Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #52

The Twins got away with one this afternoon when the White Sox utterly collapsed. Couldn't have happened to a better opponent, as the Twins now move into third place in the AL Central. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) How could I not start with the epicly (is that a word? It is now . . .) bad game by Scott Baker. In case you hadn't yet seen his line, he gave up 6 runs on 10 hits and a walk in 3 innings with 3 K's. That means that he's now gone 8.1 innings allowing 2 runs on May 19 to going 5.1 innings while allowing 3 runs on May 25, to this complete clunker. If he's lucky enough to get another start in 6 days (because of the off-day tomorrow), is he going to continue the trend and fail to make it out of the first? This is what's so frustrating with Baker -- he shows flashes of brilliance before utterly losing his ability to pitch at the big league level. So, there are two important questions to address with Baker: (1) will he get another start with the Twins, and (2) if so, will he be able to regain his form from his first game (or even from his second game?).

So, first, I think Baker will get another start. The options are a bit limited for the Twins right now as far as a backup plan to Baker. As I see it, the Twins could either give the start to Baker, OR move Ramon Ortiz back into the rotation for that start, OR they could call up Matt Garza. Now, before Garza expressed frustration about the Twins wanting him to throw off-speed pitches (something which may or may not have been a punk move, depending on who you believe -- and I confess that I haven't read the article in question so I don't have an opinion on that), I would have said that he deserved a shot. However, I suspect that the Twins are going to make darned sure that Garza is with the program before they bring him up to the big leagues. Ramon Ortiz had a nice relief appearance yesterday, but by no means is he rehabilitated to the point of being ready to rejoin the rotation just yet. So . . . to me at least, that leads to the conclusion that Baker will get the start. A more interesting question to me is whether the Twins will send Glen Perkins on a rehab assignment to Rochester when he's healthy to get him back into starter-mode. I think there's a good chance that that's exactly what will end up happening.

As for Baker, will he regain his form from his first start? I must sadly conclude that I don't think he will. I've been down on Baker since last year. I'd like him to prove me wrong, but I just don't think Baker is going to put it together and pitch consistently at the Major League level. I would be shocked (pleasantly) if he finds a way to stay in the rotation for the next month, let alone for the rest of the year.

2.) How about that bullpen! We know that Pat Neshek is great, and he had a perfect inning. Matt Guerrier has been great all year, and he went 2.1 hitless innings, allowing just one walk while striking out 2. Joe Nathan might seem like he's struggled a bit at times this year, but he finished off the White Sox without too much difficulty in the ninth to get the win. But most impressive to me? Jason Miller -- the afterthought callup who's making good on his chance to pitch in the bigs. Miller put the breaks on the White Sox offense by going 1.2 innings and allowing just 1 walk while striking out a batter. I don't know how much longer he'll keep it up, but it's been great fun to see him make good on his callup.

3.) Joe Mauer won't be back on Friday, and might need another week. Rest up, Joe. Don't rush to come back too early.

4.) Torii Hunter was the man again tonight, but the biggest hit of the game came with two outs in the 6th inning off of Jon Garland -- and it came from Chris Heintz, of all people. Heintz drove in the game tying run to take Baker off of the hook, and the amazing bullpen kept things tied until the bottom of the 9th. Heintz is now hitting only .211, but that's what makes baseball great -- a guy like Heintz can come in and play hero for a night.

5.) Nick Punto played at 2B tonight, which to me says that his transition from "exclusively starting 3B" to "starting 3B used as a backup infielder" is complete. This is how Punto should have been used all season, and I'm glad that Gardy is fully utilizing Punto. He may not be having a good season, but I'll take him over Luis Rodriguez any day.

6.) The next time I post a Nightly Notes column, Kevin Slowey will have made his Major League debut. We all knew it was coming, but the Twins made it official today by moving Jesse Crain to the 60-Day DL, purchasing Slowey's contract from Rochester, and optioning Julio DePaula (no surprise there) back to the Red Wings. I'm as excited for this debut as I have been for any I can ever remember, even more excited than I was for Garza's debut last year. When Garza was called up, Twins fans were looking for a savior, and I feared that he would disappoint. He did. There is not the same sense of pressure on Slowey right now, and he'll be debuting on the road, which should help. I think Slowey is going to pitch very well in Oakland Friday night, and I can't wait to see it!



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