before announcing to the crowd that minutes before, the Twins had signed Carl Pavano for the next two years.

Aside – Pavano signed for two years and $16.5 million. Starting last June, when Pavano was working wonders for the Twins, discussions first started about an extension. I remember saying that I would offer Pavano two years and $18 million at that time and if he took it, great, it would be a fair deal. If he didn’t, let him go. Well, I said all offseason that I would rather have the draft picks than give Pavano a three year deal or too many dollars. So, in the end, when the Twins got him for two years and $16.5 million, I was clearly just fine with it.

The news got a large ovation from the crowd. He then introduced the Twins contingent; Jeff Manship, Drew Butera, Joe Vavra and Ron Gardenhire. He asked each a couple of questions before the crowd was able to ask questions. I have to say, when you see Gardy in this type of setting, you realize how perfect he is for that type of environment. He knows how to work the crowd. The man is hilarious. It is easy to see why he gets so much out of his players and why the players want to play for him. It’s easy to understand why Jim Thome wanted to sign with the Twins and why he took less to stay. It’s easy to see why Pavano wanted to come back. It’s all about Ron Gardenhire. As Joe Vavra said, “Gardy’s personality is infectagious.”

Atteberry announced that there would be just five more questions. Jozie raised her hand. Atteberry came over and said, “Young lady, what is your question?” I didn’t know what she was going to ask, or what would come out. With the microphone is in her face, she said, “I want to play with TC Bear.” Good question.

The Twins that were there signed several items and prize winners were drawn. After TC took a prize to a winner way in the back of the room, he came back to the front, but on the way, he gave Jozie a really big hug which made her smile and laugh and the look on her face was priceless. That alone made her night.

Following the program, the Twins contingent went to the back of the room where they signed autographs and took pictures with the people. As you know, Jeff Manship has been a participant in the SethSpeaks.net NFL “Expert” Pick panel for at least the last four years. He is a terrific guy. He and Drew Butera were willing to take this picture with Jozie (which from the response I’ve heard on Facebook and Twitter, primarily from the female population, is a pretty good picture?).

Jeff Manship, Jozie, Drew Butera

Again, the Twins Winter Caravan is wonderful on several levels. First, it’s an opportunity for people to meet and see first-hand the players and the manager and coaches that they see on FSN throughout the year. They get to see personalities and hear stories and jokes. They get to shake their hands in the autograph lines. They get to think about baseball even when temperatures are hovering around ten below zero. It’s a way to know that the season is close. The caravan will be traveling around the Upper Midwest next week as well leading up to Twins Fest weekend. There are a lot of reasons to be excited and optimistic about the Twins 2011 season and these types of events really help people get there!

So, thank you to the Twins that were in Thief River Falls and made the event a lot of fun.

Have you been to a caravan event yet? Will you? What are your thoughts and stories? If you have any questions or comments or want to share one of your experiences, please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.

SethSpeaks.net Top 10 Twins Highlights of 2010

30 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

At 9:20 on Thursday morning, I will be on KFAN and KFAN.com to talk about the Twins. PA is away, so I’ll be talking with Judd Zulgad which should be a lot of fun!

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the Twins MVP candidates, Pitcher of the Year and their Rookie of the Year. With just four games remaining in the regular season, and the playoffs beginning in less than a week, it’s time to take a look back at the 2010 regular season and recap some of the highlights that stood out at the top of my mind. I’m certain I missed some moments, and I’m sure for each of you have some memories that stand out as highlights to you, maybe even some personal stories and highlights. So, after looking at my list, but sure to discuss your favorite moments from the 2010 Twins season in the comments section.

#10 – Butera Homers in Philadelphia

We held a monthly TwinsCentric Viewing Party. On this particular day, it was held at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park. It was a great opportunity to talk to a lot of the Twins fans and bloggers that were there because the Twins fell way behind early against the Philadelphia Phillies. But slowly the team came back. Late in the game, Joe Mauer hit a home run and somehow the Twins were tied. However, with a pitcher due up, there was only one pinch hitting option on the bench, Drew Butera. I recall Andrew Bryz-Gornia yelling, “Why is Butera batting?” One pitch later, Butera gave the Twins a lead by drilling a long, solo home run into the left field bleachers. Jon Rauch gave back the lead in the bottom of the inning, but the Twins went on to win one of the more exciting games of the season.

#9 – Ramos Makes Great First Impression

So he’s no longer with the organization… The debut of Wilson Ramos on May 2nd in Cleveland was quite impressive. In his first game with the Twins, he went 4-5, putting his name with Kirby Puckett as the only Twins with four hits in their big league debut. In an attempt to prove that he was more than just a one-game wonder, Ramos had three more hits in his second game. Sure, he really struggled following those two games and had a very disappointing 2010 AAA season before being dealt to the Nationals in the Matt Capps deal.

#8 – Welcome Back, Jacque

The Twins came to Target Field for two exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals in early April in preparation for the inaugural season at the new stadium. It was a great evening that saw Denard Span get a triple and a home run. But the highlight of those two games was the incredible, amazing and emotional standing ovation given both days to Jacque Jones. It was a tremendous gesture of gratitude by the fans to a member of the Twins family who was such a big part of the Twins return to prominence at the turn of the century. Jones was clearly embarrassed and moved by the moment. I know I had goose bumps.

#7 – Have a (Souvenir) Ball!

Maybe it’s the minor league follower that I am, but there are few things in baseball that I find greater than the first big league hit for players. When you think of the amount of work that the player put in during their amateur careers and then the journey through the minor league ranks, getting that first big league hit kind of makes it all real, official. This year, the Twins had first big league hits from six players. On April 22nd, Drew Butera singled to left field off of Cleveland’s Mitch Talbot. On May 2nd, Wilson Ramos singled to left against Cleveland’s David Huff. On May 21, Trevor Plouffe singled in his first at bat, driving in a run against Dave Bush of the Brewers. On June 3rd, Danny Valencia hit an infield single off of Felix Hernandez. On September 19th, Ben Revere singled up the middle off of Oakland’s Bobby Cramer.

#6 – Hughes Homers in First At Bat

You were probably wondering if I had forgotten that first Major League hit for infielder Luke Hughes. He was called up to the Twins in late April, primarily as a right-handed bat off the bench. On April 28th, he was given his first start in a game against the Detroit Tigers. His first plate appearance ended prematurely when Delmon Young was caught stealing. So, Hughes led off the 3rd inning and hit a long opposite field home run off of Max Scherzer. He became just the fifth Minnesota Twins player to hit a home run in his first at bat.

#5 – Speaking of First Home Runs

Danny Valencia started the 2010 season in Rochester. He had no home runs when he was promoted to the Twins in the first days of June. He remained homerless on the season until July 26th when, in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals, he hit a grand slam off of reigning Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke. He became the first Twins player in team history to hit a grand slam for his first home run. Since that time, Valencia has added six more home runs and maintains a batting average well over .320 on the season.

#4 – Crain Closes Case in Chicago

Two weeks ago, the Twins went into Chicago for a three game series with a six game lead in the AL Central. Popular belief was that the White Sox needed to sweep the series if they were to have any shot at catching the Twins. In the first game of the series, the Twins were holding on to a slim one-run lead. In the 7th inning, Matt Guerrier let the first two batters on. Jesse Crain was summoned from the bullpen. He recorded the first out on a sacrifice bunt. After a walk to load the bases, Crain shut the door by striking out the Sox best hitter Paul Konerko, and their big-name acquisition Manny Ramirez. The Twins held on to win that game and swept the White Sox, leaving Chicago with a nine game lead. Maybe it is overstating it to say that that performance by Crain ended the Sox season. We don’t know what might have happened later in the game if Crain had given up a run or two. We don’t know what would have happened in subsequent days. We do know that after those strikeouts, the Sox quit and it was easy to see on the field. That’s why this is such a highlight for me.

#3 – Kubel Grand Slam Tops Yankees

The Yankees have had the Twins number in recent years. I don’t think anyone can deny that. When the Twins went to Yankees Stadium in mid-May, they lost the first two games to the Yankees. Nick Blackburn pitched well in the third game of the series, but found his team losing 3-1. But in the 8th inning, the Twins loaded the bases against Joba Chamberlain. Joe Girardi went to Mariano Rivera looking for a four-out save. Rivera walked Jim Thome to bring in a run and cut the lead to 3-2. Jason Kubel came to the plate and hit a line drive down the right field line that found itself landing just over the fence for a grand slam. The Twins held on for the win. Does it mean that the Twins had overcome whatever ailed them against the Yankees and in New York? I don’t know about that, but that was as exciting as it gets!!

#2 – Opening Day at Target Field

The Twins won their first game at Target Field 5-2 over the Boston Red Sox. The game seemed to be almost an afterthought. It was an incredible event. FSN started broadcasting before 6:00 in the morning. They told a bunch of stories. They showed batting practice. The pregame festivities were terrific. There was a fly over. Sure, Marco Scutaro tallied the first hit in Target Field history. Orlando Hudson had the first Twins hit. Michael Cuddyer drove in Denard Span for the first run in the stadium. Joe Mauer recorded the first extra base hit, a double. And Jason Kubel made a lot of people right when he was the first player to hit a home run at Target Field. It was just a tremendous day to be a Twins fan, the history coming together with the present, looking to an exciting future.

#1 – Thome Walks Off Against the White Sox

On August 17th, the Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning. By the fourth inning, Scott Baker had given the lead back. In the fifth inning, Delmon Young hit a solo homer to give the Twins a 5-4 lead, a lead they would hold until the top of the 9th. Matt Capps came in and gave up a solo home run to Alexei Ramirez. In the top of the 10th, Ramirez singled in another run to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. It had the potential to be a very difficult loss for the team at the time. Matt Thornton came out to pitch the 10th for the White Sox. He had already recorded four outs for the team. Young led off with a single which brought up Thome. On the first pitch, Thornton threw a slider that Thome missed by a foot. One the next pitch, he tried to sneak a fastball past his former teammate, and Thome didn’t miss it. Thome drilled a long blast well beyond the right field wall. A major celebration ensued. I was there, and I got a high-five from Khalid El-Amin. It was one of the most exciting games I have ever been at.

Just Missed The List:

Being at the first exhibition game and making my FSN debut, eating some nachos as Bert Blyleven noted that I was “stuffing my face.” That was terrific. The Long-Awaited Debut of Anthony Slama finally happened and he struck out two in his first inning. The night the Twins clinched the division was pretty cool too. It would have been better if the Twins would have been able to celebrate after their own win as opposed to waiting for the White Sox to lose (again) to the A’s in Oakland just a few minutes before midnight. But champagne celebrations certainly seem fun! Even if it is just celebrating being the best out of five teams.

And I’m certain that there are many more memories from the 2010 regular season that you will remind me of in the comment section. And hopefully, there will be plenty more playoff memories coming as well.

Share your favorite memories here.

What to Do? Who Catches Pavano?

13 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It seems like something that has been debated for months already. Sometime in late May or early June, Drew Butera became the personal catcher for Carl Pavano. Pavano went on a very nice run of good starts and gave a lot of credit to the defense of Butera. But as the Twins are set to start a three game series in Chicago, and Pavano is scheduled to start on Thursday night, the question has to be asked. Who should catch Pavano?

Let’s take a quick look at how Pavano has done with the two catchers this year:

Caught by Drew Butera:

  • 14 games, 102 Innings.
  • 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .683 OPS
  • 13 SB in 19 attempts
  • 0.53 HR/9
  • 4.9 K/9
  • 1.67 BB/9

Caught by Joe Mauer:

  • 15 games, 95 Innings.
  • 3.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP .691 OPS
  • 16 SB in 18 attempts
  • 1.04 HR/9
  • 4.45 K/9
  • 1.13 BB/9

From May through August, I thought the move made a ton of sense. With the amount invested in Joe Mauer, both in years and in dollars, they must force themselves to give him adequate time off. Giving one of the pitchers the backup catcher, in my mind, is a decent way of doing that. When the backup catcher is as good as Drew Butera is, it doesn’t hurt. I think we can all admit now, even if you couldn’t earlier in the year, that Butera does a tremendous job behind the plate. I know some may disagree, but the idea of having Joe Mauer catch every day is just not smart. I think everyone understands that.

However, now we are in mid-September. The Twins play three games in Chicago with a chance to dash the hopes of the White Sox. Carl Pavano is scheduled to start on Thursday night. Who will catch him? Will it be Drew Butera again, or will Joe Mauer get to catch the Twins righty? Is Pavano slightly better when Butera catches him? That argument could be made. But is that slight difference worth the offense lost by having Butera catching and batting ninth in the lineup, or Thome DHing and batting in the middle of the order?

I am of the belief that if (WHEN!) the Twins make the playoffs, Joe Mauer will be behind the plate, catching Pavano and the rest of the Twins starters. I would be completely shocked if Butera caught in the playoffs, and I think we all know that he won’t.

So the biggest question is… How important is it for Mauer and Pavano to work together in a game situation before the playoffs? I’m of the belief that it isn’t as important as many want to think. Mauer caught Pavano a lot earlier in the season. He caught Pavano last year when he came to the team in August. Before each series, all the pitchers and catchers meet together to discuss the plan of attack on the opponent’s hitters. Mauer and Pavano are both in the meeting and hearing the same information. I have zero concern about Mauer and Pavano working together. Would it be nice for them to get a couple of starts together before the playoffs? Sure. Is it vital? Not necessarily.

So, what happens on Thursday night? Maybe it depends upon what happens in the first two games or maybe now is the time to make the transition. The Twins have a little leeway here. Having Mauer healthy is much more important in my mind than having him play every day and catching Pavano during the regular season.

That speaks to several things. The Twins are just 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League (1.5 games behind Tampa). The Yankees and Rays play to each other seven times this year yet. The Yankees play six more games against the Red Sox. It is fully within the realm of possibility that the Twins could have the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Twins are playing great at Target Field. They are 48-23 at home and 37-36 on the road. That means something in the playoffs. The Twins should absolutely push to achieve the top record in the league, but I also believe that having players go into the playoffs at 100% is also important. That means that the team should give Joe Mauer a few more days. It means that JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson should get time off to get healthy. It means Jim Thome should rest his back. It means that it would be nice to give Michael Cuddyer a day off sometime. My opinion is that the Twins can compete with anyone in the league when they have their full complement of players healthy. I think that is just as important as gaining home field advantage. I believe players need the time off. That doesn’t in any way mean that they should not try to win games, and regardless of who is in the lineup, they should expect to win. If Ben Revere gives Denard Span or Delmon Young a day off, I expect that he will contribute. If Matt Tolbert gets another start or two at 3B, that is fine, and he can contribute. It is a fine line, no doubt, between going for the league’s top record and making sure players are healthy. I tend to side with health.  

But that’s just my opinion… what do you think? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

By the way… last night, I co-hosted Fanatic Jack’s Twins podcast, so be sure to listen to that here. Darren “Doogie” Wolfson and Andrew Bryz-Gornia were guests of the show.

Minor Updates

9 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

First things first… happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, especially my mom.

On Saturday, the Twins and Orioles played a day-night double header. I’m sure most of you watched both games, so I won’t dive into the big league game too much. In Game 1, Francisco Liriano struggled and yet, he didn’t give up many hard-hit balls. Most of the hits off of them were just out of someone’s reach or blooped beyond the reach of a fielder. One even hit third base and bounced away from Nick Punto. Liriano’s numbers didn’t look great, but he probably pitched better than the numbers say. Scott Baker’s numbers for game 2 look great, and they were that great. In fact, he made just one mistake, and Luke Scott hit the ball a long way. But other than that, Scott Baker was terrific.

  • It was a positive to see Joe Mauer get an at bat as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th in the night game. With a three run lead already, the move was quite risky to have him pinch hit for Alexi Casilla. The fact that Mauer hit tells me that they must have felt comfortable with him running as well. I guess they could have had a pitcher pinch-run for him.
  • How cool was it that Joe Mauer came up with the bases loaded and one out, and he struck out. Then came Drew Butera to the plate, and he came through with a two run single. That’s what I love about baseball. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. And, that’s why I generally don’t get too upset with most individual situational decisions.
  • After a groundout in Game 1, Wilson Ramos was 1-13 since starting out with seven hits in his first nine at bats. 1-13 was the batting average of Butera on the season. That said, which watching today, it became clear that the defense of Drew Butera really is much better than Wilson Ramos. Ramos has a strong arm, but Butera is much better at keeping baseballs in front of him. Butera calls a better game. These are not meant as knocks to Ramos who I think will be better than average as a defensive catcher, just that right now, Butera is better.
  • On Sunday afternoon, the Twins will face my choice for AL Rookie of the Year, Brian Matusz.

 

SethSpeaks Friday Minor League Hitter of the Day – James Beresford – Beloit Snappers

SethSpeaks Friday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Tyler Robertson – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Steve Singleton – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Deolis Guerra – New Britain Rockcats

 Red Wings Report   

Friday – Rochester 3, Louisville 16 Yoslan Herrera was the veteran starter who got the nod in this game. He gave up five runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out one in just two innings. Tim Lahey came in and gave up four runs (3 earned) on two hits and two walks in just one inning. Jose Mijares made his first rehab appearance and he gave up three runs on four hits (1 home run) in just one inning. Jose Lugo gave up four runs on three hits and three walks in 1.1 innings. Rob Delaney gave up just one hit and got five outs. Anthony Slama pitched a perfect inning, with one strikeout. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4 with his sixth double. Dustin Martin went 2-4.

Saturday – Rochester 5, Louisville 16 Charlie Zink was brought in to be a veteran, able to pitch a lot of innings because of his knuckleball. Well, he has been really horrific. He has zero control of his knuckleball and the walks have piled up. Because of that, he has not been able to pitch many innings. In this game, he gave up ten runs on five hits and seven walks in just two innings. For the second straight day, Tim Lahey came in early, and for the second straight day, didn’t help at all. He gave up six runs (5 earned) on eight hits in just two innings. Kyle Waldrop went two shutout innings. Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama had to pitch in unfortunate situations for the second straight game, but pitched scoreless innings. Matt Tolbert was 2-4 with his sixth double. Danny Valencia was 1-3 with a walk, his ninth double and two RBI. Trevor Plouffe added his eighth double.  

New Britain Notes

Friday – New Britain 2, Portland 4Tyler Robertson put together a really nice start. In 6.1 innings, he gave up just one run. He served up seven hits, walked three and struck out five. Santos Arias came in and pitched scoreless innings in the 7th and 8th frames, but then he gave up three runs in the ninth to blow the save and suffer his fifth loss. Chris Province came in and got the final out. Ben Revere went 2-4 with his third double and two stolen bases. Steve Singleton went 2-4. Danny Rams caught and hit fifth. He went 1-4 with a double.

Saturday – New Britain 3, Portland 4 – Welcome to New Britain, Matt Williams. The Australian relief pitcher was promoted from Ft. Myers to replace Steve Hirschfeld who was put back on the disabled list. But let’s start with the good news. Deolis Guerra made the start and had another great start. In 6.1 innings, he gave up only an unearned run. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out four. Joe Testa got the next four outs, two of them via the strikeout. Williams came in and gave up three runs (2 earned) on two hits and a walk in 1.1 innings for the loss. Steve Singleton went 3-5. Alexander Soto hit his second double.

Miracle Matters

Friday – Ft. Myers 2, St. Lucie 6 – After being named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Year the past two weeks and throwing a no-hitter in his last start for Beloit, Dan Osterbrock made his first Florida State League start on Friday night. The lefty gave up five runs, but just two of them were earned. He allowed six hits. He walked none and struck out six. Michael Allen gave up one run on four hits and a walk in the final three innings. Yangervis Solarte went 4-4 and ended the game with a .341 batting average.

Saturday – Ft. Myers 2, St. Lucie 3 – Bruce Pugh had another good start for the Miracle. He gave up two runs on three hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out nine. Blake Martin gave up a run on two hits in two innings. Billy Bullock struck out two in two scoreless innings of relief. The Miracle bats managed just three hits in this game. Nate Hanson drove in two runs with his second home run of the season.  

Snappers Snippets

Friday – Beloit 4, Burlington 9James Beresford seems to have turned around his slow start. In this game, he went 4-4 with his third double. Anderson Hidalgo matched Beresford’s total bases by going 3-5 with two doubles. So did Steve Liddle, who was 2-5 with his fourth home run. Brian Dozier was 2-4 with a walk while Aaron Hicks went 2-5. The Snappers bats showed up, but it wasn’t enough. Miguel Munoz gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings. He struck out six. Matt Tone went the next 1.2 innings. He gave up three runs on five hits. Dakota Watts worked one inning. He walked three but struck out two in a scoreless inning. Steve Blevins went the final two innings. He gave up a run on two hits and a walk.             

Saturday – Beloit 5, Burlington 1Brad Stillings had by far his best start of the year to record his first win. He gave up just one run on seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Kane Holbrooks came in and gave up just two hits in three shutout innings. He struck out five. Tobias Streich went 2-4 with his fourth double and two RBI. James Beresford went 2-4 with his fourth double and two RBI.  

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

My Bad

23 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The Twins lost on Thursday afternoon and fell to 11-5 on the season. Some Twins fans were upset or disappointed by the fact that they dare to lose to the Cleveland Indians. Forget that Mitch Talbot is a good pitcher who happened to throw a complete game in his previous start. Forget that the lineup still contains guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo, or that they have accumulated a ton of talent in the last couple of years via some trades.

Some Twins fans are always looking for someone to blame. Scott Baker must not have pitched well because Drew Butera was behind the plate instead of Mauer. Alexi Casilla, who made a couple of tremendous defensive plays at shortstop, must be blamed as well. Nine times in the game, a Twins batter dared to make the third out of an inning, not coming through with two outs.

Maybe it is Gardy’s fault for starting the “B” lineup in a day game after a night game? I mean, Butera only did a nice job behind the plate and recorded his first Major League hit. Delmon Young got a day off so that Jim Thome could get on the field. Blame Gardy.

Sorry Twins fans, sometimes it isn’t that deep. Sometimes, over the course of a 162 game season, a team will just have a bad day. It’s that simple. Do they want to? No. When Gardy penciled in seven regulars into the lineup, do you think he expected the team to not play well or that he wanted to lose?

How simple is the blame game in this case? Very simple… Blame Seth!

Blame Seth? Yes. Blame me. I went to the game yesterday, and because of it, the Twins lost. Hear me out. I went to the first game at Target Field, and the Minnesota Gophers lost 9-1 to Louisiana Tech. I went to the Twins first exhibition game at Target Field, and they lost big to the Cardinals. This was my first Twins regular season game, and they lost 8-1. They have not even come close to winning at game that I have been at. So don’t blame Gardy. Don’t blame Butera, or Casilla, or Punto. Blame me!

So, what should I do? How do I remedy this unfortunate situation? Do I just not go to any more Twins games at Target Field? That’s almost what the baseball superstitious side of me thinks. Or do I go the other way and just keep going, assuming that’s the only way to break the curse? What to do? What to do?!

By the way, I learned a few things at the game yesterday.

  1. At outdoor baseball games, wear a hat. The sun actually shines into the stadium, and when you are not in the shade, it can be quite warm. That warmth can create burning on the top of one’s head, especially if one is lacking in the hair department on the top of one’s head.
  2. In Minnesota, do not dress of a baseball game according to the morning temperatures. It was about 40 degrees in the Twin Cities around 7:30 on Thursday morning. I wore a sweater to work. That made sense. Wearing a sweater to a baseball game outdoors, in 65 degree (or potentially warmer) temperatures creates extra warmth because the sun’s rays find the sweater and make it rather warm.
  3. Mass Transit is a good thing. Thursday was Earth Day. Twins Cities mass transportation (light rail, buses, etc) and the Twins worked out a deal for free transportation to and from the game with a ticket. I took the light rail to the game from the 28th Avenue station. It was already full when we got on. It was crammed for most of the entire trip. I almost felt bad for people who were relying on the train to get to work. Then, following the game, the light rail line is incredibly long. However, they had buses available to take people to the Fort Snelling, Mall of America and 28th Avenue stops. At least on the bus, it wasn’t crammed.
  4. If you get to a Twins game, be sure to buy a Twins Yearbook. First of all, the cool thing about a yearbook are the incredible pictures of the players and the minor leaguers that were in camp. Also, TwinsCentric teamed with the Twins to provide a bunch of the written content. There is one page dedicated to every Twins team from 1961 through 2009, and we wrote those. We wrote the Minor League Primer, and each of us wrote an additional story or two. It turned out great.
  5. I did go against my better judgment and got the nachos grande again. I don’t think I was on TV this time!!
  6. If you do get to the stadium on the bus, and you’re early, walk around the facility to Target Plaza. I did not notice the great Topps Baseball Card wall/wind barrier on that side of the building. It is really cool. The Kirby Puckett statue is very cool. It’s just cool being there, so if you’re able, get there early.
  7. I’m also one who likes going in to the stadium right when the gates open. At Target Field, I think that’s even more important this year. It’s just such a great place to walk around.

Please feel free to leave your comments here.

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Aaron Hicks – Beloit Snappers

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Deolis Guerra – New Britain Rockcats

Red Wings Report   

Thursday – Rochester 3, Buffalo 12 – It was a get-away day for the Red Wings and it didn’t go so well. Yoslan Herrera got the start and gave up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits in five innings. He walked none and struck out six. Jose Lugo came in and struggled. He recorded just two outs (both via strikeout) and gave up five runs on five hits and two walks. Rob Delaney came in and gave up three runs on two hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. Anthony Slama pitched a scoreless inning. Kyle Waldrop was charged with an unearned run in his inning. Jason Repko, Brian Dinkelman and Erik Lis each went 2-4. Luke Hughes and Dustin Martin each doubled.

New Britain Notes

Thursday – New Britain 2, Harrisburg 1 – It has been a struggle at the get-go for Juan Portes, but at least this night ended positively for the Twins prospect. He was 2-4 with the game-winning RBI single in the 9th. Ben Revere went 3-4 with a double. Yes, an extra base hit. Deolis Guerra was the story though. The 21 year old right-hander gave up one run on five hits in seven innings. He walked none and struck out six. He is yet to walk a batter this season, in three starts. Spencer Steedley came in and got the next five outs, two came on strikeouts. Chris Province came in and got an out on one pitch, and after Portes’s walk-off single, Province got his first Win of the year.  

Miracle Matters

Thursday – Ft. Myers 6, Bradenton 3 – Brad Tippett continues to pitch well, but the team is clearly being patient in his return from some tendonitis. He gave up one unearned run on two hits in four innings. He uncharacteristically walked three, but he also struck out four. Matt Williams went the next 3.1 innings. He gave up one run on four hits and a walk while striking out three. Blake Martin then gave up one run on three hits in 1.2 innings. Evan Bigley had doubles in his first two at bats to give him five this season. Chris Herrmann went 2-5 with his third double of the year.  

Snappers Snippets

Thursday – Beloit 6, Quad Cities 3 – Aaron Hicks’ hot streak continues and Tom Stuifbergen continues to pitch well. Stuifbergen improved to 2-0 with six strong innings. He gave up three runs on six hits and two walks. He got ten ground balls to just three fly outs. Matt Tone threw 1.2 scoreless innings despite three hits. Dakota Watts recorded his first save. He walked two and struck out three in 1.1 innings. Aaron Hicks went 3-3 with a walk and his second double. Angel Morales was 2-4 with two stolen bases. Brian Dozier was 2-4. Danny Rams was 1-4 with three strikeouts, but he also hit his seventh double.  

Any thoughts on the Twins or their minor league system? Leave your comments here.