Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #42

I guess the Twins just needed a little bit of National League play to get them back in the grove! Here are tonight's notes:

1.) What the heck got into Scott Baker? Don't get me wrong -- I'm thrilled that he finally figured out how to pitch at the Major League level (although this is not the first time that he's pitched very well at the Major League level -- remember the infamous "jock-strap" game against the Yankees last year?), but I didn't expect him to come out and make such a forceful statement tonight. Of course, as last year proved, Baker is fully capable of forgetting what he's doing on the mound between now and his next start, but today was very, very encouraging. He did exactly what he hadn't been doing this spring -- pitching down, locating pitches effectively, and just calmly going about his business. This spot in the rotation is now his to hold onto -- if he pitches reasonably well, he won't return to the minor leagues. Here's my prediction, though -- I think he'll be alright, but his ERA will settle in between 4.50 and 4.99, and I don't know if that will be good enough. I hope I'm wrong, though, because he's fun to watch when he's throwing well!

2.) Proof that I'm going soft on bunting came in the 8th inning of tonight's ballgame, when Jeff Cirillo bunted Luis Castillo to second, thus sacrificing the first out of the inning. At the time, the Twins had a 3-1 lead, and Gardy obviously felt that it was important to pick up an insurance run. My first reaction when I saw Cirillo square around was "NOOOOOO!" But then I thought about it some more. Cirillo hadn't been having a good night at the plate. Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau were due up after him. By bunting Castillo to second, you eliminate the possibility of the double play while also moving him into position to score on a single. One run puts you three up. All of that changed my mind. I still think that I would usually oppose the decision to bunt the runner to second (for instance, if the 7-8-9 spots in the order were coming up), but in this situation, with all of those factors playing into the decision, I actually have to say that I think it was the right move. I can hear Marty sighing from 1000 miles away . . .

3.) I love the aggressive baserunning by Michael Cuddyer in the 8th inning. After singling in Luis Castillo, he stole second (I would assume that Gardy sent him, so props to Gardy as well), and then advanced to third on Morneau's fly to center. That put him in position to score on Torii's nub to short, giving the Twins a 4 run lead. Those are the kinds of things that weren't working out earlier this month.

4.) Justin Morneau is a better defensive player than he's given credit for. It seems like every night he makes a solid play that saves a hit or an error. Don't get me wrong -- he's not Doug Mientkiewicz with the glove, but he's a more than serviceable defender.

5.) I suggested that Garrett Jones would be back this year, probably multiple times. Today comes confirmation that Ron Gardenhire would like to see just that, because of the potential power off the bench that Jones would give the team. No mention is made of how the Twins could make room for him, but my guess is that it would involve returning to 11 pitchers, probably with the demotion of Julio DePaula. If the starters keep going 7+ innings, that will be possible. If not, it's probably nothing more than wishful thinking on Gardy's part -- sort of like the desire almost all of last season to have a third catcher.

6.) If Ramon Ortiz struggles tomorrow, the Kevin Slowey watch can officially begin -- $3.1 million salary notwithstanding.



  • At Sat May 19, 09:19:00 PM , Blogger Marty said...

    I am not 1000 miles away.

  • At Sun May 20, 12:07:00 AM , Blogger Corey Ettinger said...

    I might be the only one, but I wasn't that impressed by him tonight. His fastball was flat, though he did a magnificent job of locating it. And his breaking ball has no bite at all. Whats more, he still hasn't learned to keep it down in the zone. I have a feeling he's still the same old Scott Baker, a dominating AAAA pitcher.

  • At Sun May 20, 06:18:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    Marty -- maybe not as the crow flies, but definitely as the Josh drives.

    Corey -- While I agree that this wasn't a completely dominating performance (as demonstrated by the two homers and some very well hit balls that found gloves), I'm not as down on his breaking ball as you are. I saw at least a couple sliders (I believe they were sliders) that danced away from hitters, including at least one for a strikeout. A large part of his success with the pitch (and, as you point out) with the fastball, though, was due to location rather than nastiness -- but that's been a recipe for success for a lot of Major League pitchers in the past, so maybe Baker can follow that path. We'll see -- as I said in the post, I'm by no means convinced that Baker has figured out how to be something more than, as you say, a AAAA pitcher (would our AAAA organization be the Minnechester Red Twins, by the way?).

  • At Sun May 20, 09:55:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Ya Corey, you might be the only one. I was very impressed. Baker is not a 'dominant' pitcher. He's not going to blow anyone away (althought the Fielder K in the ninth was pretty impressive), but the location that you mentioned being magnificent is the key to him. We all know that. Will all of his starts be like this? Of course not. But I saw him get the ball down for the most part. Many times when it was up, it was clear that was the intent. Definitely a great start!



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