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Guest-Filled Twins Podcast Was a Success

10 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Last night’s 90-minute SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast was a lot of fun! We talked to Kyle Waldrop about what it was like to finally getting his first big league opportunity after spending eight seasons in the Twins system. He discussed what he did in the offseason to improve and what he’s looking to show in spring training. Then Alex Margulies joined us to talk about how big league spring training affects the Ft. Myers Miracle front office. We also discussed how the Miracle has been ahead of the game in terms of technology. We also discussed Aaron Hicks, Alex Wimmers, Oswaldo Arcia and several other Twins prospects that spent time with the Miracle last year. It was treat to be joined by the new Voice of the Twins Cory Provus who has jumped headfirst into his new job. He’s spent time on the Twins Caravan, and he’s dug into the history of the Minnesota Twins. He’s learned a lot from Bob Uecker and Ron Santo, and although he’s just 31-32 years old, he’s worked in many jobs and many sports. You’ll enjoy this interview. Jeff Manship called in next to talk about his frustrating 2011 season and how he is working and preparing for the 2012 season. He’ll begin his trek to Ft. Myers today. It will be interesting to see how his spring training goes. Will he start or work out of the bullpen? Finally, Dan Rohlfing called into the podcast. He is a non-roster invite to big league camp as a catcher. For the first time in his career, he got a chance to play nearly every day. Like Chris Herrmann, Rohlfing is a great athlete and when he didn’t catch, he was playing in the outfield. He was entertaining as well. It was a fun show for me. I definitely enjoy chatting with players and other Twins personnel, especially as spring training is coming quickly. However, I do want your thoughts, your opinions or suggestions. Any feedback on the podcasts is very welcome, so please feel free to e-mail me at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your questions, comments and ideas in the Comments Section!

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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Relief Pitchers

8 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

Today, we will conclude our Organizational Depth Chart by looking at the Relief Pitchers. Frankly, it is kind of a mess thanks to about 89 minor league veterans brought in, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. As I said on Monday, many starters will get time as a reliever, and vice versa. This is especially true in the lower levels of the minor leagues where innings limits are still so important. The Twins bullpen in 2011 was pretty much horrible. They had lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, both guys who had long been in the Twins bullpen. They also let Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay departed via free agency. Each made huge money for relievers in free agency. As I’ve said, I would have wanted to bring back Crain, but I definitely understood letting the others go. The Twins brought in some minor league free agents, but as they had done so many times before, they made the decision to build a bullpen from within. Needing two or three pitchers to step up, only Glen Perkins really stepped up throughout the season. Anthony Swarzak was a surprise success as well in long relief and as a spot starter. Joe Nathan struggled in his return. Matt Capps just struggled. Two pitchers that likely would have been counted on to perform, Jeff Manship and Anthony Slama were out most of the season with injuries. Had those two been healthy all season, it could have been a better situation. To the surprise of many, the Twins seem to have gone with much the same philosophy in 2012. Instead of going after retread relievers, they are choosing to believe in their in-house options. They brought back Capps, are taking a flyer on Joel Zumaya, and have invited a small village of minor league veteran pitchers with some big league experience. All in the attempt to hope that three or four of them step up. It’s a philosophy I completely agree with despite the fact that it went very wrong in 2011. Then again, pretty much everything went wrong for the Twins in 2011. Fortunately 2012 is a new year. You can clamor for guys like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls and Todd Coffey all you want. Or you can realize that they all struggled early in their careers and didn’t become big league regulars until late in their careers. They didn’t succeed in their first opportunities in the big leagues, and they have all had their struggles in the big leagues even after being given regular bullpen duties. So, although I am incredibly nervous about the Twins bullpen, and don’t have any idea how they will perform in 2012, I do think they have some talent, some young talent that should continue to get opportunities. That’s just smart.  Relievers who are good year in and year out are a rarity. Are there a dozen  in the entire big leagues that you could say have been lights out, have been difference-makers each of the past five seasons? (I’ll give you Mariano Rivera… you name another 10.) Because of that, bringing in 26-30 year olds with good arms and some measure of success makes a lot of sense to me.  

Below you will get a look at the names of many Twins minor league pitchers who will likely spend a lot of time in bullpens this upcoming season. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. 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  

Matt Capps (RHP), Glen Perkins (LHP), Joel Zumaya (RHP), Brian Duensing (LHP), Alex Burnett (RHP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP), Jeff Gray (RHP), Terry Doyle (RHP-R5)

Some Twins fans choose to say that Matt Capps has been pretty bad in two of the last three years. Since it’s less than two weeks before spring training, so I’ll say that he’s been really good in four of his last six seasons! If healthy, he’ll be solid at the end of games. I think Glen Perkins proved himself throughout the 2011 season to believe he can be a dominant lefty reliever again in 2012. Brian Duensing likely moves to the bullpen. He is one of baseball’s best at getting left-handed hitters out, but one of the worst at getting right-handers out. Joel Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010, and hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006, but I guess there is a chance he could be really good for half of the season! Anthony Swarzak is out of options and he really proved himself in long-relief and spot-starting last year. He could find himself being thrown into more high leverage situations in 2012. Alex Burnett has the arguably the best stuff in the bullpen and hopefully he will be able to put it all together. He won’t turn 25 until late July. If Terry Doyle pitches fairly well in spring training, I believe that he will make the team. If a starter is hurt, he could be the guy to make some starts early in the season, or he could be a long reliever. I also believe that Jeff Gray will make this roster as well. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options.  

Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Slama (RHP), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Lester Oliveros (RHP), Cole DeVries (RHP), Deolis Guerra (RHP), Kyle Waldrop (RHP), Esmerling Vazquez (RHP), Tyler Robertson (LHP), Jared Burton (RHP), Jason Bulger (RHP), Samuel Deduno (RHP), Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Casey Fien (RHP), Luis Perdomo (RHP), Daryl Thompson (RHP), PJ Walters (RHP), Brendan Wise (RHP), Luke French (LHP), Brad Thompson (RHP), Matt Maloney (LHP)

What a mess spring training will be? The Twins will have to play a few split-squad games to get all of these guys innings. Inexplicably, Anthony Slama has never been given a shot by the Twins despite 10.3 K/9 and a 2.59 ERA in 92 AAA appearances. I think Lester Oliveros has a chance to be pretty good but he needs more time. The Twins don’t need to rush him (like they did with Alex Burnett). The Twins claimed Vazquez from the Diamondbacks on the last day of the 2011 season. He’s a hard-thrower with control issues. The same can be said for Deduno and Perdomo. Kyle Waldrop finally got a shot with the Twins in September and he should be given a very legitimate opportunity to make the Twins opening day roster and get time throughout the season with the Twins. The two non-roster invites that have a legitimate chance of making the big league roster early in the season are Jared Burton and Jason Bulger. Each has had quite a bit of big league success. Burton has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Bulger spent a long time with the Angels. Phil Dumatrait got way too much time with the Twins last year. Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson were added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Gutierrez made the move to the bullpen last year and pitched pretty well until shoulder issues. Still walks too many though. Robertson was terrific in the second half of last season as the New Britain closer. The lefty may not throw hard, but he was quite successful in his first season in the bullpen. Cole DeVries had a tremendous 2011 including a very good performance in the hitting Arizona Fall League. Matt Maloney is on the 40 man roster. The left-hander was brought in before Terry Ryan was named GM, but as a former Reds pitcher, it is likely that he was recommended by Wayne Krivsky, which makes him intriguing. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options, but there is a chance he could go unclaimed. Non-roster invites Burton, Bulger, Deduno, Dumatrait, Fien, Perdomo, Walters, French and the two Thompsons all have spent some time in the big leagues. Liam Hendriks said in a recent podcast that Brendan Wise is similar to Kyle Waldrop in terms of ability to get a lot of ground balls. The Aussie has been very good in AAA the last two years. Finally, it is a huge year for Deolis Guerra. After being really bad as a starting pitcher, he moved to the New Britain bullpen last year and was incredible. Suddenly he had better control, gave up less hits and struck out more than a batter an inning. How will he perform in AAA in 2012? It will be interesting to watch. I suspect we will see him by season’s end. He has one option left.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Matt Hauser (RHP), Andrew Albers (LHP), Brett Jacobson (RHP), Daniel Turpen (RHP), Tony Davis (LHP), Blake Martin (LHP), Cole Nelson (LHP), Spencer Steedley (LHP), Ricky Bowen (RHP), Jhon Garcia (RHP), Bruce Pugh (RHP), Dakota Watts (RHP), Steve Hirschfeld (RHP)

Will any of the leftovers from the Twins minor league signings move down to AA? We shall see. Matt Hauser ended the 2011 season with one appearance with the Rock Cats. He is a hard-throwing right hander who I think will be a big breakout candidate in 2012. Andrew Albers was the story of the year in the Twins system last year and my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Brett Jacobson, Blake Martin and Spencer Steedley spent 2011 in New Britain, each splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Turpen came over from Colorado in the Kevin Slowey deal. He throws hard and side-arm but gets no strikeouts. Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts both had disappointing 2011 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain. Each struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But each throws really hard and if they can find any measure of control, they are legit prospects. Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He struggled in June and moved to the bullpen, which is likely where he’ll wind up. Tony Davis is not a big guy, but he throws left-handed and touches 94-95 mph. He missed about half of last season with a shoulder surgery. He will be ready for spring training. Cole Nelson is a Minnesota native who came over from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade. Ricky Bowen signed with the Twins in May and did a nice job pitching out of the Ft. Myers bullpen. Jhon Garcia throws hard and can pitch in any role in the bullpen and spot start.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Jose Gonzalez (LHP), Michael Tonkin (RHP), Clinton Dempster (RHP), Bart Carter (LHP), Nelvin Fuentes (LHP), Edgar Ibarra (LHP), Kane Holbrooks (RHP), Matt Schuld (RHP), Brad Stillings (RHP), Caleb Thielbar (LHP), Blayne Weller (RHP), Miguel Munoz (RHP)

Jose Gonzalez was the closer in Beloit last year. He’ll likely continue in that role with the Miracle. He’s not tall and resembles Jose Mijares, but he throws hard and has a terrific slider. Michael Tonkin moved to the bullpen in 2011 and pitched very well. Dempster was terrific in the bullpen for Beloit but struggled upon his promotion to Ft. Myers. Carter dominated in Elizabethton and then pitched very well for the Snappers. A four year college guy, he should be pushed. Nelvin Fuentes has been pitching well for Puerto Rico in international competition. He has also steadily moved up the Twins system. The lefty works slow but he gets hitters out. Edgar Ibarra struggled in the Miracle rotation last year but finished strong in the bullpen. Kane Holbrooks had a tremendous 2010 season that saw him pitch well in Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain. 2011 was disappointing. He pitched well with no run support in April, but then he really struggled. He then missed the last couple of months. St. Thomas alum Matt Schuld pitched very well in Ft. Myers and then threw pretty well in New Britain. I only have him in Ft. Myers because of the numbers crunch at the higher levels. Caleb Thielbar became the first player the Twins signed from the St. Paul Saints and pitched in a few games for the Miracle. Blayne Weller pitched in the bullpen in Beloit although he ended the season pitching well as a starter. Miguel Munoz made his first start last year with the Miracle, hurt his elbow and then didn’t pitch again until late in the season. In his return to the Miracle, he re-aggravated the elbow injury and was shut down. Reports indicate that he did not have elbow surgery and rehabbed throughout the offseason.

Beloit Snappers

Corey Williams (LHP), Steve Evans (LHP), Steven Gruver (LHP), Jason Wheeler (LHP), David Hurlbut (LHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Garrett Jewell (RHP), Cole Johnson (RHP), Tobias Streich (RHP), Jhonatan Arias (RHP).

Corey Williams was the Twins 3rd round pick just a year ago. The lefty signed for nearly double the slot recommendation. But the Twins are quite excited about him. He’s another hard thrower, said to have nasty stuff and a strong mentality. Evans, Gruver, Hurlbut and Johnson were all 2011 draft picks out of college that pitched well at Elizabethton during the summer. Kimes pitched in just a couple of games before suffering from mono. Jason Wheeler was the team’s 8th round pick and signed at the deadline. He will debut in 2012. Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias were both strong-armed catchers without much bat. Last year at Instructs, the two were moved from behind the plate to the mound. The Twins have done this in the past with mixed results. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, but a year later he moved to the mound, and although he didn’t get to the big leagues, he spent 3 years in AAA as a reliever. Danny Santiesteban was an outfielder with a bunch of tools in the lower levels of the Twins system for a few years. He was moved to the mound but was released soon after. (By the way, Santiesteban has been a hitting star for the Newark Bears of the independent leagues the last couple of years.)

Elizabethton Twins

Luis Nunez (LHP), Ricardo Arevalo (RHP), Nathan Fawbush (RHP), Tyler Herr (RHP), Gonzalo Sanudo (RHP), Markus Solbach (RHP), Dallas Gallant (RHP)

Luis Nunez went 5-0 with 5 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL. The 20-year-old lefty throws gas with decent (but improving) secondary stuff. He is certainly one to watch. Tyler Herr is a tall right-hander who showed improvement in his second year in the GCL. Arevalo has gone 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA in 25 games over the past two years in the GCL. Nathan Fawbush is another tall kid with a lot of talent, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons since the Twins drafted him. Sanudo signed with the Twins in 2011 and in 20.2 innings in the GCL, he walked seven and struck out 22. He just turned 20. Markus Solbach signed about this time last year from Germany, and he went 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings in the GCL. He also pitched well in the World Cup.  Gallant had Tommy John surgery last spring and will be brought back slowly.

GCL Twins

Josh Burris (RHP), Josue Montanez (LHP), Gerardo Ramirez (RHP)

The Twins signed Ramirez last year out of Mexico and threw 17.1 innings in the GCL. He just turned 18. Montanez just turned 20 years old. He signed with the Twins last year as their 15th round pick a year after being taken in the 25th round in 2010 by the Padres. His first outing didn’t go well, and then he was really good his next seven outings. Josh Burris signed very late with the Twins last year out of LSU-Eunice. Last year, he played some 2B and some in the outfield. He hit .273 with a triple and a homer and stole 13 bases. He also was a reliever who walked too many. However, he hits 94 mph on the radar gun and is best known for his great 12-6 curveball.

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Corey Williams, 2.) Matt Hauser, 3.) Lester Oliveros, 4.) Deolis Guerra, 5.) Carlos Gutierrez, 6.) Luis Nunez, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Dakota Watts, 9.) Bruce Pugh 10.) Steven Evans

SUMMARY

The Twins bullpen was really bad last year. I don’t think there is any way around that. Glen Perkins stepped up, and once he was called up, Anthony Swarzak pitched well. If the Twins have any hope at being successful in 2012, they are going to need a few more guys to really step up. Capps is going to have to be healthy and pitch well. Zumaya may have to be healthy and successful. Duensing will have to fill the role of lefty-reliever. They brought in a bunch of minor league veterans, and it would be great if one or two of them would step up and contribute when called upon. There are several Twins minor leaguers who deserve an opportunity to step up, guys like Waldrop, Gutierrez, DeVries and even Anthony Slama. The Twins have made an effort to bring in some strong arms, and in doing so have found guys who also walk a bunch. In recent drafts, the Twins have also added some power arms to mixed results. Guys like Matt Hauser and Tony Davis could move up. 2011 draft picks Corey Williams, Matt Summers, Madison Boer, Trent Higginbotham and Josh Burris throw hard. Oh, and remember a couple of years ago when the Twins had something like three or four left-handed relievers in their entire farm system? Now, it appears that each team may have three or four lefties! There is definitely some talent in the bullpen, some very strong arms. Of course, we also have to remember that many starting pitchers who have decent stuff and aren’t working out as starters could be moved to the bullpen as well.  

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

Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Starting Pitchers

6 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net –  

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.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve pointed out the organizational depth charts for the Twins hitters. We’ve looked at catchers, 3B, 1B, Middle Infielders and Outfielders. Today, I’ll take a look at the starting pitchers. Now, especially as I move to the lower levels, I won’t pretend to know which players will move to the bullpen. Often, due to innings limits, some ‘starters’ will begin the season in the bullpen. Others will begin the season as starters and get moved to the bullpen later due to innings. Frankly, most of the pitchers in the lowest levels have been starters their whole lives and some will be given at least some opportunity. As we saw with Carlos Gutierrez, even guys destined for the bullpen can be given an opportunity to start to work on pitches and gain arm strength.  

That’s OK, though, because the biggest purpose of this was to provide the organization’s depth. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. 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  

Carl Pavano (RHP), Francisco Liriano (LHP), Scott Baker (RHP), Jason Marquis (RHP), Nick Blackburn (RHP)

Gardy has announced Pavano as his Opening Day starter, an obvious choice based on last season. He’s been solid in his 2 ½ seasons with the Twins, most important he has provided a ton of innings despite an alarmingly low strikeout rate. There’s no question that Francisco Liriano has the best stuff of anyone on the staff, but if he can’t find control of his fastball, it will be another frustrating season. It is a contract season for Liriano, so the goal has to be for him to have a strong season. In 2011, Scott Baker was easily the Twins top starting pitcher. He was pitching the best he had in his career, until elbow problems curtailed his season. Nick Blackburn averaged 200 innings pitched his first two seasons while posting solid ERAs. He’s been pretty bad ever since getting the long-term contract. Unfortunately, the contract has given him many opportunities and likely will continue to do so. He misses very few bats, so we can just hope that a lot of baseballs get hit right at a defender. Many Twins fans are down on the Jason Marquis signing, and although I’m not a bit fan of the contract, he has actually had a pretty solid big league career.

Rochester Red Wings

Liam Hendriks (RHP), Scott Diamond (LHP), Aaron Thompson (LHP), Jeff Manship (RHP), Deinys Suarez (RHP)

We saw Hendriks and Diamond late in the 2011 season. Hendriks was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and likely needs another half-season. Diamond had his moments, but overall 2011 was the first year in his career that he really struggled. He says he has made some adjustments, so we’ll see how it goes. Manship came up with the Twins and his first major league victory came on the final weekend of the 2009 season, when the Twins needed to sweep the Royals. He was supposed to be in the Twins bullpen last season, but he was hurt the entire season. He likely will pitch in the Twins bullpen, but they may have him start in Rochester first. Aaron Thompson is intriguing, at least. He will turn 25 years old later this month. He debuted with the Pirates last season, but in 7.2 innings, he gave up 13 hits, walked six and struck out just one. He has just six AAA games under his belt, and his AA career numbers are 15-37 with a 5.03 ERA in 96 games (80 starts). Deinys Suarez signed with the Twins last spring. The Cuban defector split time between New Britain and Rochester, not pitching particularly well either place.

New Britain Rock Cats

David Bromberg (RHP), Logan Darnell (LHP), Tom Stuifbergen (RHP), Marty Popham (RHP), Dan Osterbrock (LHP), Bobby Lanigan (RHP)

Bromberg’s 2011 season was unfortunately a lost season. He began the season in Twins spring training, but he went back to New Britain, had a line drive break his arm, spent a lot of time rehabbing, came back too quickly, shut it down, worked hard and then found out the Twins had removed him from the 40 man roster. However, he will be just 24 years old throughout the 2012 season, so don’t forget about him. Logan Darnell was a 2010 draft pick who started last year in Beloit and got all the way to New Britain. Stuifbergen had a solid season in Ft. Myers, had a terrific one-start showing in Rochester, and then was the pitcher of the year in the World Cup tournament that his Netherlands team won. He was then knighted in his homeland. Sir Tom Stuifbergen should spent this season with the Rock Cats. Dan Osterbrock missed most of last season with shoulder problems which was unfortunate because he was coming off of a very good season in 2010. Bobby Lanigan was in the Rock Cats rotation all throughout the 2011 season. Some think his stuff (specifically his slider) will play very well out of the bullpen, and we may see some of that this year too. Marty Popham was selected by the Twins in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He has pitched in Hi-A, AA and AAA each of the past two seasons. He should spend this season in AA.

Ft. Myers Miracle

BJ Hermsen (RHP), Pat Dean (LHP), Adrian Salcedo (RHP), Alex Wimmers (RHP), Manuel Soliman (RHP), Ryan O’Rourke (LHP), AJ Achter (RHP)

This is certainly an intriguing group of pitching prospects. If not for Liam Hendriks’ terrific 2011 season, my starting pitcher of the year choice would have been BJ Hermsen who pitched very well in Beloit and followed it up with a solid performance in Ft. Myers (minus a rough final start). Alex Wimmers had a rough 2011 season too in Ft. Myers, but it ended with the seven inning no hitter. Assuming he has his control issues under control, he could move quickly. Adrian Salcedo has long been a top ten Twins prospect, and he’ll move up to the Miracle. Manuel Soliman was the innings-eater for the Snappers last year despite only having pitched now for three years. He is an intriguing prospect, but for him to remain a starter, he will need to improve his secondary pitches. Pat Dean is definitely a solid prospect  but like so many others, he missed a lot of time with injury in 2011. His season started about six weeks late, but he still pitched for three teams (including a late-season spot start in New Britain). Ryan O’Rourke is a tough, competitive left-hander with a nasty slider. When I saw him pitch in Beloit last summer, my comment was that I didn’t think big league left-handed hitters could hit that slider. He was successful as a starter, but he could also become a very good relief pitcher, so it will be interesting to see how his career progresses. The game I saw AJ Achter start last year, he was tremendous. He touches 90-91 with the fastball, but he has a terrific changeup and a curveball that had good bite.

Beloit Snappers

Tim Shibuya (RHP), Madison Boer (RHP), Matt Summers (LHP), Matt Bashore (LHP), Tim Atherton (RHP), Matt Tomshaw (LHP), Derek Christensen (RHP) 

Tim Shibuya was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year and threw seven innings of a no-hitter for the E-Twins. A smart pitcher with a full mix of pitches, he should adapt well to the Midwest League. Madison Boer and Matt Summers both began their pro careers in the E-Town bullpen. Each unsurprisingly dominated. Boer struggled upon his promotion to Beloit. It is likely the Twins will have each start. I believe Boer will move to the bullpen, but I think Summers can stick as a starter. Matt Bashore was a first-round pick in 2009 and has pitched very little since. However, reports indicate that in Instructs last fall, he was looking really good and throwing as high as 93 mph again. He could be one to watch in 2012. Matt Tomshaw was the Twins 43rd round pick just last year. Like many, he was given a shot with the Ft. Myers Miracle after a couple appearances with the GCL Twins. Like few, he was very successful for the Miracle. My guess, however, is that he will step back to Beloit and start. Derek Christensen had a terrific season as a starter with the E-Twins. The side-winder may eventually move to the bullpen but his combination of deception, fastball and slider make him a very intriguing prospect. Tim Atherton was with the Twins organization a few years ago as an infielder. The team let him go, but he came back in 2011 as a pitcher, and he pitched very well. He has all the pitches, but all will need to further develop.

Elizabethton Twins

Tyler Jones (RHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Brett Lee (LHP), Chris Mazza (RHP), Angel Mata (RHP), Hung-yi Chen (RHP)

There are plenty of pitchers from the 2011 draft and from last year’s GCL team that will not be heading to Beloit to start the season. Tyler Jones was the 11th round pick a year ago out of LSU. He’s got great upside, throws hard, good breaking pitches. Kimes is a four year college guy who should probably be up in Beloit due to age, but he got hurt last year shortly after signing. Brett Lee and Chris Mazza both signed very near the deadline and didn’t pitch in 2011. Angel Mata and Hung-yi Chen were the two most intriguing pitching prospects from last year’s GCL team. Both have good stuff and are young.

GCL Twins

Hudson Boyd (RHP), Trent Higginbotham (RHP), Kuo-hua Lo (RHP), Austin Malinowski (LHP)

Boyd and Higginbotham are two very high ceiling high school picks from last year. The Twins had to go over-slot to sign their second supplemental first round pick from Ft. Myers. He touched 96-97 at times last year. Higginbotham was a late-round pick but the Twins went way over slot to sign him as well. He touches 94-95, and some believe he can be a top of the rotation starter or a dominant closer. Time will tell for both of them. Lo signed last year from Taiwan, and he’s fairly advanced for his very young age. He also has hit 94 mph on a radar gun. He debuted in Instructional League last year, and will likely be with the GCL Twins in 2012. Malinowski was the Twins 16th round pick out of Centennial High School (MN). He gave up a scholarship to Arizona to sign at the last minute with the Twins.   

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS 

1.)    Liam Hendriks, 2.) Kyle Gibson, 3.) Alex Wimmers, 4.) Adrian Salcedo, 5.) Tom Stuifbergen, 6.) Manuel Soliman, 7.) Hudson Boyd, 8.) BJ Hermsen, 9.) Pat Dean, 10.) Matt Summers 

SUMMARY  

The Twins starting pitching was really bad last year. That was a combination of struggles, injury and poor defense. For the Twins to be successful, Carl Pavano needs to throw 220 innings with a league-average ERA and WHIP. Francisco Liriano will have to pull his regain control of his fastball and show a little bit of self-confidence. Scott Baker needs to pitch like he did the six weeks before he got hurt. All three need to stay healthy. I personally think Jason Marquis will be just fine. He’s not going to post a sub-3 or sub-4 ERA, but I think he can do what Pavano did in 2011. Blackburn needs to pitch like he did his first two seasons… or so badly that Liam Hendriks gets called up. Frankly, there’s not much else waiting in the wings, ready to contribute right away as a starter. Manship can be solid, but I think the team has moved him to the bullpen in their minds. Diamond will have had to improved quite a bit to say he’s ready (which is possible).

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare though. There are some solid pitching prospects throughout the minors. Kyle Gibson should be back in 2013 (if not late in 2012). Alex Wimmers could move very quickly as well. There are several pitchers that have the potential to be a decent #3 pitcher, if all goes well on the way up. The Twins have been successful with “Twins-like” pitchers. Guys like Hermsen, Salcedo, Stuifbergen and Shibuya fit that mold. The Twins have added some power arms in the last draft or two, especially in 2011’s draft with Boyd, Higginbotham, Jones, Boer, Summers, Corey Williams and others. It will be interesting to see how they develop. 

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

Twins Top Moments of 2011

27 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

99 losses. Confusing injuries and rehabilitation stories. Players traded, and players lost via free agency. 2011 was a really tough season for the Twins organization. However, there were a few positive moments during the season as well.

Blyleven to the Hall of Fame

  • Early in January, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Bert Blyleven was finally to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Twins had some special nights for him, and in August he was inducted.

20 Year Anniversary of the 1991 World Series

  • Also in August, the Twins celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the greatest World Series of all-time, that 1991 thriller against the Atlanta Braves. Many of the Twins players from that roster were in attendance for the reunion. It’s always great to see so many of those players coming back.

No-Hitters

  • On May 4 in Chicago, Francisco Liriano was wild, and yet he completed a no-hitter against the White Sox. The final out came on a line drive to Matt Tolbert off the bat of Adam Dunn. Liriano was pitching to stay in the rotation at the time, and despite all the walks, the no-hitter continued to show how good his stuff can be.
  • On July 6, Jeff Manship made his first start for the Rochester Red Wings. Due to injury, it was his first appearance in seven weeks. Manship threw four no-hit innings. He was followed by Jake Stevens who threw three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up no hits in the 8th innings, and Jim Hoey finished the job with no hits in the 9th inning.
  • On July 16, Tim Shibuya, the Twins 23rd round pick a month earlier, started for the Elizabethton Twins. The right-hander threw seven no-hit innings. He was followed by 31st round pick, RHP Garrett Jewell, who threw a no-hit 8th inning. 7th round pick, lefty Steven Gruver, struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the no-hitter.
  • September 3, Alex Wimmers tossed a seven-inning no hitter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. His season started with a six batter faced, six walk outing. He was shut down for a couple of months and brought back slowly. But to end the season in such fashion was a nice way to end a rough season.

Major League Debuts

  • April 1 – Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 1-4 on Opening Day against the Blue Jays.
  • April 28 – Rene Tosoni went 2-4 with an RBI in his debut against the Rays.
  • June 4 – Brian Dinkelman went 1-3 with a walk. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch. His walk was intentional. The Twins beat the Royals 7-2.
  • July 18 – Scott Diamond was called up for a spot start in the second game of a double header against Cleveland. He gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks in 6.1 innings.
  • September 5 – Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings against the White Sox. The first inning he pitched was scoreless.
  • September 6 – Joe Benson led off for the Twins and went 0-3 after walking in his first plate appearance in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox.
  • September 6 – Chris Parmelee batted fifth and went 2-4 in the same game.
  • September 6 – Liam Hendriks made the start for the Twins in this game. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings.

The Killebrew Tribute

  • Obviously one of the saddest moments during the 2011 season was the death of legendary Twins great Harmon Killebrew. However, listening and reading the stories of what a great man he was made us almost forget what a great baseball player he was. The Twins had a tribute for Killebrew on May 26. It was great to see so many former players there. Mudcat Grant was again amazing with his rendition of What a Wonderful World. However, the highlight had to be the speech of Nita Killebrew. Her poise and strength in that moment were amazing. Her words were inspirational. It was a great tribute to a great man.

Nathan Sets Twins Saves Mark

  • On August 10, Joe Nathan set the Twins all-time saves record by recording his 255th save. He surpassed Rick Aguilera’s mark of 254.

Thome Hits 600th Home Run

  • On August 15, the Twins traded Delmon Young to the Tigers in the afternoon. That was fairly big news that day, but fortunately, there was much bigger news coming later that night. Through his first two at bats, Jim Thome was 1-2 with a single. In the 6th inning, he hit home run #599 against the Tigers in Detroit. For many, it takes awhile to hit that 600th home run. Thome’s came just one inning later with two runners on against lefty Daniel Schlereth.

Draft Picks Sign

  • Within the final hour before the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, the Twins signed all three of their first round picks. Levi Michael was the 30th overall pick and signed for $1.175 million (about $86,000 over slot). Supplemental first-rounder, Hudson Boyd, the 55th overall pick, signed for a $1 million bonus (about $350,000 over slot). Travis Harrison, the 50th overall pick in the draft, signed for $1.05 million (about $350,000 over slot). The Twins signed several other players with big potential on that final day, including Minnesota’s top high school player in 2011, LHP Austin Malinowski (the team’s 16th round pick).

Award Winners

  • Brian Dozier and Liam Hendriks were named the Twins minor league hitter and pitcher of the year, respectively.
  • Eddie Rosario was named the player of the year in the Appalachian League after putting up monstrous numbers including 21 home runs, one better than teammate Miguel Sano. Teammate Tim Shibuya was the pitcher of the year in the Appalachian League.

Terry Ryan Reclaims the GM Role

  • On November 7, the Twins announced the Bill Smith was being relieved of his duties as GM of the Twins and that former GM Terry Ryan would resume the duties in an interim role. The question is how long “interim” might be.

It was a tough year, and when trying to come up with positives from 2011, it was quite difficult to make it even this lengthy. I’m certain I missed some things. Were there any other positives from the 2011 Twins season that you can think of? Help me out here!!

TwinsCentric Notes

Nine Innings with Seth

7 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It’s time for another Nine Innings blog here at SethSpeaks.net. I think there are enough topics. Sure, the first inning is something that I posted last night already, but the rest of it will be new to you. I’d be curious your thoughts on the Nine Innings concept and if it is something you’d like to see continued.

1st Inning – Red Wings Combine for No-Hitter

Yesterday the talk was about getting Trevor Plouffe back to the Twins from Rochester. Tonight, there was another great story in the Red Wings 7-0 win over the division-leading Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Not only did four pitchers combine for a shutout, four pitchers combined for a no-hitter.

Jeff Manship made his first appearance May 15. He started and threw four no-hit innings. He walked two and struck out four. Jake Stevens, who was just called up today from New Britain when Anthony Slama was put on the Disabled List, threw the next three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop pitched the 8th, and Jim Hoey pitched the 9th frame to complete the no-hitter. With an out in the 9th, Toby Gardenhire ranged far to his right, dove, and came up firing to get Pete Orr at first base.

It was the 21st no-hitter in Red Wings history. The first, according to play-by-play man Josh Whetzel came exactly 123 years ago today, July 6, 1888.

Offensively, Dustin Martin led the way by going 2-3 with his 14th and 15th doubles. Brandon Roberts was 2-4. Delmon Young was 1-4 with a double.

Trevor Plouffe, after Ron Gardenhire called manager Tom Nieto to make it happen, started at 1B where he played the first eight innings. In the ninth inning, Plouffe went out to right field, switching spots with Jeff Bailey.

It’s been another frustrating year for the Red Wings and their fans, but this is a pretty exciting event. Congratulations to all involved, but especially to Jeff Manship on his return and to all of those pitchers!

Any thoughts?

2nd Inning – Minor League Notes and Scores

Along with that exciting Red Wings game, here is a quick update on the goings on through the rest of the Twins farm system with a reminder that at 10:00 central time tonight, you can catch Travis Aune and I for another episode of Twins Minor League Weekly.

The New Britain Rock Cats and New Hampshire got through two complete innings with no score. Dennys Suarex threw two scoreless innings. The Rock Cats had no hits, but they did score a run in the top of the 3rd before the rains came. The game was suspended and the teams will play a double header tomorrow.

Ft. Myers topped St. Lucie 3-2 in 11 innings. Jhon Garcia started and gave up just one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out three. Matt Schuld came on and gave up just one run over the next four innings. He got the win, and Matt Hauser came in with a runner on in the 11th and finished the game for his second save. Derek McCallum went 2-4. Nick Romero hit his third triple. Jhonathan Goncalves hit his 12th double. Jake Mauer was ejected in the 7th inning.

By the way, be sure to check out the most recent episode of Miracle Insider by Alex Margulies and Bryce Zimmerman. They have a fun interview with Tom Stuifbergen.

Beloit dropped a 3-2 decision to Peoria. Michael Gonzales provided the offense. He was 2-4 with his 12th home run and 58th RBI. AJ Achter started and gave up one run on four hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. Jose Gonzales took the loss. He gave up two runs on three hits in his two innings.

Todd Van Steensel put together his best start of the year and Elizabethton defeated Kingsport 9-3. Van Steensel threw five shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out two. Steven Evans pitched a scoreless frame. Garrett Jewell gavec up three runs (1 earned) on three hits and a walk and recorded two outs. Nick Alloway got the next four batters out. Steven Gruver pitched a perfect ninth. Miguel Sano led the offense. He went 3-5 with his fifth double and second triple. (He also committed his 11th error.) Nick Lockwood went 2-5 with his fifth double. Jairo Rodriguez went 2-3, was hit by a pitch twice, and stole a base.

The GCL Twins lost 5-3 to the GCL Orioles. Angel Mata went the first three innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on four hits. He walked one and struck out three. Tyler Herr gave up three runs (2 earned) on five hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. He struck out three. Nick Cicio struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings.

3rd Inning – Twins Take Two of Three from Tampa

The Tampa Bay Rays have the third best record in the AL East, and the third best record in the American League. And the Twins won the series two games to one. Yes, the Wednesday afternoon 12-5 loss was a frustrating one because the Twins bullpen imploded in the 8th and 9th innings after the Twins came back three times to tie the game at five after seven innings. But it should be no more frustrating than if they had played great and lost 6-5. The big picture remains to win series, especially at home.

On Monday afternoon, it was all about Brian Duensing in the team’s 7-0 win. Duensing threw his second career complete game shutout to top All Star David Price. Tsuyoshi Nishioka had his biggest hit as a Twins player to date. He broke the game open with a bases-loaded two-run double. Danny Valencia went 3-4 with a home run and the final dagger, a three-run home run.

On Tuesday night, the Twins won a tight one, by a 3-2 margin. In this game, it was about All-Star Michael Cuddyer and the bullpen. Scott Baker continued his dominance at Target Field with five scoreless innings before he left with a tender elbow. Michael Cuddyer grounded out to score the Twins first run, but he also grounded a single up the middle to drive in the second and third runs. After Baker left, Phil Dumatrait got five outs. Alex Burnett got the Twins out of the 7th inning. Joe Nathan looked tremendous again in the 8th. Matt Capps didn’t complete a save opportunity for the third straight time. Thankfully it was the second straight time that Gardy went to Glen Perkins to face a tough lefty, and for the second straight time, Perkins got the job done and recorded the save.

And again, on Wednesday afternoon, after Michael Cuddyer hit his 13th home run to tie the game at five after seven innings, Alex Burnett gave up four runs in the eighth and Phil Dumatrait gave up three more in the 9th for the final 12-5 score. Nishioka went 3-3 with a walk in the game. But Franky-ly, when your starter gives up five runs on six hits, four walks and three hit batters and doesn’t get through five innings, winnings isn’t too likely.

But in the end, the Twins won six of nine games on this home stand, and won all three series. That is a good thing, and a successful home stand.

4th Inning – AL Central Standings and Schedule

Cleveland Indians      46-39

Detroit Tigers             46-42      1.5

Chicago White Sox    43-45      4.5

Minnesota Twins       38-47      8.0

Kansas City Royals    36-51   11.0

Again, it remains far too early in the season to be scoreboard watching or to worry about the standings. That said, the All Star game is next Tuesday, and the July trade deadline is just three weeks away. I don’t think that the Twins need to determine now whether they will be Buyers or Sellers. However, The next 16 games for the Twins are all in the AL Central. It starts with four games against the White Sox in Chicago. Then, following the All Star break, the Twins will play the next 11 games at Target Field. It will be four against the Royals, three against Cleveland and four against the Tigers. The Twins will then play four games in Texas and then three games in Oakland, the third game on July 31, the trade deadline. However, following those 16 games against the AL Central, we may know a lot more about what the Twins should do.

5th Inning – Twins and White Sox for Four in Chi-Town

The Twins have had a lot of success in recent years, both at home and on the road. It would be great for the Twins to end the first half on a nice role. On Thursday, we expect to see the big league debut of Joe Mauer at first base. That should be entertaining. Who will start in Scott Baker’s place on Sunday? I would assume Anthony Swarzak will and that the two innings he pitched on Wednesday should not affect that decision. On Thursday, we will get to see short-term Twins pitcher Phil Humber who has been incredible for the White Sox this year after being really terrible for the Royals last year and the Twins the year before, and the Mets the year before. It has been one of the better stories of the year. Good for him. Here are the pitching matchups for the four game series (W-L, ERA, WHIP, Opp BA):

  • Thursday night – 7:10 p.m. – Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.19, 1.30, .280) vs. Phil Humber (8-4, 2.69, 0.98, .201)
  • Friday night – 7:10 p.m. – Nick Blackburn (6-6, 4.02, 1.41, .286) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-8, 4.17, 1.20, .250)
  • Saturday afternoon – 3:10 p.m. – Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.25, 1.46, .280) vs. Mark Buehrle (6-5, 3.66, 1.30, .278)
  • Sunday afternoon – 1:10 p.m. – Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 3.94, 1.34, .273) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83, 1.11, .236)

6th Inning – The Twins Closer?

As those who have read this website for years, I am not a big fan of the Closer’s role, or the Save statistic, and really think that the Hold state can be overrated as well. I understand, someone has to have the backbone to get the final three outs of a game without the other team scoring the tying or the go-ahead run. Personally, I believe in the concept of Closer-by-committee. I think it makes much more sense to make pitching decisions based on matchups rather than by inning. The closer role is the worst case of that. Think about it. How many times has the closer been warming up with his team holding a two or three run lead? If the team scores and goes ahead by four runs, another pitcher warms up. The average closer is successful on about 80% of save opportunities. Mariano Rivera has been a given for about 15 years. How many other closers in baseball can be counted on from year to year. Papelbon, Rodriguez, Valverde, Cordero. These closers have all had really good runs, and some really poor stretches. Joe Nathan was as much of a given as anyone until he got hurt. Joakim Soria has been tremendous the last few years, but even he temporarily lost his closer’s role earlier this season.

Closers, by their very nature, are put into situations where they are either successful, or the team usually loses. There is stress in that. A pitcher has to be able to handle that. Matt Capps has been an adequate, average closer for more of the last five seasons. He has failed in his last three save opportunities. Before that, he did not allow a run in 11 appearances and looked very good.  Joe Nathan has really looked good with his fastball and slider since his return from the DL a little more than a week ago. Glen Perkins has been tremendous all year and he continued that run since his return from the DL.

So, who should be the Twins closer? My first response is that I don’t really care. First things first, I don’t want it to be Glen Perkins? Why? Because I think that he is the team’s best relief pitcher. I don’t want him to be wasted in that glorified ninth inning role. I want him coming into the potentially game-changing situation in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. Last year, Jesse Crain was incredible in that role. While the closer comes in generally with the bases empty and a one, two or even three run lead, Crain (and now Perkins) has come in with runners on and a crucial point. Crain came through well last year, and Perkins has done the job incredibly this year.

Joe Nathan could take over the job again, but although he has looked good, it is hard to believe that he could pitch effectively two or three games in a row. I think if he can get there, that will be huge for the Twins.

Matt Capps has done the job most of the time, but he is struggling right now. What he needs is to get another opportunity and despite any struggles, get that 27th out. He has done the job and he can do the job. And frankly, will we trust him any more, or feel more confident, that he will get the job done in the 7th or 8th innings?

So, I guess I would have a situation where Nathan is the closer, but Capps gets that role if Nathan did the day before. And, Glen Perkins should face tough lefties in the ninth inning and come into crucial situations in the 7th or 8th inning.

7th Inning – Tom Kelly in the Booth!

Bert Blyleven is taking an extended All-Star break. On Wednesday, Tom Kelly joined Dick, errr… Richard, Bremer in the Twins TV telecast. I was able to listen for about three innings or so, and I have to say that I was impressed. I learned more from Tom Kelly in those innings than I have learned from Blyleven over the last several years. I’m sure he can’t say everything that he would know about players, but he knows a lot more than Blyleven. It was interesting to hear him talk about the struggles that Joe Mauer could have at first base. He said that it won’t be about catching the ball at 1B, but it will be more about understanding situational play like bunt plays or cut-off situations. It was interesting to hear him talk about the growth process of Danny Valencia, and also about Michael Cuddyer who is the only player remaining from when Kelly managed.

I am eagerly anticipating listening to Kelly throughout the next four games. No, I don’t think that he would be good as the everyday guy. He may not be good for the average fan who watches the Twins game. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this and peruse Twins blogs daily, you’re probably not the average Twins fan that watches Twins games. The average fan will listen to Blyleven’s old jokes and think it’s funny and any time he says anything (over and over) about pitching or team chemistry, etc., they enjoy it. I don’t mind listening at times, but I certainly don’t listen to Blyleven to learn anything. With Tom Kelly, I really felt like I was learning something and gaining just a little bit of inside information.

8th Inning – Jeter Approaches 3,000 Hits

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter sits at 2,997 career hits entering games on Thursday. The team will head back to the Bronx for games this weekend. It is likely that Jeter will achieve the impressive career statistic at home in front of the Yankees fans, which is quite appropriate.

When he achieves the 3,000 hit milestone, he will become the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to do so. The most recent member of the exclusive club was Craig Biggio who got a single on June 28, 2007. Before that, it was Rafael Palmiero in July of 2005. Before that, Rickey Henderson in 2001. The last player to get his 3,000th hit in a Twins uniform was Paul Molitor in September of 1996 when he became the only player to hit a triple for his 3,000th hit. Exactly three years later, September 16, 1993, Dave Winfield got his 3,000th hit.

Derek Jeter is the Brett Favre of MLB. The media loves him and maybe over-hypes him. He can do no wrong. Nicknames like “Captain Clutch” may not be appropriate at all times. Sure, he may not have earned those Gold Gloves. Maybe he hasn’t been an “All Star” the last two years (his 36 and 37 year old years).

But take a step back. In my mind, when considering his position, Derek Jeter is as close to an inner-circle Hall of Famer as we have seen. Maybe not in the Babe Ruth category. Maybe not in the Willie Mays or Hank Aaron category, but he is elite.

He is a career .312/.383/.449 hitter. He’s a middle infielder so I’m not looking for huge power numbers, and yet he has 236 career home runs. He is a batting average and on-base percentage guy. And then, you can say that he’s played for the Yankees, but he has been a winner, and he has been the clear leader of that winner. I’m amazed by his durability. Since his first full big league season in 1996, he has had less than 650 plate appearances just once, and that was 2003 when he had 542 plate appearances. He has had one year in which he hit less than .290, and that was last year, his 36 year old season when he hit .270. He has seven top ten MVP finishes, has finished top three times and many believe he should have won at least one of those. He has stolen bases. He walks. He’s been terrific as a top of the lineup hitter. Honestly, there is nothing to not like about Jeter!

Maybe it’ll be 20 years down the line, but at some point, people outside of New York have to take a step back and realize just how good Jeter has been.

9th Inning – Rain Delay

Alright, for the second straight week, you’ll only get through eight innings, but there will be another blog post later today that you will want to consider. A discussion with KFAN’s Joe Nelson has given me an idea for a blog posting.

I will be on the Pale and Hosed podcast, a White Sox podcast, at about 9:30. I’ll provide more details when I can. Then at 10:00, Travis Aune and I will be co-hosting Twins Minor League Weekly.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Red Wings Combine on No-Hitter!

6 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Yesterday the talk was about getting Trevor Plouffe back to the Twins from Rochester. Tonight, there was another great story in the Red Wings 7-0 win over the division-leading Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Not only did four pitchers combine for a shutout, four pitchers combined for a no-hitter.

Jeff Manship made his first appearance May 15. He started and threw four no-hit innings. He walked two and struck out four. Jake Stevens, who was just called up today from New Britain when Anthony Slama was put on the Disabled List, threw the next three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop pitched the 8th, and Jim Hoey pitched the 9th frame to complete the no-hitter. With an out in the 9th, Toby Gardenhire ranged far to his right, dove, and came up firing to get Pete Orr at first base.

It was the 21st no-hitter in Red Wings history. The first, according to play-by-play man Josh Whetzel came exactly 123 years ago today, July 6, 1888.

Offensively, Dustin Martin led the way by going 2-3 with his 14th and 15th doubles. Brandon Roberts was 2-4. Delmon Young was 1-4 with a double.

Trevor Plouffe, after Ron Gardenhire called manager Tom Nieto to make it happen, started at 1B where he played the first eight innings. In the ninth inning, Plouffe went out to right field, switching spots with Jeff Bailey.

It’s been another frustrating year for the Red Wings and their fans, but this is a pretty exciting event. Congratulations to all involved, but especially to Jeff Manship on his return and to all of those pitchers!

Twins Set Opening Day Roster

28 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Sunday morning, the Twins decided to option Anthony Slama, Jim Hoey and Luke Hughes to Rochester. In doing so, the 25 man roster is set. Jeff Manship and Matt Tolbert make the Opening Day roster. The only thing to determine yet is whether or not Scott Diamond will be sent back to the Braves or if the teams can work out a trade. Of course, it is also possible that he could be claimed by another team.

Minnesota Twins Opening Day Roster

Starting Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing

Relief Pitchers: Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares, Dusty Hughes, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Jeff Manship.

Catchers: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera

Infielders: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Matt Tolbert

Outfielders: Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, Jason Repko

Designated Hitters: Jason Kubel, Jim Thome

That’s it! That is the Twins Opening Day roster barring any injury. It looks like a pretty solid roster to me.  

Anthony Slama has been hurt most of spring training, so it is no surprise that he is being sent to Rochester to start the season. I believe, if healthy, he would likely be on the Opening Day roster. However, it will be good for him to ease back into pitching before he is ready to contribute for the Twins. Manship showed ups and downs this spring, but there is no doubt that he has enough stuff to be a quality major league reliever. He has been a starter throughout his minor league career, but between a 92 mph fastball, a terrific changeup and an excellent curveball, the comparisons to Matt Guerrier certainly make sense. It will, however, be a different role for him. Instead of getting ready to start every fifth day, he will likely be used in the 7th inning. The Twins likely won’t throw him into the more high-leverage, late-inning situations. That’s what Matt Capps and Jose Mijares are for. But Manship will need to get outs in the 7th, sometimes in big situations. Hoey throws hard, no question. He walked a bunch early in spring, but he had just one walk in his final five outings.

Bullpen Analysis: The Twins really like Manship and see a high deal of potential with him in the role. There are a lot of question marks in the back end of the bullpen due to lack of big league time or bullpen experience. However, they have a lot of arms, a lot of arms with great stuff. Glen Perkins is out of options. There are currently three left-handers. Kevin Slowey provides a guy who can give innings. What is exciting is that if anyone really struggles, there are options in Rochester. Slama could be ready soon, and Hoey may be the first guy to be promoted. Kyle Waldrop is not on the roster, but clearly the Twins really like him. Likewise, Carlos Gutierrez isn’t on the 40 man roster, but he has incredible upside in the bullpen and will likely have a big impact in the season’s second half. And too many people are forgetting about Alex Burnett who is still young and has very good stuff.

The big talker among Twins fans has been who will be the Twins utility infielder. Would it be Matt Tolbert or Luke Hughes? Matt Tolbert is a line drive hitter with little power who generally takes good at bats and plays some good defense at all four infield positions. Luke Hughes led the Twins in home runs and RBI this spring, but also in at bats. In the end, Hughes made the decision very easy for Ron Gardenhire. Had the decision been made two weeks ago, there was a shot that Hughes could have made the roster, but he has really struggled with the bat the last week to ten days. He had just three hits in his last 30 at bats (although two of them were home runs). Hitting is his thing, and specifically, he provides power from the right side of the plate. Note that he struck out 17 times this spring with just two walks and an OPS well below the .300 mark. He could play four infield positions, and Gardy even gave him opportunities at shortstop.

I am not a big Matt Tolbert backer at all. He is not great defensively at any of those four positions, although he is solid. He is so rigid and uptight, and he probably would be better if he just relaxed. But I do think that this the right decision for the team. I would love to see Luke Hughes on this roster because his right-handed power is terrific.

Infield Analysis: Had Justin Morneau not been able to start the season on the active list, Hughes probably makes the roster. However, there are question marks and guys getting opportunities around the rest of the infield. Danny Valencia had a huge impact in the second half of the Twins and it will be interesting to see how the league adjusts to him, and more importantly, how he adjusts back to the rest of the league. Alexi Casilla is very talented, and he is being given another opportunity as a starter. Maybe his last opportunity. Tsuyoshi Nishioka showed in spring training that he can be very solid, but the regular season will create new challenges. However, to be fair, each of them should get at least six to eight weeks of playing nearly every day to see where they are at. That means less playing time for the utility guy, and that suits Tolbert better in that he is a little better with the glove than Hughes. Hughes can go back to Rochester and play nearly every day. Hopefully he stays healthy.

Spring Training Analysis: I say frequently that spring training play means very little to who makes the opening day roster. We saw it last year in the Wilson Ramos/Drew Butera decision. This year, it is clear that Tolbert and Manship were the guys that had the first opportunity to make the roster. It would have taken a lot to beat either of them out of a spot. Hughes was terrific through the first two weeks, but his late struggles meant that Tolbert would get the utility job to start the season. Manship wasn’t great in the spring, but none of the other options stood out enough to move ahead of him. That doesn’t mean that spring training means nothing. Heading into spring, the assumption was that Trevor Plouffe might have an outside shot at the utility infield job. He struggled and Hughes showed off him power. If the Twins have a need early in the season, Hughes’ spring impression likely means he is the first player to be promoted. Likewise, there are still several questions at the back of the Twins bullpen. Hoey showed a lot, but so did Kyle Waldrop. An open 40 man roster spot, so it would not be surprising if he Waldrop debuts with the Twins early in the season. What Carlos Gutierrez did this spring has to have the Twins brass excited for what he can do. Now he needs to work out the final kinks in Rochester.

The Twins play at noon today against the Pirates. After the game, the team will fly to Atlanta and play the Braves in two exhibition games. On Thursday, the team will travel to Toronto, and on Friday, Opening Night will be here!

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Last night, I hosted the SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins podcast with guest Dan Wade (of TwinsMVB.com). It was a fun discussion of the Twins entire roster and many of the decisions that have been made.

If you like, please feel free to comment.