Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Friday, June 29, 2007

Minor League Transactions

The Beloit Snappers added two players to the team roster today, with the Twins promoting RHP Matthew Williams and SS Chris Cates from Elizabethton. I don't have a lot of time to comment on this right now, but if I get a chance later I may say a few words about it. If you check out the organizational rankings for these guys names, by the way, you'll notice that I've started noting at the end of an entry when a player is involved in a significant transaction. That's a new feature that I'll likely continue.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Garza's Return

Unless you haven't been paying much attention today, you probably have already heard that Matt Garza has been called up by the Twins, with Chris Heintz once again sent down to Rochester. Let me clear up that situation first -- I'm not a fan of carrying three catchers, especially when one of them never plays. It made sense to have three catchers on the squad when the Twins weren't sure about Joe Mauer's health -- but there have been no indications that he's struggling in that department, so it was time for Heintz to go back down.

Now, how about Garza? First, I have to say that I think this was a very clever move for the Twins to make. Garza was chaffing down in AAA, having watched Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey all move past him in the organization this summer. Garza wanted his shot, but there weren't a lot of options for him at hand. Now, the Twins get him up, with a guaranteed start on July 6, and with a chance to pitch in a game or two out of the bullpen to reacquaint himself with big league hitters. I think that's downright savvy. The Twins also have essentially set up a competition between Baker, Slowey, and Garza over which two will have a spot in the rotation when the All-Star Break comes to an end. I think Garza will be in that mix.

For the record, there's been some discussion about whether Boof Bonser's spot in the rotation is in jeopardy, but I don't think that's the case. Bonser has been reasonably solid this year (although there's a LOT of room for improvement). I would be stunned if the Twins took Bonser out of the rotation. Just for the record, Bonser does have an option left -- but can you really see the Twins sending him down? That would absolutely stun me.

I'll be interested to see how Garza performs out of the bullpen (where he will probably be able to get away with just rearin' back and firing fastballs in), and how he adapts back to starting (where he'll need to get his curveball over and will need to complement his fastball with the occasional changeup as well). This was the right move for the Twins right now. I'm excited about what's to come.

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Nightly Notes: Game #77

Things looked bad early, but the Twins escaped this series against the Blue Jays with a series split, which is really all you can ask for in a 4 game series. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) It looked like tonight was going to be one Carlos Silva's patented bombs, which he throws out every 4th or 5th start. He gave up 4 runs in the first, including a bomb by Frank Thomas (in case you somehow hadn't heard, that was Thomas' 500th career blast). After that, however, Silva settled down nicely -- he gave up a 5th run in the 3rd inning, but ended up going 7 innings. For the last 4 of those innings, Silva looked really good (from what I hear -- sadly, I couldn't watch today). What's unusual about this is that Silva, to my recollection, doesn't usually recover mid-game -- but he buckled down nicely tonight to get his 6th win.

2.) Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan contributed for 2 innings of perfect relief. Not much else to say here, other than having a good bullpen is nice -- and if Juan Rincon can slot himself back in as a part of that "solid" core group of players, then the Twins bullpen will be that much better off. I think he still can be an effective pitcher, so we'll see.

3.) Bad things first: Luis Rodriguez (.169 now) has GOT to be sent down (I'm posting on the Matt Garza call-up in a separate post, but let me just say here that Matt Tolbert should have been joining him). Nick Punto -- .215 (ouch). I really believed that Punto would turn it around and start hitting again -- doesn't look like that's going to happen.

4.) Now, for the good. Jason Tyner has not been nearly the player this year that he was last year -- but today he went 3-for-4, scored 2 runs and drove one in. That means he's now hitting .291 on the season -- and it's hard to criticize that.

5.) Nice to see Justin Morneau back in the lineup -- not so nice to see him and Joe Mauer go a combined 0-for-7 (with Morneau leaving 3 on base, and Mauer leaving FOUR on base).

6.) Torii Hunter is the man -- more fodder for the argument that he needs to be re-signed.

7.) Jason Bartlett hitting second looks like it might just work. Unlike some of you out there, I actually prefer to have Mauer hitting third. With Castillo leading off, and another speedy guy like Bartlett behind him (if he keeps hitting -- 2-for-3 today), I think the Twins lineup balances fairly effectively.

8.) Jacque Jones would have been a good pickup if the Twins could have gotten the deal that the Marlins almost had, with the Cubs agreeing to pick up nearly all of Jones salary over the next two years. He's not the player he was when he originally left the Twins, but he'd fill a need and he doesn't have nearly the character problems that Milton Bradley has. I think the Twins should still look into the possibility of getting him, but by no means should they overpay.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #76

Or, rather, lack of notes. I'm not going to get anything up tonight, unfortunately. I'll leave you with this:

1.) The White Sox have suddenly become hot -- while playing the D-Rays.

2.) Roger Clemens was never going to be worth what the Yankees paid him -- but after tonight, you have to start wondering whether he'll prove to be worth even the price the Twins are paying for Carlos Silva. I'm not going to bet against Roger -- but time may have caught up with him.

3.) As of this post, Andruw Jones is still hitting .199. Unbelievable!

I'll post something tomorrow on the day game and any other happenings. That post will probably be up around 6 MT -- and if something big comes up, I'll probably right during my lunch break tomorrow.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #75

Now that's a ballgame! I kind of figured that the Twins would end up winning this thing -- it just felt that way throughout. Maybe it's because the Twins outhit the Blue Jays 9-4 -- but several of those hits came in the bottom of the 12th, so that can't be too much of it. Whatever it was, the Twins did indeed pull it out, winning 2-1. Here are the notes:

1.) The enigma that is Scott Baker continues to deliver incredible stories. Two starts ago, I was willing to throw in the towel on Baker. I thought that he was going to have more terrible starts than he would have good starts. He still might -- but he's now managed to do more than just stave off the inevitable loss of his spot to Matt Garza; instead, he's given himself a bit of a margin for error. If he comes out the next time and struggles mightily, the Twins almost certainly will pat him on the back, say "that's OK," and slot him for another start. That's not something that could be said for the last 10 days -- so he's accomplished something. Regardless, today was impressive -- he was missing bats left-and-right tonight (as evidenced by his 9 K's!). All in all, a great performance that shows why a lot of people still haven't given up on him. I'm not yet convinced, but for the first time in a while, I want to believe that he can stick around.

2.) One night after the bullpen struggled, they had an awesome, awesome performance. Five perfect innings with 6 K's. Unbelievable. Even Juan Rincon pitched in with a fine 12th inning, picking up his 3rd win of the year. Awesome performance, guys!

3.) The Mike Redmond at-bat in the 12th was filled with strategy, but the thing that got my head spinning the most involved Lew Ford's "steal" of 2nd. Had he not taken the base, I presume that the Blue Jays would have pitched to Redmond (since they started off by pitching to him). Once Ford stole the base, they walked Redmond. That was the right play, because it kept the option open of getting outs at every base -- but if that's what the Blue Jays wanted in the first place, why not walk Redmond immediately? Or did they like the matchup, but only so long as Ford was on first and there was a possibility of getting outs at 1st or 2nd? I continued thinking in this vein for awhile, and finally just settled on the idea that they decided not to pitch to Redmond after the first pitch to him was a ball. It's easier on my brain that way.

4.) Jeff Cirillo -- hero of the night. Pretty good for a guy who didn't start the game AND who pretty much just announced his retirement (effective at the end of the season)!

5.) The Twins had nine hits tonight -- and not a single player had a multi-hit game. Weird.

6.) How about Michael Cuddyer at 1B? He looked alright there, but I sure would rather have him in RF with Justin Morneau at 1B. Still, this was a much more effective solution, in my mind, than putting Mike Redmond there.

7.) So Justin Morneau expects to be back soon. I've said all along that one week was the magic cut-off point for me -- and it sounds like he'll be back inside of a week for the original injury, so I agree with the decision not to disable him.

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Draft Update

First things first -- there was obviously no Nightly Notes post last night. Just didn't have a chance to get around to it. There will be one tonight, however. Now, onto this draft update.

La Valle Neal, Strib Twins reporter, posted an update on the draft from Patrick Reusse today on his blog. The post casually mentions that the Twins have signed 16 of their 50 picks so far, with a couple of more close to being done and another on the way. Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff doesn't feel that the Twins will end up signing more than 20 or so of the players that they drafted.

So, who has signed? Some of the names are easy -- the Twins released a list of players on June 12 who had already been inked to a contract, so that's where I'll start:

1.) Ben Revere - OF - 1
2.) Michael McCardell - RHP - 6
3.) Daniel Berlind - RHP - 7
4.) Steven Hirschfeld - RHP - 9
5.) Andrew Schmiesing - OF - 11
6.) Daniel Rohlfing - C - 14
7.) Daniel Latham - RHP - 15
8.) Lee Martin - RHP - 18
9.) Benjamin Petsch - C - 19
10.) Ozzie Lewis - OF - 21
11.) Spencer Steedley - LHP/1B - 25

That's all that the website acknowledges, but I've posted a few other names who have appeared on rosters over the last few days, and that gets us up a bit closer to the 16 that Reussue says have signed:

12.) Chris Cates - SS - 38
13.) Charles Nolte - RHP - 24
14.) Michael Tarsi - LHP - 12

Finally, Reusse mentioned one more player by name who has signed on with the club, although to this point he hasn't been assigned to a roster:

15.) Angel Morales - OF - 3

So, who's the mysterious #16? I wish I knew. I'll be watching rosters to try to figure out who else the Twins have signed. Now, if the Twins just updated their "draft results" page, things would be so much simpler.

Finally, the other takeaway from the Neal/Reusse piece is that the Twins believe they're going to successfully complete deals for 2nd round catcher Daniel Rams, 4th round shortstop Reggie Williams, 8th round catcher Daniel Lehmann, and 10th round pitcher Blair Erickson. Hopefully those deals will get done sooner rather than later, so the players have a chance to possibly get some playing time this season in the GCL or with Elizabethton. And what's with all the Daniel's?

Anyway, even if the Twins do end up signing just 20 out of 50 players, that's not substantially below expectations (I think I was suggesting 22-27 at one point) -- and they will have done very well amongst their top 12 picks. Hopefully there are a few playmakers in the bunch . . .

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Monday, June 25, 2007

'Twas Only a Matter of Time

Jeff Manship, this year's version of Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey (a.k.a. "the guy who's making A-Ball players look silly"), was promoted today from the Beloit Snappers to the Ft. Myers Miracle. Manship has been the apple of Twins minor league fans collective eye so far this season, with lofty expectations having been placed upon him since the season started. He's lived up to them -- and then some -- in his time with the Snappers by posting a 1.51 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 77-9 K-BB tally in 77.2 innings of work. It's long past time for a promotion for Manship -- who was somewhat inexplicably skipped over last week when Adam Hawes (with very, very inferior numbers) was promoted first.

The Snappers roster now sits 2 below the maximum, but it wouldn't be in the least surprising if someone was sent down from Ft. Myers to make room for Manship. The most likely target? Well, believe it or not, there are very few. Everybody on the Miracle pitching staff has an ERA of 3.86 or better -- with one exception. Alexander Smit, a lefty who the Twins added to their 40-man roster this past winter, has an ERA of 5.15 in 43.2 innings. His WHIP is an ungainly 1.67. Clearly, if anyone needs to be sent down, it's Smit. The problem is, moving a guy on the 40-man roster down to Beloit would be a virtual admission that the guy's days on the roster are numbered. I've said before that I think the Twins moved too early on Smit -- no one was going to take him and stash him on a Major League roster for a year, because he was nowhere close to being ready to perform at that level. It will be interesting to see how the Twins deal with Manship's promotion -- and Smit's poor performance.

Elsewhere: the Twins appear to have signed Chris Cates, a shortstop drafted in the 38th round in this year's draft out of the University of Louisville. Cates, who was born on April 15, 1985, is now listed on the E-Twins roster, so while the Twins website doesn't list him as having signed -- and while I haven't heard of his signing anywhere else, it certainly looks to have happened.

Finally, the same thing seems to have happened with RHP Charles Nolte, a 24th round selection out of San Diego State University. He's now being listed on the GCL Twins roster, indicating that he, too, has signed with the ballclub. He was born on March 19, 1986 and comes from San Diego.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Minor League Transaction

Joe Christensen reported in the middle of the game today that the Twins swung a deal with the Washington Nationals, allowing the Nats to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Levale Speigner after they designated him for assignment last week. In exchange for giving up Speigner, the Twins get OF Darnell McDonald, who is a 28-year-old former number 1 pick with the Orioles back in 1997. McDonald rose through the Orioles system between 1998 and 2004, making it to the big leagues in '04 where he struggled in 17 games, hitting .156 in 32 AB's. McDonald split the 2005 season between Indians and Devil Rays AAA teams, and was again at AAA with the D-Rays in 2006. This season, he was hitting .315/.812 in 267 AB's for the Nats AAA squad. Those are pretty good numbers, and the Twins are unquestionably thin in outfield depth at the AAA level, so this is a good trade. However, how much upside does a 28-year-old with 17 games of MLB experience have? This is a good trade for the piece that the Twins gave up (and it really doesn't even feel like giving something up), but don't expect a lot out of McDonald. With the outfield situation as it is, however, it wouldn't surprise me to see him get to the big league level at some point this season.

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Nightly Notes: Game #73

Another solid win for the Twins in the absence of the MVP, thanks to some timely hitting by Joe Mauer (power!) and some solid pitching from Johan Santana. The Twins win the series and head home for a four game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. Here are today's notes:

1.) Johan Santana showed an un-Santana-like inefficiency with his pitches today, as he needed 97 pitches to get through 6 innings of work. Nevertheless, in those 6 innings he allowed just 2 runs (only 1 of which was earned) on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 8. When Santana is at his best, he can get strikeouts quickly and efficiently, but today he had to labor a bit more. Nevertheless, thanks to an offense that actually had a little bit of life to it today, Santana picked up his 8th victory, and lowered his ERA to 2.83 -- while I was doubtful about his ability to make the All-Star game because of the number of solid pitching performances in the American League this year, I now have to rethink that position. His reputation and another solid year in the ERA and K categories should be enough to get him in the game. Oh yeah, before I forget -- how about that triple!?! Johan can swing the stick!

2.) Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan both got touched for runs today, but Matt Guerrier was his usual strong self and the runs never put the Twins in danger. When you see these guys in the game, you just feel nice and secure, don't ya?

3.) Just to make me look silly for being so effusive over his recent performance, Jeff Cirillo threw up an 0-for-5. Ho-hum. He's still been solid for the last two weeks.

4.) Joe Mauer went 2-for-4 -- with 2 homeruns. Hey, I'll take it! I don't think that Mauer is ever going to turn into a bigtime homerun guy -- his swing is built for doubles and a high average, not for lofting the ball into the air. Still, when he connects with one, he can crush the ball, and that's exactly what happened a couple of times today. He's been solid for the last couple of games, so I'd say he's fully recovered.

5.) I'm of the opinion that Justin Morneau needs to go on the DL if he won't be able to play even for just 1 week -- with so many games over the next two weeks (15 games in 14 days), the Twins need every roster spot filled. Besides, with the injury that Morneau suffered, you don't want to take any chances. Unless Morneau can play by Thursday or Friday, then, I think he needs to go on the DL -- and, I think that's exactly what's going to happen. If it does, I think the Twins will call up Garrett Jones.

6.) Incidentally, the Twins may go with Mike Redmond or Joe Mauer at first in one of the next couple of games. Presumably that would only happen if Jeff Cirillo needed a day off. Frankly, I don't want to see either of these guys playing there -- but it would certainly be entertaining.

7.) Nick Punto (.219) got a hit today! Unfortunately, neither Lew Ford (.247) nor Luis Rodriguez (.179) did. Enough with Rodriguez -- bring up Tolbert!

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Podcast Appearance

Marty Andrade, Jeff Straub, and a fella I don't know named Bill (from Glenwood -- close to my old stompin' grounds) were together today on Marty's podcast. We had a wide-ranging discussion, from my statement about wishing Moneyball had never been written, to Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, the All-Star Game, possible trades, Scott Ullger -- you get the idea. We talked about everything. There were some electronic gremlins around the 45 minute mark, but other than that things went pretty darned well. Thanks to Marty for having me on.

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Books, Not Baseball

I was recently "tagged" by Seth from Seth Speaks in what amounts to a "Books, Not Baseball" chain letter that has wended it's way through Twins blogdom of late. Unlike most chain letters, however, this thing is pretty cool -- and I've gladly decided to participate. Just for the record, all images come from Amazon.com. This is free advertising for them, so I don't think they're going to care too much. Thanks to Seth for the tagging, and here goes nothing:

1.) One book that changed your life:

There is no one book that changed my life, but while I was in college I read a lot of books about the law that collectively helped to steer me in the direction of going to law school. The decision to devote so much time, energy, and money to an endeavor like that is pretty life-changing, so just like the Clinton's, I blame Ken Starr. Why this book? No particular reason -- I just remember that it was well written and insightful. I could have just as easily included Sandra Day O'Connor's The Majesty of the Law, or even harmless fluff like Scott Turow's well-known (at least in my circles) One L, both of which also added to my interest in the law and, in Turow's case, law school itself. The end result, however, was that I decided this was something I was interested in -- and here I am.

2.) One book that you've read more than once:

There are a number of books like this in my collection, but the first book that I ever loved enough to go through a second time (and then a third, and fourth, and . . . you get the picture) was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Incidentally, the picture to the right was not found on Amazon -- I had to do a google images search for it. The picture comes from the cover of the version of The Hobbit that I read as a child -- I believe it was the 50th Anniversary edition, or some such. This, to me, is what all hobbits will always look like (I loved the Peter Jackson version of the Lord of the Rings, and though that Elijah Wood did a fine job of acting -- but I don't believe he's a hobbit for a second. Sam Gamgee now -- well, Sean Astin makes a decent hobbit, I'll say that). As I grew older, The Lord of the Rings became nearer and dearer to my heart than The Hobbit, and I haven't even read The Hobbit for quite a few years. Nevertheless, it will always be the first book that I kept coming back to time and again while I was growing up.

3.) One book that you would want on a deserted island:


My first reaction here is to cheat and go with Stephen King's Dark Tower series, calling all seven books "one book." However, I don't think there's a strong enough binding or small enough print to make that a legit pick, so I'm going to go with the aforementioned Lord o
f the Rings trilogy -- which I know have been published together as one volume. The reason is relatively simple -- it's a long work with a depth of characters that I love to read and could never get sick of. I could think of worse things than being stuck on an island with Tolkien as a companion.

4.) One book that made you laugh:

There are a lot of things that I don't remember about Philip Roth's The Great American Novel. I don't remember most of the characters, I only vaguely remember the plot, and I don't recall much about when or where I read it. I do, however, have a recollection of thinking the book was wickedly funny (often in a subtle way). And, several years after I read it, I recalled distinctly the plight of the Rupert Mundy's (a fictional baseball team about which this novel was written) when the Montreal Expos started traipsing around the country to play ball games. You see, the Rupert Mundy's were required to play all of their games on the road one season -- and for a time, with the Expos playing in Puerto Rico and who knows where else, it seemed as if life was imitating art. I need to catch back up with this book -- and if you haven't read it, I recommend you do the same. Be forewarned, however -- Roth isn't for everyone.

5.) One book that made you cry:

A book has never made me cry outright, but I've often felt sad or melancholy while reading, and one of the books that had a number of sad moments. This is a kid's book, but it's a fun read -- I just picked it up again last year and blasted through it, and there are still points that make me identify with the characters. That's ultimately the job of any book, so congratulations to Allan Eckert for accomplishing it with a kid's book. If I wanted to get political, I could cite some other books in this category -- books that make me wonder what people are thinking, or why we collectively treat people the way that we do. I'm not going to, however, so this book will have to suffice for this category.

6.) One book you wish had been written:

This is a hard category for me, because while I have a great deal of interest in a lot of categories, I can usually find a book written by someone who was there at the time or who has taken the time to meticulously research the issue. I guess the book that I would most like to read would be an honest-to-goodness autobiography, written in the modern style, by Abraham Lincoln. There are so many conflicting accounts of his motivations and behaviors that it would be interesting to see him clear some things up -- but it would be more interesting to hear his first-hand accounts of how the White House operated during the Civil War.


7.) One book you wish hadn't been written:

I confess that I've never read Moneyball, and unless I change my mind drastically, I will never read this book. Why? Simply put, I got sick of hearing about it almost the instant that it came out. I'm sick of hearing how Billy Beane is a genius despite the fact that his teams have little to no post-season success (ironically, of course, the limited success in the post-season does include a butt-whuppin' of the Twins by the A's last October). I admit freely that I'm not being fair to this book, but I don't particularly care. It's time to end the tyranny of Moneyball!

8.) One book you're currently reading:


Back when I was in college, I had a thing for collecting the so-called "classics," as determined by people other than me. One of the books that I bought at that time was Swann's Way by Marcel Proust -- and for years it's sat on bookshelf after bookshelf, following me around from home to home. I've thought about starting it at times, but, frankly, there were always more interesting things to read and I could never get going. After starting my recent job, however, one of my co-workers commented that he thought I'd be reading something more high brow than the Robert Ludlum novel I was lugging to work every morning (it was dreadful, actually, and I stopped reading it) -- something like Proust. He actually mentioned Proust. How could I not bring it in the next day? I'm now about 2/3 of the way through the book, and have to say I enjoy it more than I thought I would. Proust discusses everything to death -- in fact, I'm not sure 400 pages in whether anything has actually happened in the book or not -- but he has a way of turning a phrase (or, his translator does -- hard to tell at times) that is delightful. Swann's Way is the first of a series by Proust, and my experience has been good enough that I just might fork over the money for Volume II and see how things go.

9.) One book you've been meaning to read:

There are so many! I guess if I had to pick one it would be Tolkien's The Silmarillion, which I've started many times but never finished. For someone like me who is such a tremendous fan of Tolkien, this is an egregious omission from my list of completed books. I also own all of the books containing partial stories, notes, and comments on Middle-Earth that were edited by Christopher Tolkien, and would like to get a chance to read through them as well -- still and all, it's clear that The Silmarillion needs to come first.

10.) Six people to tag:

Well, I'm only going to tag one person who I know reads this blog and might actually write something up: Marty, that'd be you.

Rather than calling it quits after just one, however, I figured I'd throw in some "fantasy" picks -- people whose answers I'd like to see but who will never, ever read this blog. They're pretty much all baseball related.

Terry Ryan -- Twins GM
Bill Smith -- Twins Assistant GM
Peter Gammons -- ESPN Baseball Guru
Buster Olney -- ESPN Baseball Reporter/Blogger/TV Personality
Jim Caple -- ESPN Baseball Columnist

So, those are the folks whose reading list I would peruse if I had the chance, just because I think it would be sorta fun. Needless to say, you shouldn't be expecting to see any of their answers anytime . . . well . . . ever, really.

Thanks again to Seth for tagging me. Once in awhile, it's nice to write about something other than just baseball!

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Nightly Notes: Game #72

Baseball's a funny game. The Twins lose one of the most important pieces of their offense, and what happens? They put up 11 runs on 17 hits in beating the Marlins 11-1. Here are the abbreviated notes:

1.) Carlos Silva once again has a sub-4.00 ERA, sneaking it down to 3.98 after going 7 innings and giving up 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 5. How is this guy 5-8? Yes, he's had a few bad starts this year (and when things go wrong, they really, really seem to go wrong). Still and all, he's been a positive force in the rotation, and who amongst us thought he would do that? I was in favor of his option being picked up, but I didn't expect him to pitch as well as he has. Incidentally, Ramon Ortiz got a chance to come in and pitch for a couple of innings, and low and behold he didn't mess it up, giving up 3 hits while picking up a K. Hey, it's a start.

2.) OK, the Jeff Cirillo thing is getting ridiculous (in a great way) -- almost immediately after I suggested that his signing was pretty much a bust, he started to pretty much have a multi-hit game every night. Last night he went 4-for-5, drove in 2 runs and scored one himself. He's taken his batting average from .207 to .284 since June 15 by going 12-for-20 in that span -- a .600 batting average. At this point, it's obvious that he needs to be in the lineup every day. For Nick Punto, that means one thing -- he has until Justin Morneau is healthy to prove that he belongs in the lineup regularly, or he's going to find himself on the bench. A lot.

3.) Jason Kubel has started to look a lot better of late as well, and his 3-for-4 performance last night brought his average up to .250 for the season. Granted, he did it on a day when the Marlins pitching was, shall we say, sub-standard. Nonetheless, he's looking more and more comfortable at the plate, and deserves a chance to play every day. When the alternative is Lew Ford, well . . . (yes, that's right, I found a way to bash Lew Ford even though he wasn't in the lineup today -- although he did come in at the end of the game. I'm a horrible person, I know.)

4.) The Twins have an excellent shot to win today, with Johan Santana on the mound and the Marlins countering with Byung-Hyun Kim. A 4-2 road trip would be very good for the Twins, especially considering that two of those wins would have come without the aid of Justin Morneau. Of course, it's always possible for the Twins offense to decide not to show up, so I assure you I'm not yet counting my chickens.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #71

Two losses in one night is hard to pull off, but that's exactly what the Twins suffered last night -- they lost the game, and they lost their MVP (hopefully for a very short period of time). Here are last night's notes:

1.) While I normally start these posts with a discussion of the starting pitcher, it's clear that the biggest news of last night was the injury to Justin Morneau and the fallout therefrom. There is still a possibility that Morneau could find himself on the Disabled List because of the events of last night, but it's looking more like he'll be able to recover in the next few days. Had he suffered a long-term injury, I would have written an individual column discussing the implications of the injury. Instead, I'm just going to talk in this note about what would probably happen in the event that Morneau has to go on the DL. First, the column linked to above suggests that Garrett Jones is the first choice to be called up, and that makes sense -- he's traditionally been a first baseman, he has some power, and the Twins need to figure out what to do with him. The regular first baseman in Rochester is Glenn Williams -- and he's not having a good enough season to justify adding him to the roster and calling him up to play everyday. However, there is at least one other viable option -- the Twins could slide Jeff Cirillo over to first on an everyday basis (and Cirillo would probably play quite a bit even if Jones was called up) and call up Matt Tolbert, who is playing very well for Rochester, to play third. I actually like this option more right now.

2.) Another thing to come out of the Morneau injury last night was the odd spectacle of Ron Gardenhire apologizing for losing the game for the Twins -- because he didn't get Pat Neshek warming up in time to take out Juan Rincon due to the chaos in the dugout when the extent of Morneau's injury was becoming clear. First, I agree with the school of thought that says Gardy screwed up here. It's his responsibility to manage the game on the field, and that includes making sure that the right guys are warmed up at the right time. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly understandable mistake -- it was apparently a pretty scary scene last night, with Morneau coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing. For obvious reasons, this disturbed Gardy greatly -- a few people on Joe C.'s Trib blog last night suggested that Gardy looked incredibly shaken up by the incident -- so this was a completely human reaction. In the process of worrying about Morneau's status, Gardy neglected to manage his pitching staff, and Juan Rincon gave up the game-losing homer. There's no guarantee that the Twins would have won if Pat Neshek had entered the game to start the eighth inning -- but it's indisputably true that they would have had a better chance. Bottom Line: Gardy screwed up, but for a perfectly good reason.

3.) Yet another topic of discussion from "the play" last night revolves around the performance of Scott Ullger as third base coach. A lot of things were going on -- Howard Sinker says that Justin Morneau was a bit slow on the uptake, that Ullger failed to alert Morneau to what was going on in left, and that generally this whole play was botched bigtime. I can't disagree -- it's the job of the third base coach to be alert to what's happening in the field, and it's the job of a baserunner to be paying attention to that coach. Neither seemed to be happening last night. I'm not going to complain about Scott Ullger's coaching abilities, because at this point most fans have already come to the conclusion that Ullger screws up from time to time. Thing is, I don't know of any attempt to quantify the performance of third base coaches -- and I have no idea whether Ullger is a bad one, or if he just seems like it because the only plays you really notice are the ones that turn out poorly. Until I see something more concrete, I'm not willing to throw him under the bus. As for last night, I'd chalk that up as one of those patented mistakes.

4.) Now to the starting pitcher. Boof Bonser went 6 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits. Typical Bonser performance? Hardly -- he was actually very, very efficient, throwing just 66 pitches (49 of them strikes!) to get through his 6 innings. He gave up a homer, but otherwise didn't have too many problems. This wasn't a great start -- but believe it or not, I was encouraged by it. If he can continue to pitch efficiently, he'll win more games than he loses -- and when he's not pitching in a National League ballpark, he'll go a lot more than 6 innings, to boot.

5.) Juan Rincon -- ouch. The guy just doesn't have it anymore. The Twins may have picked an unfortunate time to sign him to a two-year deal. If anyone is interested in Rincon (at this point, though, would anyone be?) I agree with those who are saying that it's time to move him.

6.) Jeff Cirillo -- solid 1-for-2 day. I'll be more than happy to eat my words if he comes storming back and puts together a solid, somewhat Rondell White-like second half.

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Minor League Transactions

There are a number of minor league transactions to report on today, so here goes:

First, after yesterday's promotions of Danny Valencia, Brian Dinkelman, and Johnny Woodard from Beloit to Ft. Myers, it was pretty clear that a few players would be going in the reverse direction. Today, that became a reality, as the Twins demoted Whit Robbins, Matt Betsill, and Eli Tintor.

Demotions are always rough, of course, but these demotions were deserved. Betsill was hitting just .155 in 129 AB's, Tintor was hitting .178 in 185 AB's, and Robbins was leading the bunch with a .210 average in 205 AB's. No matter how you slice it, those numbers are terrible, and this was a much needed move. Hopefully the Beloit trio who were promoted yesterday will play a bit better than the three guys they're replacing.

In one other note, Ben Revere, the Twins first round pick in this year's draft, has been added to the GCL Twins roster. In his first two games with the GCL Twins, Revere has gone 4-for-7 (including a 3-for-3 performance this afternoon), so things are promising so far. Incidentally, Ken Harvey was also added to the GCL Twins roster as he makes his way back from injury. He more than likely will end up in Rochester as soon as he's healthy and in playing shape.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Site Update

I will be writing a notes column on tonight's game, although it may not be until tomorrow. I've picked up a lot of fodder by trolling on Joe Christensen's blog all night waiting for Justin Morneau updates, and honestly the biggest reason I'm not writing a column now is that I'd like to hear what's going on with Morneau before I write anything. Hopefully we'll know tonight just how serious Justin's injury was.

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Podcast Appearance

Forgot to put this up earlier -- I recorded an interview with Jeff Straub last night regarding the fate of Torii Hunter and transactions in general. You can find it at mntwincast.com. Thanks to Jeff for having me on.

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More Promotions

The Beloit Snappers promoted three more players to Ft. Myers today, with no word yet on any players being demoted to make room -- it will be interesting to see what Ft. Myers has to do to juggle the influx of 4 players in 2 days that they've taken on -- but I'm guessing we'll see a lot more movement throughout the organization in the next few days as people get shuffled around. What's most perplexing about the promotions announced today, however, is that Jeff Manship once again was not amongst those getting the bump. Here are the names and a few thoughts on their promotions:

Danny Valencia - 3B
This move makes a lot of sense -- Valencia was hitting .302/.874 in 242 AB's for the Snappers, with 11 HR's and 35 RBI's. On the downside, he struck out 54 times already in Beloit, which is a pretty high K rate. Nevertheless, he was playing well, leading the team in average and HR's, and he's getting promoted to Ft. Myers, where nobody has been able to hit this year and where he'll be getting most of his playing time at the expense of Juan Portes, who is hitting just .249 on the season. All around, a solid decision to promote him.

Brian Dinkelman - 2B
While his numbers aren't as gaudy as Valencia's, Dinkelman has also put together a solid season for the Snappers to this point with a .283 BA, .861 OPS, 7 HR's, 10 SB's, and 48 runs scored all in 240 AB's -- and he's made just 5 errors on the season. His main competition for playing time in Ft. Myers will be Steve Tolleson, who, like Portes, is hitting just .249 on the year. I also can't disagree too substantially with this move.

Johnny Woodard - 1B
I have to admit that I didn't see this one coming. Woodard isn't having a bad season, by any means -- .276/.876/10 HR/31 RBI -- but in 203 AB's he's struck out a whopping 64 times. Guess he's a swing-for-the-fences kind of player. With Whit Robbins (.213 in 202 AB's) and Matt Betsill (.159 in 126 AB's) both stalling out, and with Erik Lis playing well but mostly in the outfield, the Twins obviously felt it was time to make a move with Woodard. I'm not as comfortable with this decision as with the above two -- but, again, with no one playing well at 1B for the Miracle, I can't completely disagree with it, either.

Overall Impact
As I mentioned above, I think this is just the start of a serious realignment throughout the organiztion. The Snappers have just 21 men on their roster right now, which means they're four below the max. I would guess that at least one or two players from the Miracle will be sent down to make room for the recent influx (perhaps the aforementioned Betsill, for instance?). And finally, I still think that Jeff Manship will be promoted sooner rather than later.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Moves that Should be Made

In light of the news that Adam Hawes, a righty pitching with the Beloit Snappers, has been promoted to High A Ft. Myers, I thought that I would list the five players in the Twins organization who are most deserving of a promotion.

1.) Jeff Manship - RHP - Beloit Snappers

Stats -- 1.49 ERA / 0.72 WHIP / 72.1 innings / 74-8 K-BB

Manship is the poster-child for a promotion, and the decision to promote Hawes rather than Manship is mystifying. Manship has pretty much dominated Midwest League opponents this season, and should be pitching for the Miracle before too long. The Twins seem to be taking a more restrained approach with Manship than they did with Matt Garza or Kevin Slowey a year ago, so they must feel that he's still getting something out of his time in Beloit -- but I for one (amongst many) think that it's time for him to move up.


2.) Matt Tolbert - IF - Rochester Red Wings

Stats -- .373 BA / .991 OPS / 3 HR / 26 RBI / 166 AB / 20 K

I was admittedly not on the band-wagon earlier in the year, when people started calling for Tolbert to be promoted. I just didn't feel that he had demonstrated enough earlier in his career to justify a call-up to the big leagues. Consider me convinced -- you don't hit .373 in AAA over 166 AB's and not have at least some ability to hit. I'm still not convinced that Tolbert is a Major League caliber ballplayer, but he couldn't possibly be a worse option that Luis Rodriguez, who rarely plays and almost never performs well even when he does get into ballgames. It's time to give Tolbert a shot.


3.) Garrett Guzman - OF - New Britain Rock Cats

Stats -- .291 BA / .762 OPS / 7 HR / 42 RBI / 230 AB / 22 K

Guzman's OPS is a little on the law side, but he's driven in plenty of runs this season, and his low strikeout numbers are impressive. The Red Wings have Garrett Jones and Denard Span set in the outfield, but the other two outfielders on the roster, Trent Oeltjen and Doug Deeds, are struggling this year, so there's a place for another outfielder on the roster. Not to mention the fact that Matthew LeCroy is taking up a roster spot that should go to somebody younger and with an actual chance of developing. Guzman's productive season has put him in a position to get the call-up, and he's deserving of the chance to play for the Red Wings.


4.) Yohan Pino - RHP - Ft. Myers Miracle

Stats -- 1.99 ERA / 1.03 WHIP / 49.2 innings / 46-13 K-BB

Pino has started a few games and relieved in a few games, so he's demonstrating right now that he can suceed in either role. His numbers are amazing, and with nearly 50 innings in Ft. Myers, he's demonstrated that his success is no fluke. He deserves a chance to advance to the Rock Cats.


5.) Robert Delaney - RHP - Beloit Snappers

Stats -- 0.47 ERA / 0.63 WHIP / 38 innings / 46-4 K-BB

His stats just jump off the page at you, don't they? Delaney is a little short on innings for a promotion, but his numbers are so incredible that he deserves one anyway. He and Manship could take the flight down to Ft. Myers at the same time, even . . .

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Minor League Transactions

There are a number of things to mention in this post, some of which are quite interesting. First, let me say that I was going to avoid commenting on demotions and promotions in my minor league transactions columns, but that's no longer feasible because of the disappearance of the Down on the Farm posts. This is now the best forum to comment on these moves, so that's what they're going to morph into.

Also, just a note for those of you who've looked through the organizational rankings -- I've updated them once again, this time to include the rookie league roster information. I've only noted players who are in the Dominican or Venezuelan Summer Leagues this season if they were already in the rankings (which means that they appeared in the GCL or higher last season). Otherwise, no comment on those players until/unless they make their way to the GCL.

Now, the juicy stuff. First off, hat tip to Seth for bringing my attention to these two noteworthy pieces of information:

Levale Speigner, who the Twins lost to the Nationals in the Rule 5 Draft this past winter, was designated for assignment today. If Speigner clears waivers, he'll have to be offered back to the Twins, and my guess is that they would bring him back into the fold. After all, he dominated the Twins a couple of weeks ago, and that's got to be worth something. This will merit watching over the next week or so.

Next, Matt Moses was demoted from AAA Rochester to AA New Britain, with Brian Buscher being promoted to Rochester. Frankly, this isn't much of a surprise. Moses was hitting just .224/.549 in 174 AB's for the Red Wings, while Buscher (a minor league Rule 5 draft pick this off-season out of the Giants organization) was hitting .310/.876 with 7 HR's and 36 RBI's in 239 AB's for the Rock Cats. Moses is fast losing his prestige in the organization, but it's not too late for him to figure things out -- he's still just 22-years-old, after all.

As for other moves, the Twins have parted ways with C Jason Anthony and SS Juan Delgado. Anthony was signed in March, presumably to give the team options when assembling the rookie league rosters, but he must not have impressed in Extended Spring Training. Delgado spent most of 2006 with the GCL Twins, but hit just .228 in 136 AB's.

Finally, the Twins appear to have signed 12th round pick Michael Tarsi, a lefty out of the University of Connecticut. I haven't seen an announcement of this anywhere, but Tarsi's name has appeared on the roster of the Elizabethton Twins, so presumably the signing has been made. Hopefully some signing updates will be rolling out of the Twins front office soon, because I find it hard to believe that no one has been signed since June 12 -- I imagine this is an information delay that doesn't reflect reality.

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Nightly Notes: Game #70

I still can't quite believe I'm saying this, but the Twins just won their three game series with the Mets, in freakin' New York, nonetheless. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Scott Baker knew that he was on the chopping block tonight. A poor performance would have almost certainly been the end of his Major League season, with Matt Garza knocking on the door. Despite the fact that he faced the most intense pressure of his young career, and despite the fact that he was pitching on the big stage of New York, Baker was very good tonight -- not great, by any means, but very good. The Twins obviously are lacking confidence in Baker right now, though, because despite having a 6-2 lead going into the 6th inning, and despite the fact that Baker had only 84 pitches thrown, Gardy decided to go with Dennys Reyes to start the 6th. I can't argue with the move -- the bullpen threw 4 shutout innings and allowed just 2 hits and a walk over that span -- but it does show where Baker is right now. And honestly, had they sent him out for the 6th only to see him melt down, this might be a very different note. As it is, Baker has clearly earned another shot. However, don't read too much into this -- he needs to figure out how to pitch well consistently. Obviously, he hasn't done that yet.

2.) So, about that bullpen . . . Dennys Reyes may have found his groove, Matt Guerrier continues to be great, Pat Neshek was mostly solid (1 hit and 1 walk allowed in 1 inning -- a so-so performance for him), and Joe Nathan had no problems shutting the Mets down in the ninth. It's a little sad that Juan Rincon is no longer in the end-of-the-game rotation (as Seth suggested yesterday), and I have to agree with him that it might be time to trade him and get back whatever people are willing to give.

3.) Luis Castillo's 0-fer is over, after he went 1-for-4 tonight with a walk and a run scored. Nick Punto, however, could not get his bat going, and went 0-for-4 to drop his batting average to .221 on the season. Don't read anything into Punto starting at SS instead of Jason Bartlett today, by the way -- Gardy just wanted to rest Bartlett's neck for two days in a row. Punto is in trouble, though, because Jeff Cirillo continued to play fairly well tonight (1-for-4 and decent defensive play), and it sure looks like he's found himself a regular starting job.

4.) After Mike Redmond got his RBI pinch-hit single, I wasn't paying a lot of attention, and happened to notice somebody swipe second. My immediate reaction was "oh my god, Mike Redmond just stole a base." Then, I noticed the body size was all wrong, and things made a lot more sense when I saw that it was, in fact, Jason Tyner. My world went a little fuzzy for a few seconds, though.

5.) Congrats to both Elizabethton and the GCL Twins for both winning their first games of the year. Elizabethton destroyed Kingsport 15-1 in the first game of a double-header (they're losing #2 as I write this), and the GCL Twins beat the GCL Pirates 5-3. Great way to start the season!

6.) The White Sox are in disarray, but the big story here for me is what Ozzie Guillen is doing. Sometimes, it makes sense to rag on a player to try to get him going -- but Ozzie has thrown his team under the bus. Granted, nobody is hitting a lick on that squad, but somehow I don't think that telling them all that they suck is going to motivate them to play better. I've never been an Ozzie fan (even when he's nice to the Twins), and while I like to see the White Sox suffer, I think they need to make a move in that department. For the record, I don't blame him for the White Sox poor performance -- I just think that his presence is an anti-catalyst, and in my opinion they have no chance of playing better with him in the dugout.

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Gulf Coast League Twins Preview

Note: I updated this post at about 11:15 PM MT on 6/20/07. Where I felt it appropriate, I've noted the changes. Otherwise, I've just added more information without noting that fact.

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on this season's opening roster for the Elizabethton Twins. Today, I'm going to do the same thing with the Twins low rookie league team, the GCL Twins. I'm not sure of a result as yet, but the GCL Twins opened their 2007 season this afternoon against the GCL Pirates -- so hopefully they started things off with a bang. Here are my roster thoughts, with a player's place in my organizational rankings listed in parentheses behind that player's name:

Catchers
1.) Miguel Barrientos - (17-C)
2.) David Hernandez - (NR-C)
3.) Daniel Rohlfing - (NR-C)
4.) Alexander Soto - (NR-C)

Barrientos is the only one of these four players who has spent any time in the Twins organization at the GCL level so far, having played with the team in 2005 and 2006. Needless to say, he didn't exactly light the joint on fire, hitting .159 in 18 games in '05 and just .143 in 8 games in '06. Unless he somehow turns it around this year, I can't imagine that he'll be in the organization much longer. He'll start off the season on the Disabled List, which won't help matters.

Rohlfing was the Twins 14th round pick in this year's draft, and comes out of Oakville High School in St. Louis. Hernandez was an April signing who may have been a pitcher for a few years in the Dodgers system -- but that isn't certain at this point, and I'll try to find out more about him. Soto is a graduate of the Twins Dominican Summer League team, where he hit .221 in 95 AB's in 2006.

There are some interesting names missing from this list, including April signing Jason Anthony, Gilbert Buenrostro (a 20th round selection in 2006 who hit .281 in limited action for the GCL squad), and Korean catcher Jae-Hyung Jang -- none of them earned a place on a roster this season, so I'll be looking to see if they're still with the team or have been let go. To this point, I haven't seen any word that any of them was released. Update: Jason Anthony was released from the team sometime before June 15. No word yet on the status of Buenrostro or Jang.

Infielders
1.) James Beresford - (58-RP)
2.) Nick Biagini - (NR-1B)
3.) Jeanfred Brito - (NR-2B)
4.) Paul Kelly - (4-SS)
5.) Juan Richardson - (NR-3B)
6.) Ramon Santana - (NR-SS)
7.) Yangervis Solarte - (NR-2B)
8.) Jonathan Waltenbury - (11-1B)

The first name that leaps off the page for me is Paul Kelly, who is listed as being on the Beloit Snappers disabled list. I'd guess that Kelly, who hit .280 in 378 AB's for the Snappers last season, is just on the GCL roster to get back to speed after missing the start of this season with an injury.

Another interesting name is James Beresford, an Aussie who signed with the Twins at the age of 16 but who didn't make his way here until he finished secondary school. He was originally signed as a pitcher, but my notes in the organizational rankings suggest that he was also known as an infielder, so it's not really a surprise to see him on the list as a SS.

Jonathan Waltenbury was the Twins 7th round selection in 2006, but the lefty didn't sign until August and so wasn't assigned to play anywhere. He just turned 19 on April 1, so being assigned to the GCL makes sense. Hopefully he can establish himself quickly as a top prospect.

Most of the rest of the infielders played in the Dominican Summer League last year. The exception is Nick Biagini, who I've never heard of before. Update: I've mentioned this in the organizational rankings, but I now realize (as any Gophers fan likely was already aware) that Biagini was the Gophers backup first-baseman. He had just 8 AB's in 2007, and is considered a long shot prospect.

As with the Catchers, there are a couple of prospects who didn't manage to find their way onto a roster this year, and whose status is therefore in question. They are Czech 2B Jakub Hajtmar, and 2006 24th round pick Nick Papasan, a shortstop. Papasan had some vocal support from fans on the shortstop page of my org rankings, so I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't look like we'll get a chance to see him perform this summer.

Outfielders
1.) Kevin Harrington - (29-OF)
2.) Wang-Yi Lin - (30-OF)
3.) Andrew Schmiesing - (NR-OF)

With only three outfielders listed (and with Harrington listed as being on the DL), there's a chance that some more names will be added to this list at some point. However, for now these are the guys. Harrington was a 12th round selection in last year's draft, and put up a horrific .136 average in 110 AB's. He's young enough that there's still hope that he'll rebound from that, but wow.

Wang-Yi Lin (who I have been referring too as Wang-Wei -- not sure if I got bad info on the name or if I just butchered it) is a Taiwanese prospect who will turn 19 in 8 days. Should be interesting to watch his development.

Finally, Andrew Schmiesing is, of course, the Twins 11th round pick in this year's draft, out of St. Olaf. I had predicted that his college experience would get him a roster spot with Elizabethton, but obviously the Twins felt that he could learn something in the GCL first.

Who's missing? Well, the big name (and the reason that I expect this list to change fairly quickly) is Ben Revere -- the Twins 1st round selection in this year's draft who signed on June 12. I'm not sure why he isn't listed now on the roster, but I'd be very disappointed if, for some reasons, the Twins decided not to play him this season. Also noticeably absent is the Twins 6th round selection in 2005, J.W. Wilson, who put up a couple of very bad rookie league seasons, and who may very well have been let go. Once again, I'll be monitoring the situation.

Pitchers
1.) Jose Acosta - (48-RP)
2.) Santos Arias - (NR-RP)
3.) Daniel Berlind - (NR-RP)
4.) Jarrad Eacott - (57-RP)
5.) Rodney Gessmann - (56-RP)
6.) Liam Hendriks - (NR-RP)
7.) Nick Lobanov - (60-RP)
8.) Winston Marquez - (NR-RP)
9.) Lee Martin (NR-RP)
10.) Michael McCardell (NR-SP)
11.) Danny Rondon (NR-RP)
12.) Tom Stuifbergen (59-RP)
13.) Jakub Toufar (49-RP)
14.) Thomas Wright (51-RP)

Sadly, I'm running out of time to write this column, so I'm not going to go as in depth as I normally would. Maybe later tonight I'll come in and spruce it up a bit. For now, you should know that this pitching staff is an international sensation. Gessmann (Germany), Lobanov (Russia), Stuifbergen (Netherlands), and Toufar (Czech Republic) all come from places that aren't traditionally associated with baseball, which should make them an interesting bunch to watch. I'm also very interesting to see how Michael McCardell, the Twins 6th round pick in this year's draft out of Kutztown University, manages to perform.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #69

That's more like it! Twins pick up a big, important, necessary win in New York, and *gulp* Scott Baker gets a shot tomorrow to help the Twins win the series. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) OK, that's what Johan Santana is supposed to pitch like once June rolls around. A complete game, 4 hit performance (but just 1 K?) that saw Johan throw just 92 pitches. The low strikeout total may have had something to do with the fact that he had a low enough pitch count to get a complete game as a Twin -- something which once was rare, but which has become downright unremarkable over the last couple of weeks. Still, strikeouts or not, this is what the Twins need Johan to pitch like over the last 93 games of the season if they have any hope of catching the Tigers and Indians.

2.) Jeff Cirillo is making his case for replacing Nick Punto full time at 3rd. He's started to hit, going 3-for-5 tonight to raise his batting average to .253 on the season. And how about Johan picking up a double? He put a pretty good swing on that curve, but I never understood why National League pitchers don't just bust their opposition with fastballs -- seems to me they'd be likely to get strikeouts and weak grounders against almost all of them (except for guys like Carlos Zambrano, who could take the ball out of the yard). It was also nice to see Joe Mauer (2-for-4), Justin Morneau (2-for-5), and Jason Bartlett (2-for-5) pick it up tonight. Somewhat oddly, the only guy in the lineup not to get a hit tonight was Luis Castillo -- but he's been dragging a bit of late, with his average dropping from above .330 down to .306 now.

3.) There's been a lot of talk about Rondell White recently, and he supposedly felt better today after having a setback this weekend, but I don't expect to see him back before mid-July at the earliest. Even then, who's to know how he's going to perform? If the Twins think they need to make a move to get a bat at DH, I wouldn't wait for White to get healthy.

4.) I was jazzed for the start of the Elizabethton Twins season (see my preview post, below) -- but it rained in Tennessee, and 3 of the 4 Appalachian League games that were scheduled for tonight didn't get off the ground. Darn you, mother nature! Ah well -- there's always tomorrow.

5.) Don't forget -- tomorrow marks the start of a two-day gossip fest, with Scott Baker needing to deliver. If he doesn't, he'll have to watch Matt Garza make his start on Thursday knowing that a trip back to AAA is very possible. And if Baker pitches really terribly, there's a good chance that Garza won't even make that scheduled start -- in other words, we should know pretty quickly whether or not Baker's time in the big leagues is going to be up.

6.) Completely off topic, but I'm going to go on record here with a basketball opinion. I love Kevin Garnett -- have ever since he was drafted. Ideally, the T-Wolves would be able to build a solid corps of players around him and win a Championship. Sadly, the team has been so horribly mismanaged the past few years by Kevin McHale that there is very little payroll flexibility. The Wolves need to make something happen, and that something would probably involve trading KG. If the reported offers from Boston are even close to accurate, the Wolves need to talk to KG and make this thing happen. While he doesn't have a no-trade clause, he will be able to opt out after next season, making a deal risky for the receiving team. That's why the Wolves need to make sure that KG is alright with whatever situation happens. I never, ever thought that I would advocate for the Wolves to trade KG -- but it's time. We fans can all blame Kevin McHale for walking the team into this corner.

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Elizabethton Twins Preview

Tonight, the Elizabethton Twins (High Rookie affiliate of the Minnesota Twins) kick off the 2007 Appalachian League season against the Kingsport Mets. The team roster is now available, and I have a few thoughts on the players that have been assigned to Elizabethton to start things off. Without further ado, here's a trip through the 2007 E-Twins roster (with my organizational ranking of the player in parentheses behind the player's name):

Catchers
1.) Greg Yersich - (7-C)
2.) Rodolfo Palacios - (9-C)
3.) Benjamin Petsch - (NR-C)

The big surprise here is Yersich, who started the season with the Beloit Snappers but played so terribly (he was hitting just .168 with a .406 OPS in 119 AB's for the Snappers) that he's been relegated back to Elizabethton to try to find his stride. Palacios played with the GCL Twins in 2006, and hit .279 with a 694 OPS in 37 games, so it was fairly clear that he was going to earn a promotion to Elizabethton this season. Finally, Petsch was just drafted a week and a half ago by the Twins in the 19th round out of Belmont University. His experience made it fairly clear that he would start his professional career with the E-Twins, and he should be pretty polished right out of the box.

Infielders
1.) Starling de los Santos - (12-SS)
2.) Matthew Lawman - (11-2B)
3.) Rene Leveret - (NR-1B)
4.) Deibinson Romero - (8-3B)
5.) Henry Sanchez - (9-1B)
6.) Eric Santiago - (8-SS)

The most interesting name on this list, although it's not unexpected, is Henry Sanchez. Drafted in the 1st round back in 2005, Sanchez has failed to impress at every juncture so far, and is probably entering a make-or-break year. Erik Lis, who was drafted behind Sanchez, has already made his way up to Ft. Myers -- but Sanchez has yet to hit above .229 at any professional level (and that was with the GCL Twins in 2005). Hopefully he's figured things out after a spring in Extended Spring Training.

Deibinson Romero is another interesting player to watch. He had an excellent first season in the organization, hitting .313/825 in 50 games for the GCL Twins last season. I suspect that those numbers would ordinarily have earned him a promotion directly to Beloit for this season if the Snappers didn't have an already crowded corner-infield situation. Another solid performance this year, however, will build some significant buzz for Romero.

Another interesting figure on this squad is Rene Leveret, who basically graduated out of the Dominican Summer League (sort of a low-low rookie league) with a solid 2006 performance that saw him hit .331 with a 936 OPS and 7 HR's in 254 AB's. Honestly, he wasn't even on my radar screen, so I'll be interested in seeing how he performs.

Outfielders
1.) Wesley Connor - (25-OF)
2.) Mark Dolenc - (28-OF)
3.) Ozzie Lewis - (NR-OF)
4.) Rene Tosoni - (14-3B)

I'll start with Tosoni, since you'll notice he's on my 3B ranking. Tosoni was a 2005 draft pick of the Twins who was never assigned to play anywhere last year. I assume that there was an injury situation, but I never saw anything official on that front so I can't be sure. The fact that he's being listed as an outfielder may be an indication of how the Twins intend to use him this summer -- but it also may mean nothing. Chris Parmelee was, I believe, originally listed as a 1B for Beloit to start the season, and he's spent the vast majority of his time in the outfield. We'll have to watch to see where Tosoni gets his playing time.

Ozzie Lewis was the Twins 21st round draft pick this season out of Fresno State University, and his college experience makes it unsurprising that he would be assigned to Elizabethton to start his professional career.

Wes Connor is a native of the Netherlands who struggled with Elizabethton last season, and so gets a return pass. Mark Dolenc, meanwhile, was selected in the 15th round last season out of Minnesota State-Mankato, and played pretty poorly in the GCL. Nonetheless, he earned the promotion to Elizabethton for this season, likely on the strength of his past college experience.

Pitchers
1.) Omar Alcala - (36-SP)
2.) Michael Allen - (38-SP)
3.) David Bromberg - (32-SP)
4.) Jose Castillo - (27-SP)
5.) Steven Hirschfeld - (NR-RP)
6.) Daniel Latham - (NR-RP)
7.) Curtis Leavitt - (39-SP)
8.) Henry Reyes - (NR-RP)
9.) Michael Rogers - (NR-RP)
10.) Anthony Slama - (NR-RP)
11.) Spencer Steedley - (NR-1B)
12.) Bradley Tippett - (45-RP)
13.) Ludovicus Van Mil - (31-SP)
14.) Matthew Williams - (41-RP)

First, it should be noted that at the Rookie League level, concepts like "starters" and "relievers" can often be rather flexible, and a lot of guys get some starts and some relief appearances. As a result, I'm not going to make any attempt at figuring out which of these guys will really be "starters" this year for the E-Twins.

Next, you probably noticed that Spencer Steedley is on my first baseman ranking page. That's because he was listed as a 1B on the Twins draft page, but Baseball America has him down as a OF/LHP. The fact that he's showing up as a pitcher on the roster probably indicates that that's where the Twins intend to use him. He was drafted by the Twins in the 25th round this year out of UNC-Charlotte.

Other interesting names? How about Ludovicus Van Mil, the 7'1" Dutchman? He broke in with the GCL Twins last season, putting up a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings to earn himself a promotion to Elizabethton. Also of interest are the first-timers -- guys like Anthony Slama, a 2006 pick who signed with the Twins just before the deadline, and like Steven Hirschfeld and Daniel Latham, who were drafted in the 9th and 15th rounds respectively out of San Diego State and Tulane Universities.

Finally, I'm very curious about two of the names on this list -- I've never heard of Henry Reyes or Michael Rogers, so when I get a chance I'll have to do a little bit of digging.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Another Site Update & Transaction

Alright, I've finally made my way through the Organizational Rankings (listed on the right sidebar) and updated everything, from where players are playing to whether they're on the disabled list to new additions (including the recent 2007 draft signings). I've been meaning to do this for some time, and can now breath a sigh of relief that its done.

On another note, the Twins signed RHP Anthony Slama sometime at the end of May. He was the 39th pick in the 2006 draft, so he actually appears to be the last ever Twins draft and follow signing, taking the post from Ian Mopas, who I wrote about last week. He's older than Mopas, so he just might start the season in Elizabethton.

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Minor League Transactions

There have been a couple of moves over the last few days that may have gone unnoticed. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, but here are the moves:

First, a couple of days ago when Carmen Cali was optioned to Rochester, the Red Wings sent Jose Mijares back to AA New Britain to make room. Today, the Rock Cats made room on the team for Josh Hill, who was promoted from High A Ft. Myers, by releasing Brian Forystek, who had a 4.73 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 40 innings and just never caught on. Also, a couple of days ago the Rock Cats also reassigned Anthony Swarzak to Ft. Myers, after he posted an 11.12 ERA in two games with the Cats.

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Site Update, Notes, e-mail Interview

I'm not going to get a full fledged notes column up tonight, but it wasn't a great game anyway, so I hope you'll forgive me. I'll be back tomorrow with a regular notes column, hopefully talking about Johan Santana's 7th win of the season. I wanted to write up a column on the Elizabethton Twins tonight, talking about their roster for the season -- they play their first game tomorrow, after all. Unfortunately, they don't have a roster posted yet (there are a few players listed, but definitely not a full roster), so I can't. Hopefully, one will be up tomorrow for me to talk about.

Finally, I completed an e-mail interview today with Mets Today, where I answered 9 questions about the Twins. I pretty much wrote straight through my lunch hour, so it's fairly long. I know I made at least one typo, so be gentle if you read it.

Until tomorrow . . .

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #67

I didn't have a chance to write anything about last night's game, but I'm back today. After a heart-pounding finish, I think I've recovered enough to blog. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) At times today, Kevin Slowey looked really, really good. In fact, until the 5th innings, I was thinking I was going to get to write up a "he's arrived" column documenting the first really solid Major League start for the rookie. Even after Corey Hart and J.J. Hardy went deep back-to-back in the 5th, I thought that there was a chance that things would work out for Slowey -- after all, solo homers aren't the worst things in the world. Then, of course, came the 2-run shot from Tony Graffanino (Tony Graffanino!?!) in the 6th that marked the end of the line for Slowey. When he left, the Twins had a 9-4 lead, and it looked like, if nothing else, he was going to pick up his 3rd straight win. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

2.) Matt Guerrier came in first out of the bullpen, and it looked like we were in store for another "ho-hum, nicely done" performance from the 'pen after he went 1.2 innings perfect innings and picked up 3 K's. His ERA has now shrunk to 1.52 on the season, and it's quite clear that he's been hugely important for the Twins this year. Hard to believe that a couple of years ago, he was an afterthought who the Twins almost didn't keep around when he was out of options. After Guerrier finished up the 7th, however, things got rough. Juan Rincon gave up 3 runs on 3 hits, and Joe Nathan blew his second save of the year (but picked up the win!) after he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits in the 9th. Nathan's ERA jumped all the way to 2.45 from 1.91 in the process. Of course, it wasn't entirely Nathan's fault . . .

3.) I'm talking, of course, about Lew Ford's "whoops" moment that resulted in, of all things, a Prince Fielder inside-the-park homerun. I never thought, by the way, that those words would be printed. Nevertheless, other than that moment Ford had a reasonably good day. He was called into service after Torii Hunter was hit on the hand by a Jeff Suppan fastball, and proceeded to have a Torii Hunter-like 2-for-3 day with 4 RBI's and 1 run scored. In the process, he raised his average to a slightly-more-acceptable .246 for the season. In fact, had he not made that unfortunate non-error, I would have called today a complete win for Lew.

4.) Speaking of Torii -- sounds like he's going to be fine. If he had needed to miss time, it would have been very, very interesting to see if the Twins would have called up Denard Span (despite his horrible AAA numbers) just to see what happened. I doubt it -- the more likely call-up would have been Garrett Jones, with Ford and Jason Tyner playing in CF everyday -- but I think the temptation to see how Span responded to the Major League environment would have been present.

5.) As for guys who had good days at the plate after scuffling a bit, how about Jeff Cirillo (3-for-4 to raise his season average to .233), Joe Mauer (2-for-4 with 3 runs scored), and Justin Morneau (2-2, 3 RBI's, 3 runs scored, 2 walks, and that gorgeous walkoff homerun). Great stuff!

6.) The Twins will have Carlos Silva, Johan Santana, and Scott Baker pitch during the Mets series (and that start will be absolutely crucial for Baker, who needs to do well or risk being banished back to Rochester), and then have an off-day on Thursday. They're going to follow that up with Boof Bonser, Silva, and Santana against the Marlins -- meaning that Kevin Slowey is going to get an extended break of either 6 or 7 days off between starts. What could be really interesting is what the Twins do with Baker's slot if they decide to call up Matt Garza. This will merit significant attention over the next few days -- including watching how Garza does in his next start, which should come on the 21st -- the day after Baker's next start.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Should the Twins Keep Torii? Can They?

It's time to sit down and have a heart-to-heart about Torii Hunter. It's amazing to me looking back now that there was ever a movement to not pick up Torii's option last fall. Yes, $12 million seemed like a lot of money at the time -- but within weeks it was clear that the Twins had actually managed to secure a bargain, and Torii has done nothing but prove himself this year, with a .312 batting average, 14 HR, 54 RBI's, and the kind of defensive play that will earn him another Gold Glove when the season is over.

In a perfect world, the Twins would sign Hunter to a 3- or 4-year deal for about $12 million per, he'd continue to perform, and everybody would be happy. This is most certainly not a perfect world. Torii is apt to get significant attention on the Free Agent market this off-season (Yes, Ichiro and Andruw Jones are both free agents -- but Jones is hitting .213 this year, and hasn't hit above .263 since 2003, although he always hits a lot of homers). There's also the fact that the Twins are trying to find a way to sign Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan -- and some guy named Johan Santana -- to long term deals. Is there room at the inn for Torii next season? And should the Twins take the plunge and re-sign him if they can?

Last November, when I thought about this question, the answer was an obvious "no." Torii was getting older and more expensive, and the Twins had Denard Span coming up through the system. Surely, he'd be ready to slot into Center at the start of 2008. The Twins would need to fill Hunter's production numbers from somewhere, but they could do that with a free agent 3B or DH. Frankly, I looked at the money savings that would come with Hunter's departure and thought "no brainer." Now, that decision looks hasty and foolish -- especially with Denard Span struggling mightily at Rochester.

I ask you this question: where would the Twins be this year without Hunter's offensive production? Third, Left, DH, and Short have been black holes offensively all year. Without Hunter, you could add Center -- and that would mean more than half the lineup was doing nothing. I hate to say this, but the necessity of having his production in the lineup is not going to disappear next year. The Twins have no offensive prospects who are anywhere near stepping in and putting up Hunter-like numbers. They have no ability to lure a free agent with his kind of numbers, either -- at least not without spending as much or more than they would spend on Hunter himself. How about a trade, you say? Well -- to get somebody back with Hunter-like production numbers, the Twins would end up having to part with a package that would probably need to include a top tier starter prospect (Slowey or Garza, for instance) as well as a mid-tier starting prospect and at least one more piece. Sorry folks -- that's not going to happen. In other words, offensively, it seems to me that it's Hunter or nothing.

The Twins also cannot afford to dawdle on this. Case in point -- the Washington Nationals of last season, who refused to part with Alfonso Soriano and wound up getting nothing but draft picks for him. That's far too paltry a return on a player the caliber of Soriano -- or Hunter -- and the Twins cannot afford the possibility of letting Hunter go to Free Agency. That means a decision will need to be made on what to do with him in the next 6 weeks or so. Needless to say, a trade would end the Twins hopes of competing for a post-season berth this season.

In my opinion, then, the Twins need to do everything in their power to re-sign Torii Hunter. For how long and how much, you ask? I don't think the Twins would go over 4 years, and I don't think they'd want to go over 3. A three year deal would keep Hunter a Twin through 2010 -- which means he's be around for the first year of the new ballpark, which is something he very much wants to be involved with. His desire to play in that facility, and his desire to stay in Minnesota (which I believe is pretty high) may very well be the key to getting something done. I think there's a chance that he'd take somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million per year for 3 years, on average. I have no evidence for this -- it's idle speculation. I suspect he could get a better deal than that if he were to test the market.

But let's assume for the remainder of this discussion that Hunter would take a 3-year, $15 million/year deal. Could the Twins afford him? It would be awfully tough -- but there's perhaps an outside shot. Here's what would need to happen.

First off, if you look at the core players who are under contract for next season, you'll see the following:

Players Under Contract

1.) Jesse Crain: 2007 (.5 M) / 2008 (1.05 M)
2.) Joe Nathan: 2007 (5.25 M) / 2008 (6 M) *team option*
3.) Johan Santana: 2007 (12 M) / 2008 (13.25 M)
4.) Joe Mauer: 2007 (3.75 M) / 2008 (6.25 M)
5.) Nick Punto: 2007 (1.8 M) / 2008 (2.4 M)

There are more players under contract, but the rest of them stay at the same salary for next season, so there's no reason to mention them here. Looking at these numbers, the Twins will have to fork over an additional $5.65 M next season for these five players. But that's not the end of the increases:

Arbitration Eligibles
* 2008 figures are only estimates*

1.) Matt Guerrier: 2007 (.4075 M) / 2008 (1.5 M)
2.) Juan Rincon: 2007 (2 M) / 2008 (3 M)
3.) Carlos Silva: 2007 (4.075 M) / 2008 (6 M)
4.) Justin Morneau: 20o7 (4.5 M) / 2008 (6.5 M)
5.) Michael Cuddyer: 2007 (3.575 M) / 2008 (5.5 M)
6.) Lew Ford: 2007 (.985 M) / 2008 (1.5 M)
7.) Jason Kubel: 2007 (.3875 M) / 2008 (2.5 M)
8.) Jason Tyner: 2007 (.4 M) / 2008 (1 M)

Luis Rodriguez may also be eligible for arbitration as a Super-Two player at the end of the year -- he'll be on the border-line, I believe. Of course, his salary figure would be quite small anyway, so the Twins wouldn't need to worry too much, I don't think. Nevertheless, with these 8 players, if they got the raises that I think they will, the Twins would need to find an additional $11.17 M in the couch cushions to keep these players around as well. Added to the contract raises, that's an additional $16.82 M. And this is just looking one year into the future . . .

Where would that money come from? Well, the Twins will get some back due to free agent departures (remember, this is all preliminary to a discussion of Torii):

Free Agent Departures
1.) Ramon Ortiz: 3.1 M
2.) Sidney Ponson: 1 M
3.) Luis Castillo: 5.75 M
4.) Jeff Cirillo: 1.5 M
5.) Rondell White: 2.5 M

That saves the Twins $13.85 M right there, leaving a shortfall of $2.97 M to make up before Torii Hunter is even taken into consideration. Of course, if Hunter leaves, then it's relatively easy to take care of the above salaries, maybe add a moderately good player, and maybe even to sign someone (Santana?) long-term. But this isn't about Santana -- right now, we're talking about Torii. How do we make it happen?

First, Torii's making $12 million this year, and I'm predicting a $15 million salary for 2008 if he's re-signed. That $3 million needs to be added to the impending shortfall, giving us a need for $5.97 M. It also should give you a pretty solid idea of what I'm suggesting.

I'm predicting that Carlos Silva would get $6 million in arbitration after this season. It just so happens that that is almost exactly the amount of the shortfall the Twins would need to make up and pay for another year of Torii next year. More would need to be done -- the Twins would need to increase salary a bit to make some other free agent additions and to patch holes here and there -- but removing Silva from the rotation (leaving, presumably, a rotation of Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Slowey, and Garza or Perkins for 2008) would work wonders for the budget next season.

Look again at that projected 2008 rotation -- the Twins hopefully would be able to afford parting ways with Carlos. Indeed, there's probably no better time to make a move like this than at the trade deadline this year. Contenders will be looking for reliable starters -- and Carlos is making a solid case for himself as just that this season. The Twins should pull the trigger and make this move when July rolls around. It would hurt the teams ability to compete this year -- yes, Carlos has been that good -- but the alternative is significantly worse over the long-term.

The bottom line here is that the Twins simply cannot afford to lose Torii Hunter. They need to find a way to make the economics work to keep him around for another couple of years while they try to develop a replacement. Denard Span is just not ready for prime time, and will not be until, I would guess, 2009 at the very earliest.

As for the ramifications beyond 2008 -- my advice to the Twins is not to worry about it right now. The Twins cannot win in 2008 without Torii Hunter's offense -- at least, barring some kind of paradigm shift that I don't see coming. Get him under contract, get Johan under contract, and worry about the ramifications next summer. For now, there's simply no other choice.

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Nightly Notes: Game #65

Well, the mini-winning streak had to stop sometime, and tonight was a decent enough night for it to happen. The Indians and Yankees both lost, so the Twins didn't lose any ground to either -- although they did fall to 4.5 games behind the Tigers in the Wild Card race. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) I think it's certainly possible that tonight was the end of Scott Baker's Twins career. Since his first start of the year, against these very Brewers, he has pretty much been terrible -- his ERA is now at 7.33. Things actually started out pretty well for Baker, who pretty much cruised through three innings before giving up a Grand Slam to Geoff Jenkins. Two more runs came in in the fifth, and that was the end of the line for Baker. Unfortunately, the ability to put up three solid innings before self-destructing isn't going to cut it at the Major League level. It seems to me that the Twins can now say that they've given him a shot to claim a role in the rotation, and he has failed to do so. They've done their due diligence. I think a move is imminent -- although the Twins may decide to be patient and give him another start.

2.) Baker's struggles gave one man in particular an immediate opportunity to reclaim a starting spot with the team -- one Ramon Ortiz, who came in during the 5th to relieve Baker, and ended up going 4.1 innings to finish out the game. It's possible (although probably not likely) that had Ortiz been solid tonight, he would have found himself being moved back into the rotation for another shot. Instead, he, too struggled -- he gave up 5 runs in 4.1 innings and allowed 8 hits with just 1 K. That removes him from consideration to take Baker's spot in the bullpen, and may put his spot in the 'pen in danger as well.

3.) Of course, that leaves one obvious name as a possible replacement for Baker -- one Matt Garza. Garza has been solid if unspectacular in Rochester, and has at times been noticeably frustrated about still being in the minor leagues. I, for one, am pleased that Garza has had a few months of "seasoning" in the minors, and I think it's time to give him another shot. Baker deserved his chance, but that has not worked out. Ortiz is undeserving of another chance. Glen Perkins -- who I would give a shot to ahead of Garza -- is still hurt and is probably a couple of weeks away from being ready to return. That leaves Garza, and I'd be all in favor of making the move. I think there's a 75% chance that he makes the start in this spot the next time through the order. If so, let's hope he shows a balance of pitches and some more poise than he demonstrated during his last trip through the bigs. I'm excited about his (I think) imminent return to the bigs -- but I'm also a little nervous about how he'll do.

4.) Joe Mauer's troubles continue, as he went 0-for-4 again tonight and didn't seem very comfortable at the plate at all (at least in the at-bats I saw -- admittedly, I didn't catch the whole thing).

5.) Luis Rodriguez: 0-3 (.194 on the year); Nick Punto: 0-3 (.224 on the year). My faith in Punto is starting to wear a wee bit thin.

6.) I'm sad to hear that Josh Rabe is out for the year, and won't be ready to return until next spring. This does mean that the Twins can shift him to the 40-man roster if they need to add someone, which solves one potential problem.

7.) Could Rondell White be back soon-ish? He's starting to play a bit. His presence in the lineup could be a shot in the arm -- or, he could be another Lew Ford type. The Twins need him to hit at least .260 with some power when he comes back -- heck, those would seem like Hall of Fame numbers out of Left Field or DH at this point.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #64

Unbelievable! After eight innings of doing absolutely nothing offensively against Tim Hudson, the Twins pulled off their 20th comeback victory of the season to earn a sweep against the Braves. Too bad that it was too late for Johan Santana, who gets a no decision despite pitching great tonight. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) As I already mentioned, Johan Santana pitched really, really well tonight, going 7 innings and giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9. That drops his ERA to 3.19 on the season, and it looks like he's starting to find that Cy Santana form again. Now, if the Twins could just figure out how to score some runs for him, maybe he could pick up some wins to go along with the solid ERA and strikeout numbers.

2.) Dennys Reyes returned to the team tonight, and the Twins handed him a welcome-back win. I'm a little disappointed that Carmen Cali was sent down to make room for Reyes, because he hadn't done anything to deserve the demotion -- but them's the breaks, as they say. If there's a need again this season for a lefty replacement out of the 'pen, Cali's going to be the guy.

3.) We saw tonight why Ron Gardenhire wants to have a third catcher around. Joe Mauer didn't need to come out of the game after getting hit (for the second straight day!) by Andruw Jones' big, looping backswing -- but if he did need to come out, Mike Redmond would have had to move into the Catcher's spot, and a pitcher would have hit in Mauer's place for the rest of the night. Interestingly, it wouldn't have made much of a difference tonight -- Mauer went 0-for-4 anyway.

4.) The Twins are now just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card lead -- not bad for a team that seemed lost just a few days ago. Timely, clutch hitting and strong pitching will pretty much do it every time.

5.) There are some Mike Lowell rumors bouncing around right now, and all I have to say is "Yes, Please!". I highly, highly doubt that this would happen in reality -- I just don't understand why the Red Sox would feel compelled to mess with what has been a solid core of players. That, and the cost would probably be very high. But, hey, if it's possible -- then I say go for it. He'd add a significant threat to the team and make the lineup look a whole lot better top to bottom.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #63

Proud Papa Silva came up big tonight, as the Twins get the series victory and put themselves in the position to go for the sweep tomorrow night. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) How about that performance from Carlos Silva! This was a vintage Silva performance -- 8 hits, no walks, 2 K's, 3 double-plays. He was pitching so well that I don't think Gardy even hesitated about letting him throw 108 pitches to pick up the Complete Game Shutout. That's such a rarity with this group of Twins that sometimes you forget it's even possible on a pitch count, but Silva tonight was proof. Of course, this means that Carlos has 2 Complete Games in his last three outings -- which sandwich his worst start of the year (and, judging purely by Game Score, the worst Twins start of the year, period). Even allowing 8 hits, Silva wasn't really in trouble at any point tonight -- sure, he had a couple of rough patches, including the second inning when Chipper and Andruw Jones both singled to start things off, and the third, when Escobar and Johnson did the same thing -- but Silva just seemed totally in control throughout this game. I forgot how fun he can be to watch pitch when he's on his game.

2.) Normally I talk about the bullpen here. Of course, none of them pitched tonight thanks to the Chief, but there is some news, at least, to throw in here. It sounds as if Dennys Reyes is about to be activated, and that Carmen Cali is going to be the guy who is sent down. I sincerely hope that Reyes regains some of his 2006 magic, but at least if he doesn't, we know that Cali is waiting at AAA to help out if he's needed -- and Glen Perkins return seems to be getting fairly close as well. Since there's still some question about Joe Mauer's durability, this move makes sense. I would be stunned if the Twins stayed with 11 pitchers for more than 2 weeks, however.

3.) Lew Ford hit a homerun tonight and played solid defense out in left. Does that mean all is forgiven, and that I now will happily accept his presence on the roster? No. But here's the thing -- I root for every Twin that's in the lineup. I want Lew to prove me and all the other haters wrong, and I sincerely hope he does just that and goes on a tear. While a 1-for-4 day with a homer and some solid defense isn't bad, it's also not enough to make me forget the last, oh, 2 years. I'm willing to re-evaluate my position on Ford, but it's going to take more than that to get me to do it.

4.) How much longer will the Twins keep Jeff Cirillo around to put up 0-fer's? He's now hitting .210 on the season after going 0-for-3 tonight, and this just makes me wonder -- what happens to veteran free agents when they join the Twins? He's usually a better hitter than this, at least when he gets at least 150+ at-bats. The one notable recent exception is 2003, when he had 258 AB's and hit just .205. For the most part, though, he's been much more solid than that. Nevertheless, he comes to the Twins and his hitting falls into a black hole. Remind you of anyone? I'm thinking of Rondell White, of course, who hadn't hit below .270 in his career (with the exception of his 2002 season with New York, when he hit just .240). Of course, he was injured last season, so his early hitting woes weren't really his fault. I don't think Cirillo can fall back on his knee surgery, though. Maybe the reason the Twins are so hesitant about signing free agents to play in the field is that the guys they can afford to pay just fail to perform when they join the Twins.

5.) Don't look now, but the Yankees won again tonight, and the White Sox lost again. Two teams that struggled with some early season adversity -- but one of them righted the ship and seems to be on the way to making things interesting in the playoff race, while the other has self-destructed and is becoming a circus. I think all you need to do is look at the difference in the style of the managers -- the calm, almost stoic presence of Joe Torre versus the hyperkinetic and hypercritical presence of Ozzie Guillen -- to get a good idea of why this can happen. It isn't the only reason, of course -- the Yankees are better than they were playing, and the White Sox apparently aren't -- but I think it's a big part of things. My not-so-fearless prediction: Ozzie will be gone at the end of the year.

6.) Oh yeah -- before I go for the night, congrats to Michael Cuddyer on putting together an impressive 3-for-4 performance, and to Justin Morneau for clobbering his 18th HR and driving in his 48th, 49th, and 50th runs of the year. Nicely done, guys!

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