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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.

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Plouffe, Revere Promoted

4 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Following last night’s game, the Twins surprised no one by calling up Trevor Plouffe. They put Jim Thome on the Disabled List with the oblique injury.

They also mentioned that Jason Repko would be put on the Disabled List with his quad injury. They didn’t announce a corresponding move, but via Twitter, Red Wings catcher Rene Rivera commented, “Congrats to my roommate @BenRevere9 he going to the big leagues good luck my friend.”

I learned that Ray Chang was being promoted from New Britain up to Rochester as well.

Following a game on April 26th in which he went 0-3, Revere was hitting .194. He went 9-11 over next three games, and in the six games since that 0-3, he is 14-25 (.560), and he is now hitting .293 (I won’t mention the .330 OBP and .315 SLG, or the .645 OPS). It will be interesting to see what happens in the Twins outfield. I assume that if Revere is up, he will play. Could Rene Tosoni move to the bench? And if Delmon Young is back on Friday, who will be sent back to Rochester? I assume Tosoni which would make Revere the fourth outfielder until Jim Thome comes back. Or, does this tell us that Young may not be back as soon as we had hoped?

As for Plouffe, we have been clamoring for him to be called up for some time now. He had a bad spring training, with a bunch of errors. He was sent back to minor league camp early. He has played good defense for the Red Wings. He started the season on fire, particularly with extra base hits. On the season, he is hitting .282/.344/.590 (.934 OPS) with four doubles, a triple and six home runs. However, in his last nine games, he is 7-34 (.206). He went 4-5 with a double and a home run on Sunday. Take that one game out, and he has 3 hits in his last 29 at bats. However, getting Plouffe to the big leagues should help the Twins.

Alexi Casilla was already moved over to 2B last night. Plouffe has played 2B eight of the 21 games he has played at Rochester. Michael Cuddyer, Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert can all play 2B. So, right now, the Twins have three options at SS, five options at 2B, and several options at 3B .With Revere and Tosoni still both in the big leagues, there is now enough outfield depth.

Ray Chang was promoted from New Britain to Rochester. The infielder was hitting .270/.320/.404 with nine doubles, a home run and 22 RBI so far this season. It is again inexplicable to me why it wasn’t Steve Singleton promoted, but it is possible that an infielder could be sent down when Young comes off the Disabled List. That’s all I can think of. I have to assume that an outfielder will be promoted from New Britain to Rochester, although that isn’t absolutely necessary as the Red Wings still have Jeff Bailey, Brandon Roberts, Dustin Martin and Brian Dinkelman who can play in the outfield.

What affect do you think that Plouffe will have on the Twins? I know he struggled in the big leagues last year when he was promoted to the Twins four times. He struckout quite a bit. He also hit two home runs. Hitting in the bottom of the order, he could be alright with the bat, but the bigger concern is what he can do with the glove. I will say this. It would be hard to believe that he could be worse than Casilla was. What affect will playing 2B have on Casilla, and what do you think the playing time will be at SS, 2B and in the OF? I assume that when he plays, Revere will bat second which should strengthen that spot in the lineup. He can bunt and run, which should be exciting. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

More Arbitration Decisions

2 Dec

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

The Twins have a lot of decisions to make the 11:00 tonight. They have to determine if they will offer arbitration to the players that have more than three years of service time and less than six years of Major League service time. Although JJ Hardy is the name most mentioned, the Twins have to make decisions on ten other players. So although I think few of the decisions are difficult, here are some thoughts on each.

  • JJ Hardy – I think it would be absolutely crazy to non-tender Hardy. Although there has been some movement in the shortstop market, Hardy would still fit the needs of several teams for 2011. He’s young, terrific with the glove and when healthy, adequate with the bat, at least at the bottom of an order. Even if they have no intention to keep him in 2011, they should tender a contract and then trade him. My preferred Opening Day lineup would include Hardy at SS and Nishioka at 2B with Casilla as the primary utility infielder. If Hardy is gone and either Casilla or Nishioka struggles, it’s Trevor Plouffe time. I’m a big Plouffe backer, but I wonder how many Twins fans would be. Decision – Easy. Tender him a contract, and go from there.
  • Matt Capps – There should be more discussion about Capps, but there isn’t. Bill Smith has said that the team will bring back the right-hander. He is an interesting case. Although he was non-tendered after the 2009 season and signed with the Nationals for $3.5 million, he has some terrific save numbers the last two years. Saves equal dollars. So, will he jump up to $6 million in 2011, or could he jump up to $8 million? Capps is a very solid reliever. He does provide insurance if Joe Nathan is not ready to go early in the season (and odds are that he won’t be). But compare what Capps is to what Jon Rauch is, and tell me why the Twins should give Capps that kind of money. I understand that the team needs to keep Capps, in part, because they gave up Wilson Ramos to get him. But at what cost? However, with the Twins bullpen potentially decimated with the loss of so many free agents and an acknowledgement that the team will not turn the bullpen over to its talented/inexperienced minor leaguers, bringing back Capps is a no-brainer. I’d just prefer Crain for the money.
  • Francisco Liriano – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
  • Delmon Young – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
  • Alexi Casilla – Whether or not people have confidence that he can be a quality everyday player at SS or 2B, Casilla showed in 2010 that he can play both positions defensively, he can fill in for an extended time period, and he can put together decent at bats. This is another no-brainer since he could be a starting option and he is certainly a top utility option. He also won’t cost very much.
  • Kevin Slowey – There is no question that Slowey has terrific talent. The main problem the last two years has been staying healthy. In 2009, he missed time with a wrist injury that carried into 2010. He also was having problems in the back of his arm. When you look at his numbers, and no, I’m not talking about his terrific W-L record, he has performed as a middle-of-the-rotation type. It’s hard to complain with an ERA in the low-4s from a guy who was the team’s 4th or 5th starter much of the year. The problem last year was his inability to work consistently into the 6th inning, much less the 7th or 8th innings. It’s an easy choice to tender Slowey a contract. It will likely be about $2 to $2.5 million.
  • Pat Neshek – This could be an interesting decision. As much as it would be a no-brainer for me to tender Neshek a contract, I don’t know which direction the Twins will lean. I tend to look back at 2006 and 2007 and think about just how dominant he was. Since then, he hurt his elbow in May of 2008, and instead of having Tommy John surgery right away, the Twins decided that rest and rehab might be a proper plan. In November, Neshek had Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2009, and came back in Spring Training. He pitched well enough that he earned a spot on the Twins Opening Day roster. Neshek hurt his hand early in the season and after a DL stint, he was optioned to Rochester where he stayed until September. Like Liriano, I would expect that Neshek will be significantly improved in 2011, his second full season back from Tommy John surgery. For less than $750K, I’d be willing to take that chance.
  • Glen Perkins – This is another interesting decision. Perkins showed signs a couple of years ago, that he could be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter. The left-hander has fought injuries and dog house time the last couple of seasons. Last year was a really tough year for Perkins down in Rochester until about three weeks before the Twins called him up. If tendered, Perkins could compete for a long-relief job. My fear would be that he would also be competing for a left-handed reliever job, and he can’t get left-handed hitters out. Again, we are talking about a 2011 contract that would be around $750,000, and the Twins need arms in the bullpen. The tough part is that he is out of options, so if he doesn’t earn the job out of spring training, he could be lost for nothing or would make the team because he has to. This one is 50/50 for me, but again, I probably would tender a contract and hope.
  • Jason Repko – The Twins signed Repko a day or two before the AAA season started and he played terrific for the Red Wings. Offensively, he was their best hitter, and he was terrific with the glove. The Twins called him up to be a fourth outfielder and he played well early, even hit a couple of home runs. Can’t hit much, but his defense in the Twins outfield was tremendous. I think they tender him a contract, and guarantee him about $650,000.
  • Clay Condrey – Condrey was kind of the forgotten member of the Twins roster. The team signed him last offseason for just $900,000 after the Phillies decided to non-tender him. He had pitched well out of the Phillies bullpen during their run from 2006-2009, but as a non-strikeout pitcher, they didn’t want to give him the $2+ million he may have received in arbitration last year. He came to Twins spring training and struggled. The groundball pitcher was giving up doubles and home runs. Something wasn’t right, and he was shut down with a shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. The assumption by many is that he won’t be back. I don’t know that that is true or fair. People can call the signing a bad one because the results were a season missed with injury. However, it doesn’t take away from what Condrey is. He is a veteran with big league bullpen experience, including in the playoffs and World Series. He is a ground ball pitcher. He is the type of pitcher that the Twins should sign. And in 2011, they may be able to get him to agree to a $750,000 contract. If they think  they can, they should tender him a contract. If not, they can cut ties.

 So there you have it, a couple of thoughts on the players that the Twins have to tender contracts to by 11:00 tonight or lose. I’d be interested in your input, so please feel free to discuss (nicely) in the Comments section. By the way, in the last couple of days, I’ve been talking about the Twins on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, on The Dan Hammer Show yesterday on The Fan 740 in Fargo, and last night The Twins Geek and I joined the Fanatic Jack Twins Podcast. Be sure to listen to those if you haven’t already.

PODCAST ANNOUNCEMENT – In my podcast on Tuesday night, I announced that I am going to host special SethSpeaks.net Twins/Winter Meetings podcasts each night from Sunday night through Thursday night. Be sure to check daily for the show’s times (likely 10:00 central time). The shows will be a half-hour in length, and I will be joined by a guest each night to talk about the day’s signings, Twins rumors, AL Central rumors, trades and anything Twins fans want to discuss. We will definitely want your feedback and questions in the chat room for those shows. I am lining up guests, but at this point, Aaron Gleeman and Phil Mackey have confirmed that they will be on one of the nights each. Mackey will be in Orlando, at the Winter Meetings. It should be fun.

Quick Twins Post

24 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you my interview with Paul Allen this morning at 9:20 on KFAN listen to the podcast (Fan on Demand) now.

The Twins were swept by the Brewers. That’s never a good thing. Yovani Gallardo is really good. How come Ubaldo, Halladay and Gallardo have been the Twins Get-Away opponent’s pitcher the last three series?

Cliff Lee rumors persist. If you believe The Bleacher Report, the Twins and Mariners nearly had a deal in place that would have sent Wilson Ramos, Brian Duensing and a ‘low-level outfielder’ to Seattle. However, when Ramos was injured last week, the deal was put off or delayed. I’m not buying that a deal was imminent. I do believe that they have talked, and I actually believe that the Twins will land the talented lefty in a few more weeks.  

Following today’s game, the Twins announced that Brendan Harris had been outrighted to AAA Rochester. Outrighted means that he was placed on waivers and no one claimed him Jason Repko, the centerfielder who signed with the Twins just days before the season started, was called up. Repko has been Rochester’s best player this year. He’s  good defensively. I’m told that his defense in CF is comparable to that of Jason Pridie, which says a lot. He’s been up in the big leagues various times over the last four years with the Dodgers, so he is no stranger to the big leagues. What is scary is that the Twins now have an extra outfielder. Does that mean more Michael Cuddyer at 3B? Yikes!

Finally, I wrote a blog entry for Minor League Ball and sent it to the great John Sickels to post as he has time. Keep checking back there to see if it is there.

Sorry about the brevity, but I am heading out of town now and don’t know when I’ll post next. Any thoughts on the Twins, minor leaguers, the Brendan Harris decision (which makes the D’Angelo Jimenez signing confusing), or anything else? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

Plouffe Promoted

20 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

REMINDER – The SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast will be at 9:00 on Sunday night. Guests are still a work in progress, but there will be a show with lots of Twins talk, minor league talk and much more.

Well, it was only about ten days too late, but Trevor Plouffe was finally promoted to the Twins following Thursday night’s Twins and Red Wings game. He had been held of out the Red Wings lineup on Thursday. Unfortunately, his promotion comes at the expense of Jeff Manship who was sent back to Rochester. From the Red Wings site:

The Minnesota Twins announced after tonight’s game that they will recall infielder Trevor Plouffe from Triple-A Rochester in time for Friday night’s game vs. the Milwaukee Brewers at Target Field. In 38 games with the Red Wings this season, Plouffe batted .303 (46-for-152) with 11 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 21 rbi. He was drafted by the Twins in the first round (20th overall) of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Plouffe’s first game action will be his Major League debut and he will wear uniform number 24. To make room for Plouffe on the 25-man roster, the Twins have optioned right-handed pitcher Jeff Manship to Triple-A Rochester…

I told Plouffe at Twins Fest that next year, I will pay for his autograph, and now, I will have to do just that. Trevor is a terrific guy with great charisma and he has put it all together this year. He will turn 24 years old in June. One of the Twins first-round picks in 2004, Plouffe has slowly worked his way up the Twins farm system. He was promoted to the Red Wings in the second half of 2008 and spent all of 2009 there as well. When the Twins signed JJ Hardy this offseason, Plouffe used it as motivation and is putting together a great year.

Following the 2009 season, Plouffe participated in the World Cup for Team USA. He was their shortstop and second hitter and a team leader. He helped the team, along with guys like Ike Davis, Justin Smoak and Terry Tiffee, win the gold medal.

So, although it is unfortunate that Jeff Manship is returning to Rochester (instead of say, Jose Mijares, or… maybe a DFA of Jesse Crain?), I am thrilled for Trevor Plouffe.

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Thursday night in the Twins minor league system:

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jason Repko – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – BJ Hermsen – Beloit Snappers 

  • Be sure to check out Josh’s Thoughts for his Minor League News and Notes.
  • Speaking of Josh Johnson, he and I are heading to Beloit, Wisconsin, on Friday to watch the Snappers play Cedar Rapids on Friday and Saturday. We should see Edgar Ibarra and Michael Tonkin in the mound. Hopefully we will see Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales both games. I am not certain if I will be posting blog entries over the weekend, but I am sure that I will be tweeting away. Follow me at www.twitter.com/sethtweets.

Red Wings Report   

Thursday – Rochester 3, Syracuse 4 Tyler Robertson was promoted to Rochester, likely just for this one start in place of Manship. The young lefty did alright. In five innings, he gave up three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out six. Tim Lahey came in and threw two shutout innings. Cole DeVries then gave up an unearned run on three hits in two innings. He struck out three. Jason Repko was most of the offense. He went 4-5 with his fourth homer and three RBI. Jacque Jones went 2-4. Matt Tolbert and Brock Peterson each had doubles.  

New Britain Notes

Thursday – New Britain 6, Portland 2Kyle Gibson appears to be fairly good at pitching. . I think that is fairly safe to say. On this night, the 2009 top pick gave up two runs on four hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out six. He had 13 ground balls with two fly outs, continuing his ground ball inducing ways. Michael Allen reduced his AA ERA to just 1.23 with another scoreless inning. Loek Van Mil gave up two hits in a scoreless inning. Erik Lis went 3-5 with his first New Britain homer. Ben Revere went 2-3 with two walks. He stole his 12th and 13th bases. Rene Tosoni went 2-5 with his seventh double. Juan Portes went 2-5 with a triple.   

Miracle Matters

Thursday – Ft. Myers 5, Daytona 7 – Blake Martin made another start, and it didn’t go well. In 3.2 innings, he gave up seven runs on seven hits (two home runs). He walked two and struck out three. Tony Davis went 2.1 scoreless. Billy Bullock struck out two in his inning. Steve Blevins struck out three in two shutout innings. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-5. Joe Benson went 2-5 with his first Miracle home run (6th of the year). Ramon Santana hit his eighth double and first triple. Chris Parmelee went 0-2, but he walked three times.

Snappers Snippets

Thursday – Beloit 3, Kane County 2 – The Snappers didn’t get much offense generated, but it was still enough for BJ Hermsen. The Twins young pitcher was tremendous in his second Midwest League start. In seven shutout innings, he gave up three hits and no walks. He struck out three for the Win. He is now 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. Jhon Garcia gave up two runs (1 earned) in 1.1 innings, his first since joining the Snappers. Kane Holbrooks recorded his fifth save by getting the final two outs via strikeout. The Snappers managed just four hits. Angel Morales had a two run single. He also stole his 12th and 13th bases of the year.

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment here.

See. Wuh. Ha. Happened.

29 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before jumping into today’s blog entry, I wanted to mention that I will be on KFAN (and KFAN.com) with Paul Allen again today during the 11:00 hour. Be sure to tune in, listen live or podcast it after the fact.

So, the Twins scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run homer by Jim Thome. Then Luke Hughes hit a home run in the top of the 3rd inning, in his very first at bat. Then they scored three more runs. It was 6-1. It was the fourth inning. But then Scott Baker was the definition of non-clutch in the bottom of the fourth, giving up four runs which cut the lead to 6-5. A double into the bottom of the 5th inning and Baker was gone. Alex Burnett came in and did very well to get out of that mess. Then came the sixth. Burnett gave up a base runner, so he was taken out of the game. Ron Mahay came in to face Johnny Damon and got him to fly out on a great catch by Denard Span, who seemingly outran the ball to the left center field gap. After the catch, Span took two or three steps, spun to throw and the ball fell from his glove. The umpire inexplicably calls it a drop. Ron Gardenhire captured his first ejection of the year, and rightfully so. Pat Neshek came in with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out. He walked Magglio Ordonez before hitting Miguel Cabrera in the arm to allow a run. Then Jesse Crain came in and two swings of the bat later, the game was over, for all intents and purposes. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • If you read many Twins fans on Twitter, you might think that this is the worst 14-7 team in baseball history!
  • Did you know? That it is a 162 game season, and that each team will lose from time to time. In fact, the Twins may, at some point, maybe as early as today, lose (gasp) two games in a row.  Sorry, but a little bit of perspective is needed here. Every team will lose 60 games. Every team will win 60 games. Of those 60+ losses, some of them won’t be pretty or fun-filled losses. Games like this happen. That said…
  • At the end of the year, Scott Baker is going to have some very good numbers. I think my projections had him winning about 16 games, and finishing with an ERA in the upper threes. However, I have always agreed that the moniker “Big Spot Scott” has never been earned. In big games, you can count on him not being very good. Most of the time his calm demeanor is beneficial, but there is a difference between calm and cool, and calm and shaking on the inside. This was anything but a big game, but with a 6-1 lead, it would be nice to see just a little toughness. Again, he has never claimed to be an ace. He signed the long-term, very fair contract a year ago, and the dollars were very fair for a young #3 pitcher with #2, Brad Radke like upside. Personally, I think that he can be a better pitcher than Radke. But the point doesn’t change, Baker is not a big game pitcher.
  • Jim Thome needs to play more. I think we all agree with that. But Jason Kubel needs to play most every day. Delmon Young needs to play most every day. Michael Cuddyer needs to play every day. This is a great problem to have, but it is tough and will create plenty of second guessing, no matter which player does not start.
  • I have been Jesse Crain’s biggest supporter. I always say, he has a fastball at 96 (which actually moved at times earlier in the season), slider at 88 and that slow curve at 76. I definitely thought it was the right decision to give Crain another year. I much prefer working with the guys you’ve got with upside, than sign free agents. Crain was rocked when he came in with the bases loaded. I don’t blame the manager for bringing him in with the bases loaded in the 6th. I mean, Pat Neshek had come in and walked a guy and hit another guy. I would bet that he would not call it his best performance and probably would have taken himself out. He was fooling nobody. It is also important to note that he also pitched the 7th and 8th innings, when he could start the inning himself, and he was dominant. That said, another few weeks of this from Crain, and even I will be supporting the need for a Change of Scenery for Crain. He is out of options, so he can’t be sent to Rochester. Plenty of teams would claim him, and he would be lost. At that stage, I probably will be able to be convinced that that would be just fine. I would like to see him go to Colorado or somewhere in the NL because I still believe that he can be very good. The other side of this discussion remains… Anthony Slama is more than ready and has earned the opportunity.
    • Some may call out the Twins front office for signing Crain after offering him arbitration this offseason. I 100% agreed with that decision. Like I said, I am getting to the point where I am going to fully admit that I was wrong, and should they decide to let him go, they will be admitting it as well. But it is hard to be too disappointed in the Twins front office. Of course, there are misses, as there are with every team. But I again have to ask the readers here a few questions. Raise your hand if you thought that the Twins should have signed Juan Cruz to that 2 year $8 million deal a year ago. In doing so, they would have given up their 2009 #1 pick which turned out to be Kyle Gibson. I thought the price was fair for Cruz. I was wrong. How many of you wanted the Twins to trade for Freddy Sanchez last July and keep him around for 2010? How would that look right now? How many were disappointed when the Twins didn’t sign Eric Gagne a year ago? My point here isn’t to say that the Twins front office is a bunch of geniuses who never get one wrong. They wouldn’t say that. It’s more to say that if we ran things, we would have hits and misses too. I like admitting when I’m wrong. I prefer to be wrong, like I was wrong on Denard Span a couple of years ago.
  • In his post-game press conference, Ron Gardenhire said that the umpires told him that Denard Span ‘caught the ball’ and when he spun to throw, they didn’t see what happened. They were blocked somehow. Clearly as he was turning to throw and reached into his glove, the ball popped out. It was ruled an error, and manager Ron Gardenhire, after hearing the pathetic excuse, was finally ejected. I rarely agree with Gardy getting ejected, but this one was worth it. But that call is not why the Twins lost. Who knows what would have happened after that play. Maybe there would have been another quick groundout and the game is still 6-5 Twins. But very soon, the Twins were down 11-6.
  • Personally, I thought there was a little bit of over-managing in the 6th inning. Alex Burnett had done well. When Johnny Damon came up, you could understand Gardy going to the lefty, Ron Mahay. However, with Ordonez and Cabrera coming up, you knew another pitching change would be required. It’s easy in hindsight to say that maybe keeping Burnett in would have meant more, but with Burnett, his development is important as well. Would Gardy and Rick Anderson have wanted Burnett pitching to Ordonez and Cabrera anyway? With his stuff, I think I would have taken that chance. But who knows? That wasn’t what caused the loss.
  • It was good to see Jason Kubel get three hits and raise his batting average another .035 to .212. 
  • With Justin Morneau out, Ron Gardenhire’s lineup remained the same with the exception that Jim Thome was slotted into the Number Four spot in the lineup. No real argument with that. However, it does make me wonder about this whole idea of (and I haven’t heard this anywhere, but it may come into play) Michael Cuddyer is comfortable hitting fifth, and Jason Kubel is comfortable batting 6th. I think that it is annoying to think that the bullpen pitchers can feel better pitching in the 8th inning than the 6th or in the 7th instead of the 9th. A reliever’s job is to come into whatever situation, in whatever inning they are called upon and get hitters out. Likewise, if you are batting anywhere from #3 to #8 in a lineup, your job each at bat does not change. In other words, if the #4 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat and ideally drive in the runner from second. Likewise, if a #5 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat, and ideally drive in the runner from 2B. If a #7 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to take a good at bat and preferably drive that runner in from second. In fact, whatever the lineup position, the job of the hitter is to put together a quality at bat, look for a pitch that he can hit hard, and if he doesn’t get strikes, take the walk and get on base. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
  • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
    • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. Yes, I want on-base guys in the #1 and #2 spots, I want the best hitter batting third. Then I want to line up as many good hitters as I can throughout the rest of the lineup. Like I said, I don’t know if Ron Gardenhire made the comment that he prefers to keep Cuddyer in the #5 spot, or anything like that, but I happen to think that Cuddyer could handle hitting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th.
  • I feel that with more activity  and more people in social media, that I have had to utter the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” a lot. It’s amazing to me that people somehow forget that there is a 162 game season, not a one game series or a best two out of three series. The big picture is the 162 game season. I think it is becoming clear that several Twins players need a day off. In my mind, Orlando Hudson is at the top of that list. Watching JJ Hardy run to 2B on a double made it very clear that his knee or quad or calf or something is not right. He may need a day or two off. Giving Justin Morneau these days off may be a blessing in disguise. And yes, Joe Mauer needs to get days off from time to time. The key point being that the results of the 162 game season is far more important than the results of any one game. And, please, that does not minimize the value of every game. The last two seasons, each ending with a Game 163, have proven that.
  • It is hard to believe, but with a 14-7 record, the season is almost 1/8th complete already. It is amazing how quickly it goes.

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Reggie Williams – Beloit Snappers, Jason Repko – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Bruce Pugh – Ft. Myers Miracle

Red Wings Report   

Wednesday – Rochester 5, Lehigh Valley 4 Allan de San Miguel had never caught a knuckleball pitcher. He told me after the game, “I thought it would be a lot harder. I was really happy with how it went.” Charlie Zink made his first start for the Red Wings. He went five innings and gave up two runs on four hits. In strange stat of the night, Zink walked six batters and struck out none. Jose Lugo came in and gave up two runs on two hits in two innings. Rob Delaney came in and gave up two hits, but no runs in two innings. He also struck out four. Jason Repko had a big game. He went 3-4 with a walk, a double and his second home run. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4 with a walk. Danny Valencia hit a game winning double in the 8th inning.

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 3, Richmond 5 – Another day, another blown save and another loss for the Rockcats. Santos Arias entered the game in the 8th inning with a one run lead. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but gave up three runs in the ninth for the loss, his fourth. Cole DeVries made his first start of the season. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in just four innings. He struck out three. Spencer Steedley came in and continued to pitch great. He threw three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and walking one. The Rockcats again managed just five hits in the game. Joe Benson was 1-3 with a walk and his third double. Estarlin de Los Santos had a two run double.

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 0, Jupiter 3 – Bruce Pugh has incredible potential. He throws 94 and is working on other pitches. Tonight, his stuff really came together. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked one and struck out 12 opponent batters. Tony Davis came in and pitched a perfect eighth inning. Billy Bullock came in for the ninth inning and recorded his third save. He gave up no runs on one hit and struck out two. The Miracle bats again managed just five hits. Drew Thompson was 1-3 with a walk and a double. Deibinson Romero and Evan Bigley were each 1-3 with a walk.    

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 11, Burlington 1Tom Stuifbergen continues to impress. The Dutch right-hander gave up one run on five hits. He walked three (high for him) and struck out five. Kane Holbrooks and Dakota Watts each pitched a scoreless inning. Reggie Williams had a big game. He went 3-4 with a home run and a stolen base. The incredible streak of Aaron Hicks continued. He was 2-4 with a walk, his third home run, four runs scored and his fifth stolen base. James Beresford was 2-3 with a walk and his third stolen base. Steve Liddle hit his third homer.  

Do you have any thoughts on the 14-7 Minnesota Twins, or their minor league system? Leave your comments here.

2010 Rochester Red Wings Preview

7 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The 2010 Twins minor league roster previews are brought to you by the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. Get your copy here!

Second, I will be on KFAN at 10:30 central time with Paul Allen. If you can get it on the radio, great. If not, head over to KFAN.com and listen live.

And, by the way, if you’re able to, be sure to join me and the rest of TwinsCentric at Majors Sports Café in Blaine on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until the end of the Twins/White Sox game. Drink and appetizer specials. Lots of prizes to give away. Lots of talk with Twins fans. It’d be fun to meet you!

On Thursday night, Anthony Swarzak will take the mound for the Rochester Red Wings against Boof Bonser and Pawtucket. Tom Nieto will be the Red Wings manager in 2010 after leading the New Britain Rockcats a year ago. Floyd Rayford will be the hitting coach while Bobby Cuellar is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Red Wings roster to start the 2010 season (note – prospect ranking for my choices for Top 30 Twins prospects as updated in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook):

The Starting Pitchers

Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship (16), Glen Perkins, Mike Maroth, Yoslan Herrera.

As far as upside, I think most would agree that Glen Perkins could be the most talented pitcher in this group. Does that mean he’s the best pitcher? Probably not. Manship and Swarzak both profile as back of the rotation starters. Both showed in 2009, in short stints with the Twins, that they are capable big league pitchers, but they also both showed that they have more to learn. Having talked with Manship several times, I know that he’ll take a lot from what he learned at the big league level and incorporate it into his game. I like to assume the same for Swarzak. Mike Maroth is a veteran. He was the last 20 game loser in the big leagues. I had so much respect for him during his Tigers days for being strong enough mentally to keep pitching, and he wasn’t as bad as that win-loss record indicated. Of course, a couple of years later, he was that bad and out of baseball. This spring, he was given a chance by the Twins and had a solid camp, so he can be a veteran in the AAA rotation. Herrera signed a four year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates after defecting from Cuba. Those four years are up. He became a free agent and signed with the Twins. At 28, he’s not a prospect, but he has been solid enough in the minor leagues that this is a worthy risk to take. I also believe that Matt Fox and Ryan Mullins will each get an opportunity to start at some point during the season.

The Bullpen Arms

Anthony Slama (23), Rob Delaney, Jose Lugo, Kyle Waldrop, Tim Lahey, Matt Fox, Ryan Mullins, Ron Mahay.

The back-end of the Twins bullpen is incredibly talented and should be a strength of this roster. Anthony Slama has done nothing but dominate since signing in early 2007. Rob Delaney has been just about as good, although he struggled more in his time in AAA than did Slama. Jose Lugo is pretty similar to Jose Mijares. Occasional lapses and loss of control, but has tremendous stuff, especially against lefties. Kyle Waldrop was a pleasant surprise in camp this spring. The non-roster invitee was one of the Twins first-round picks in 2004 out of his Tennessee high school. He missed all of 2008 with surgery in his shoulder. He stayed healthy in 2009 and should be strong in 2010. Fellow 2004 first round pick Matt Fox and 2005 3rd round pick will be the righty and lefty (respectively) to pitch out of the bullpen, and as I said earlier, both could get opportunities to start. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, and soon the Twins made him a reliever. He quickly worked through the system and last year he really struggled. But he lost nearly 30 pounds in the offseason and looked strong in camp, so it will be a very big year for the right-hander. And remember, in all likelihood, Alex Burnett will be optioned to Rochester, a place he has not yet played. But he could be the best relief pitching prospect in the Twins system too. Ron Mahay will start the season in Rochester, but he is expected to be up with the Twins relatively soon. Big league veteran, Brad Hennessey, who had a couple of very good years with the San Francisco Giants, missed last year and will spend the first couple of months this year. But this was a nice

The Catchers

Wilson Ramos (2), Allan de San Miguel.

When it came to on-field, baseball decisions, Wilson Ramos was probably the story of spring training. Ramos did not lose the battle to Drew Butera, but Butera was – rightfully – given the Twins backup catcher duties until the return of Jose Morales. Ramos is an incredible prospect. I ranked him the team’s #2 prospect this winter. He has displayed an ability to hit for both average and power, and play a very solid catcher defensively. The incredible thing is that he isn’t even the top prospect in the International League this year. Both Jesus Montero of the Yankees and Carlos Santana of the Indians will also be playing in the league.

De San Miguel has been in the Twins farm system for a long time and yet he is still just 23 years old. He knows and understands that his future with the Twins is as a backup catcher, and he has embraced the role. Offensively, he hasn’t hit for average or power, but he has really improved his ability to get on base. But again, that’s all secondary to what he provides for the pitching staff. Jose Morales would likely rehab in Rochester at some point, and when he returns to the Twins, Drew Butera would likely come back to Rochester to back up Ramos.

The Infielders

Brock Peterson, Luke Hughes (27), Trevor Plouffe (21), Danny Valencia (7), Erik Lis, Matt Tolbert, (Matt Macri)

Peterson became a free agent this past offseason, but the Twins were happily able to bring him back. He was the Red Wings top hitter in the second half of 2009. Plus, it’s fun to cheer for a former 49th round draft pick! Erik Lis likely will not play much first base and will get plenty of at bats as the team’s designated hitter. This is a big year for Trevor Plouffe. He’s still just 23, but now in his third year at Rochester. With the acquisition of JJ Hardy, Plouffe may need to play other positions as well. Danny Valencia is immensely talented, and there are questions at 3B with the Twins. There could be a scenario in which he is up with the Twins by June, but most of that depends as much on the performances of Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, along with his own performance. Matt Tolbert, simply, is not very good, but he can play all around the infield and on opening night, he will actually be the Red Wings leadoff hitter and center fielder. Ron Gardenhire loves him, so he likely remains in the plans. Matt Macri begins the season on the Disabled List.

The Outfielders

Brian Dinkelman, Jason Repko, Jacque Jones, Dustin Martin, (Brandon Roberts)

Jacque Jones was one of the great Twins stories of spring training. Brought back for camp, almost as a courtesy for all he did at the beginning of last decade for the team, Jones was not going to make the big league roster. But he almost did, and now he will head to Rochester. If a need arises in the outfield for the Twins, Jones might be the first promoted. On Monday, the Twins signed Jason Repko, a centerfielder who had spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers four of the past five seasons. Not a great hitter, he is right-handed and probably the best option to play center field. Dustin Martin had a very good 2008, a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, and a nice showing in spring training 2009. And then the season started, and Martin didn’t even get an invite to big league training camp this year. Brian Dinkelman was a second baseman throughout his career, until Steve Singleton was promoted to New Britain last year. Then Dinkelman started playing in the outfield, and he performed fairly well. A good contact hitter who finds ways to get on base, I think he will be hitting near the top of the Red Wings order throughout the year. Finally, Brandon Roberts spent most of the past two years in New Britain, on their Disabled List, and that’s where he will begin the 2010 season with the Red Wings.

SUMMARY

Overall, I think this is a very solid roster. For AAA, it is a good mix of veteran players, with decent AAAA types of players and a good number of prospects who will likely contribute to some degree, some significantly, in the next couple of seasons. On Opening Night, Danny Valencia will be batting 8th with Brian Dinkelman betting 9th. I’m not saying agree with that, but if that is the case, this should be a very strong lineup. As I mentioned before, the back end of the bullpen should be very strong, so the starters can hopefully provide at least six good innings each night. The fans in Rochester should get to see some quality baseball this season. Hopefully they can not only develop players for the Twins to use as necessary, but also compete for a playoff spot in the International League.  

If you have any questions or comments on this preview of the roster, please feel free to ask… Leave your questions or comments.