Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transactions -- Big League & Below

First, thanks to those of you who have commented or e-mailed regarding my previous post. All of your comments have been appreciated, and if you haven't yet weighed in and would like to, please do. If you have no idea what on Earth I'm talking about, scroll down a post.

Now, onto the moves. After today's win, the Twins optioned Brian Buscher back to Rochester and activated Adam Everett (or at least, they'll do so by Friday's game -- same difference either way). I know that many fans already dislike Everett as much as they dislike Punto, but for now I'm willing to buy the story that his injury has caused him to perform badly. We'll see how things go starting in about a week once he's had a chance to get used to playing every day again. We all know that Everett isn't going to hit .300, but .250 sure would be nice.

As for Buscher, this is the move that most everyone expected. A reader suggested a few days ago that Tolbert should be the guy going down because he's essentially redundant while Buscher adds a slightly different skill set. I can understand the argument and don't necessarily disagree with it, but Tolbert is still hitting .300 and I think has earned his place on the team (even if he hasn't exactly been getting a lot of playing time of late). I wish Buscher the best of luck in Rochester, and I'm fairly confident that we haven't seen the last of him this year.

Dipping down a level, the Red Wings have released Outfielder Jon Knott and Catcher Eli Whiteside, and let me just breath a sigh of relief. I never understood having these guys taking up space on a AAA roster. It turns out that Whiteside was essentially just holding a space for Ryan Jorgensen, who was serving out what remained of a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy. Color me unimpressed by Jorgensen -- he's a career .238 minor league hitter who will turn 29 in a few days. In other words, we switched out one light-hitting veteran catcher for a slightly older and even lighter-hitting veteran catcher. Granted, Whiteside had been miserable this year, but I doubt Jorgensen is going to light the world on fire.

Also, while the Beloit Snappers have also made a few moves over the last few days, the biggest one was the addition of Ben Revere to the roster from extended spring training. So far, he's going 4-for-11 with a couple of RBI's. I'm really excited to see how he performs over the next few weeks as he settles into life in Low A Ball.

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Question for the Masses

I received a thought-provoking comment to my most recent blog update, and I wanted to put the question out there for anyone who wanders by and feels like answering. A (previously regular) reader named Brock had this to say:
I have to say that I liked your site a lot more when you just were doing nightly notes and other posts like that. You can get minor league updates from a few other sites like Sethspeaks.not. I found your nightly notes posts very interesting and a good read, however I have almost stopped reading your site since you began doing regular minor league reports.
I don't actually disagree with Brock. The Down on the Farm reports that I put together are very formulaic -- there certainly isn't a lot of my "voice" in them -- but from previous comments and e-mails that I've received, I know that some people like them because they can check in once a week and get an idea of who's playing well. I feel that this is slightly different from Seth's excellent coverage, which is usually more day-to-day and so requires more of a commitment from the reader. The DOTF reports also take a long time to prepare (even in their formulaic format), which certainly does often leave me uninterested in putting together a Nightly Notes column the same night that I put up a DOTF (although that might change once the semester is over and I get more free time -- hard to tell).

So the question is this, for any and all who care to comment -- is there any reason to keep doing these posts? Would it make more sense to provide commentary every two weeks, say, that takes a more qualitative (and hence less numbers-oriented) look at what's been going on in the minor league system? Would something else work even better? I really would like to hear your thoughts on the matter as I take a few days (mostly) off to finish up my work for the semester. Either way, Brock, I do intend to get back to posting regular Nightly Notes columns, so hopefully I haven't yet lost you as a reader.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blog Update

I may post some Nightly Notes columns in the next few days, but Down on the Farm reports are scrapped for the rest of the week. That's most unfortunate for the Low A Report, which will be skipped for a second straight week. Unfortunately, it's unavoidable. As for tonight -- Go Twins!


Monday, April 28, 2008

Down on the Farm: AAA Report

Just FYI -- I've adopted the Star Tribune convention of bolding a player's name the first time I use it in the story (or, I should say, when I start to talk about that player's performance for the week). I think it makes things a little easier to follow with these posts.

Rochester Red Wings (12-12)

Starting Pitchers
This week belonged to Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing, with Kevin Mulvey also continuing to put up solid numbers. Glen Perkins was the real story, though -- after struggling through the first few weeks of the season with an ERA above 5.00, Perkins made two starts this week that were much better than what he has been putting together, even though he took a loss in one of them. In his first start, Perkins went 5.0 innings and gave up just 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks. That's not bad, but his second start was gold -- a complete game shutout in which he struck out 7 and allowed just 2 hits and a walk. That nearly halved his ERA, which fell all the way to 2.89. Amazing how early in the season, two solid starts can completely change the perception of how things are going.

Brian Duensing, meanwhile, continued to impress this week. He went 7.0 strong in getting the win in his only start, giving up a run on 3 hits while striking out 5. His ERA fell from 2.74 to 2.40 on the season. Kevin Mulvey also continued to impress, going 5.2 innings in his only start and allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits and 4 walks with 5 K's. His ERA rose (from 1.02 to 1.16) and those 4 walks were a bit high, but the fact remains that Mulvey continues to impress.

Unfortunately, the same has not been true of fellow former Met Philip Humber, who continued to struggle this week. In a losing effort, Humber went 4.2 innings and allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on an awfully high 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out a couple of batters. That performance raised Humber's already high ERA from 5.09 to 5.24.

The final start of the week went to Heath Totten, whose days as a starter are probably over now that Francisco Liriano is back in Rochester, giving the Red Wings five solid starters. Not that Totten has been primarily a starter anyway -- he made 2 relief appearances this week in addition to his 3.0 inning, 3 hit, 2 K start. Totten did allow an earned run during one of his relief appearances, but his 2.87 ERA still is evidence that Totten has pitched pretty well this season.

Relief Pitchers
Tim Lahey joined the Red Wings this week after rejoining the Twins and pitching briefly with the Ft. Myers Miracle. In two games, Lahey picked up a win and a save, going 3.1 innings and striking out 3 batters without allowing a baserunner. The bullpen Lahey joined has been pretty solid overall this year, and this week was no different. Casey Daigle made one 1.1 inning, 1 K appearance to drop his season ERA to 3.38. Ricky Barrett went 5.0 innings in 3 games, giving up 1 run on 1 hit and 3 walks while striking out 7 batters in that span, bringing his ERA to 2.45.

While nobody had terrible weeks, the other relievers weren't quite as good.
Carmen Calipitched in just one game, giving up a run in 1.0 inning on 1 hit and a K, bringing his season ERA to 2.79. Julio DePaula pitched in 2 games, going 2.2 innings and giving up 2 runs on 4 hits with 3 K's, bringing his ERA to 3.52. Finally, Mariano Gomez went 3.0 innings in 3 games, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits to bring his season ERA to 1.84. Like I said, none of them was terrible, but they weren't quite as good as the guys up top.

Finally! After struggling mightily to start the season, Jose Morales put together a great week, going 8-for-16 (1 double and 7 singles) and drove in 3 runs to bring his season average to .231. While .231 is nothing to write home about, it's a dramatic improvement from the .143 he was hitting as of last week. Backup Eli Whiteside also picked it up in limited action this week, going 2-for-6 with a homerun to bring his average to .150 from .071.

First base was all about Randy Ruiz this week, as he started all 6 games. He went 8-for-22 on the week with a homer, 4 doubles, and a triple while driving in 8 runs and raising his average up to .273. Somehow, everyone who was struggling a bit seems to have figured out how to hit. I'm not as high on Ruiz as I was during spring training, but I still think there's a chance that he could see big league action at some point this year if the Twins decide they want to have a power bat off the bench.

Second base still belongs to Howie Clark, the veteran minor league free agent picked up in the off-season. He went 4-for-16 on the week to bring his season average to .246 -- and that included a surprising homerun and a double.

At third, Matt Macri and Chris Basak both started three games for the Red Wings. Macri also picked up 2 starts at SS and one at 2B, going 5-for-21 with 3 doubles to bring his season average to .263 (a drop from .271). Basak, meanwhile, went 4-for-14 with a homer and a double (and 6 K's) while starting a game at SS in addition to his starts at 3B.

Shortstop primarily belonged to Alexi Casilla, and unfortunately he was the exception to the major improvements seen by many of the struggling hitters on the team. Casilla started 3 games at SS and one at 2B, going 3-for-13 with a double to raise his season average to .176. As Jose Morales showed, it's possible to turn things around pretty quickly -- hopefully Casilla can do that right soon.

Jon Knott went 3-for-10 this week in 3 starts in left field, hitting a homerun in a 2-for-3 performance during his first start of the week and generally struggling thereafter. Knott may have a hard time finding playing time from here on out, though -- with Denard Span back in center, Jason Pridie started the last two games of the week in left, going 8-for-28 overall in those two starts and 4 more in CF. Pridie struck out an awful lot this week -- 10 times, in fact -- but at least he was generally hitting the ball. His season average now sits at .278 on the season.

Denard Span returned to the Red Wings this week and started two games in center, going 2-for-8 with 3 walks and a steal (along with 1 caught stealing) in those two starts. His average in Rochester is now .294 -- we'll see this week how he settles back into his job in AAA.

Darnell McDonald, meanwhile, got all 6 starts in right field this week, going 5-for-24 with a double and a triple, dropping his season average to .292. McDonald could find himself splitting some playing time this week, with Jon Knott out of a regular job in left. Garrett Jones didn't start any games in RF this week, but he did start all six as the DH, so I'm sticking him here. Jones went 4-for-23 this week (all singles), dropping his average to .208.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #25

Hard to muster a lot of enthusiasm after a 10-0 drubbing, but I haven't posted all weekend and felt that I should let you all know I wasn't dead. Here are some thoughts:

1.) This is sort of the Livan I expected when he was signed. I was pleased as punch with his first few starts of the year, but have tried to point out that he was pitching way above his head, with a WHIP far below what he's traditionally put up. A pitcher who has always given up a lot of baserunners wasn't going to suddenly start keeping guys off the bases regularly, especially when he's not a big strikeout guy -- and indeed, Livan's last two starts have pretty much abolished his early WHIP success. Today, of course, was beyond bad -- 9 hits and a walk in 2.2 innings of work -- and I don't expect him to be this bad every time out. Unfortunately, I think the bad starts will be a lot more frequent than the good starts.

2.) Brian Bass is around to eat innings, and for the most part he's been doing that. His ERA has been moving steadily upwards, however (it's now at 4.67), and I have to wonder how long the Twins will keep him around if that ERA doesn't stabilize. I completely agreed with the decision to put him on the roster at the start of the season, and don't think he should be taken off just yet -- but I do wonder whether he'll turn things around in time to head off being sent down (and remember, he's out of options, so he could end up off the team entirely if a team thought he was worth claiming).

3.) Say what you want about Carlos Gomez -- when he's not in the lineup, things aren't nearly as interesting.

4.) Congrats to Bobby Korecky for making his big league debut yesterday and for putting together a solid 1.2 innings today. I fully expect him to get sent down on May 10 when the Twins activate Kevin Slowey, but hopefully he can put together some solid innings and convince the Twins that he's worth another callup later if the Twins need somebody in the bullpen again.

5.) I like Brian Buscher, but I fully expect him to be sent down when Adam Everett is ready to come off the DL in the middle of this week. The Twins could send down Korecky to balance out the position players/pitchers ratio, but I doubt it (and I believe I read in one of the Strib blogs that such a move is unlikely). Other than Buscher, there's not a logical move to be made (unless you're of the opinion that the Twins should just not activate Everett -- EVER -- and I'm not there yet).

6.) NFL DRAFT -- I usually hate trading draft picks, but I think the Vikings did a pretty good job managing their picks this year, even though they gave up a lot to get Jared Allen from the Chiefs. After watching the Vikings move the last two days, I'm pretty satisfied, and am especially happy that they picked up John David Booty to push Tarvaris a little bit. It's impossible to know for a few years how well a team drafted, but I like what I see so far.

7.) I never got around to posting a Low A report this week. My plan is to get one up on Thursday that covers the previous two week period, but this is the last 7-10 day stretch of the semester and I have a lot of work to get done. As a result, things may be a bit spotty over that stretch. Thanks for your patience!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Korecky on His Way Up

La Velle Neal is reporting (based on a story from the Rochester Democrat) that reliever Bobby Korecky has been promoted to the Twins. It's expected that Francisco Liriano will be optioned to Rochester to make room for Korecky, although that hasn't been made official and there is at least some speculation that Brian Bass is the player involved. For what it's worth, it seems much more likely to me that Liriano is the player on his way down -- he admitted yesterday that he's lost confidence in his ability to find the strike zone.

As for Korecky, at first blush the move doesn't make sense because he's a reliever and demoting Liriano would leave just four starters on the team. However, La Velle's logic here makes perfect sense -- the Twins have enough off days over the next week and a half to get through the rotation a couple of times with just four starters. With Kevin Slowey rehabbing and likely to be ready to go in 10 days or so, he'll be able to fill the hole in the rotation by the time the Twins need a fifth starter again.

So far this season, Korecky has been extremely solid. In 10 games he's pitched 13.1 innings and given up just 1 earned run (an ERA of 0.68) on 10 hits and 4 walks (for a WHIP barely above 1.00). He's also struck out 12 batters, which is a solid rate. He's been the best of the Red Wings relievers, and he's on the 40-man roster so he's an easy call up. Starter Kevin Mulvey has been amazing so far this season, and there was some thought amongst fans yesterday that Mulvey might get the call if Liriano went down since Slowey wasn't quite ready. Of course, if the team doesn't need a starter until Slowey comes back, it would be a waste to call Mulvey up now -- he should be getting regular starts in Rochester. In other words, I completely agree with the decision to call up Korecky.

Finally, a few last thoughts on Liriano. I was fully in favor of activating him when the Twins did, and I thought that by the end of his 4th or 5th start he would start to look pretty good. I stated at the time that if Liriano was physically ready to go that he should be in the big leagues, learning once again how to get Major League batters out. In some respects, I continue to think that -- but yesterday convinced me that Liriano is neither physically nor mentally prepared to face big league hitters right now. That makes it an easy call to send him down.

Mentally, as I mentioned, Liriano says that he's lost confidence in his ability to throw pitches for strikes. That's not a little mental block, it's a big one -- big enough that I might have changed my mind on keeping him in the bigs even if he was physically ready. However, I'm not faced with admitting that I was entirely wrong in thinking that he should be called up, because he the fact is that he simply is not physically ready either.

I think there are three aspects of being physically ready to pitch in the big leagues -- endurance, physical ability to throw particular pitches (i.e. being capable of snapping your wrist for a curve or slider, or of disguising a changeup properly), and being able to confidently repeat a pitching motion with very little variation. I don't think that there's any question about Liriano's endurance right now, and from what I've heard he's medically cleared to throw his slider. The big thing I saw yesterday was with his pitching motion, which just seemed wildly off at times. The Twins have tried to adjust his motion to avoid placing stress on different parts of his body -- and I'm starting to think that that's a big part of the problem. Liriano has not yet learned to repeat that motion from muscle memory alone, so he's probably thinking far too much while out on the mound. I classify this as a physical problem because the over-thinking will go away once he's comfortable with the motion -- but to be fair, it's both mental AND physical for now.

If Liriano does, in fact, head back to Rochester, how long can we expect him to be there? I haven't a clue -- but it probably will take awhile. I was stunned by what I saw yesterday, and I don't know if it can be fixed in just a couple of starts. No matter what, though, the Twins need to be sure that Liriano is ready the next time they call him up. My idea of re-learning how to pitch to big league batters is simply going to have to wait for awhile.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blog Update

I'm taking the night off -- I'll get the Low A report up tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll all have recovered from the hangover of today's rather horrific game by then!


In-Game Update

Those of you who don't have MLB.tv and can't watch the game should be thankful. Francisco Liriano has looked absolutely horrible today. He has absolutely no control, and for the most part he doesn't seem to have a fluid motion at all. I don't know if the Twins are messing with how he's throwing, or if he's just off his game, but it's not pretty and it doesn't look like he's going to last long. There has been some suggestion that Liriano should go back to the minors, and I was against that approach through his first two starts back -- I expected him to struggle, and thought he showed improvement from game 1 to game 2. What I'm watching now, though, is brutal. He looks completely lost. He's getting pounded because he can't find the plate and I assume he's just trying to throw balls over the plate at this point.

Incidentally, the Carlos Gomez leadoff homer was impressive -- the ball was high and tailed over the middle of the plate, and he absolutely smashed it. The impressive part wasn't the level of difficulty of hitting the ball, because it looked like it was right into his wheelhouse, but instead with how he crushed it. For a guy who bunts so much, he can sure drive the ball (when he makes contact!).


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Down on the Farm: High A Report

Ft. Myers Miracle (12-7)

Starting Pitchers
Kevin Slowey made a rehab start with the Miracle this week, going 3.0 innings and giving up an earned run on a hit and a walk while striking out five. If I'm not mistaken, he's scheduled to make one more start with the Miracle before moving up for a start in Rochester. Alex Burnett also had a reasonable, albeit short, start -- he went 4.2 innings, allowing just an unearned run on 3 hits and 2 walks while picking up 2 K's. Burnett's season ERA now sits at 3.60.

The other three starts this week were all very similar. Cole Devries, Jeff Manship, and Tyler Robertson all gave up 2 runs and lasted between 5.0 and 5.2 innings, and each of them gave up 6 hits. Robertson has the best ERA of the bunch at 2.79, but he also has a surprisingly high WHIP of 1.60. Manship (4.12/1.53) and Devries (6.00/1.56) are struggling a bit in both categories.

Relief Pitchers
Regular starter Deolis Guerra pitched in relief of Kevin Slowey this week, picking up the win after going 4.0 innings and giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks with 3 K's. His season ERA of 1.42 and WHIP of 1.21 are solid enough to put him at the top of the line of usual starters. Anthony Slama and Robert Delaney retained their membership in the 0.00 ERA club, with an 0.80 and 0.71 WHIP respectively. Meanwhile, Tim Lahey rejoined the team after his journey as a Rule 5 draft pick and went 3.0 scoreless innings in two games, giving up a hit and a walk while striking out 2 batters.

Elsewhere, Danny Vais got into two ballgames and won both of them, going 3.1 innings and giving up a run on 1 hit while striking out three. His season ERA now sits at 0.69, with a remarkable 0.46 WHIP. Matthew Fox, meanwhile, went 2.0 innings, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3, bringing his season ERA to 4.76 and his WHIP to 1.50. Julio Lugo pitched 1.2 innings in 2 games, giving up a run on 2 hits with a K. Unfortunately, his season ERA still sits at 7.88, with a WHIP of 1.50. Finally, Danny Graves got into a couple of games before his promotion, pitching 2.0 innings and giving up just a hit while striking out two.

Wilson Ramos continued to struggle this week, going 3-for-17 to drop his average to .189 on the season. He struck out 6 times in those 17 AB's, while doubling and driving in 4 runs. Of course, backup Allan de San Miguel continues to make Ramos look like Babe Ruth, as he went 0-for-6 in his two starts to drop his batting average all the way down to .105 on the year. Why is it that so many catchers in the organization, including some very good ones, can't hit this season? On the plus side, third stringer Rodolfo Palacios started a couple games as the DH, getting his first hits of the season after going 3-for-9 to bring his season average to .214.

I'm starting to think that I'll have to apologize to Johnny Woodard for all the bad things I've said about him over the years (alright, I haven't said anything all that bad). Woodard went 7-for-16 on the week to bring his average to .317. He also doubled twice, knocked a ball out of the park, and drove in 5 runs (all in one game).

At second, Brian Dinkelman continued an impressive run by going 7-for-18 on the week to bring his season average to .338. All of his hits this week were singles, but scored 6 runs and drew five walks against just 2 K's in his five starts at second.

Third base was split between Whit Robbins (who also got a start at 1B) and Danny Valencia (who also started a game as the DH). Robbins went 3-for-10, raising his average slightly to .235. Valencia, meanwhile, went 6-for-18 with a homerun and a double, bringing his season average to .273.

Finally, Toby Gardenhire and Yancarlos Ortiz split time at short. As expected, Gardenhire's average continued to plunge after he went 1-for-8 on the week (he's now hitting .250). Yancarlos Ortiz has been worse so far this year -- his 2-for-8 performance this week brought him to .179 on the season.

Juan Portes started 4 games in left field and put together a great week, going 8-for-16 with a double and a dinger. He also didn't strike out a single time while drawing 2 walks. His season average now sits at .302.

In center, Danny Santiesteban and Edward Ovalle each got a start, with Santiesteban also starting a game in right and Ovalle starting a game in left. Santiesteban went 5-for-10 on the week to raise his average to .298 on the season. His hits included a couple of doubles and a homer, and he also both scored and drove in 4 runs. Ovalle, meanwhile, went 4-for-13 on the season, bringing his average to .239.

Rene Tosoni started 3 games in right and one in center, going 6-for-16 on the week to bring his average to .352 on the season. All of his hits were singles and he struck out 6 times, but he did score 4 runs on the week.

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Morning Notes

I'm getting ready to teach a recitation this morning and thought I'd just pop a few quickfire notes down before my students arrive. I did stay up to watch last night's game (it's easier for we Mountain Time Zone folks), but I needed to get to bed right after so I could up early (well, it's early for me). Here goes:

1.) It's early and the sample size is small, but has anyone else noticed that Nick Punto has a .292 batting average in 24 AB's? I don't expect he's going to keep it up there for long, but for all of you who have been wailing mercilessly that he shouldn't be in the lineup, at least wait until he's hitting his weight.

2.) I guess sometimes small sample sizes work -- Craig Monroe had a ridiculously high average in just a handfull of AB's against Joe Blanton, so he got the start. He proceeded to go 3-for-3 against Blanton with the game tying homer. Significant? Maybe. It's really impossible to tell with a sample that small, but there's a reason managers make decisions on such little information -- it feels significant, and most managers make decisions with their gut, for better or worse. Not that I'm complaining about this move!

3.) Supposedly Denard Span and Matt Tolbert will get back in the lineup today. I like to see playing time spread around a bit, so I can't say I'm upset by that development.

4.) Livan's WHIP is starting to creep up -- it's at 1.27 through 5 starts now, but last night he went 6 innings and had allowed 7 hits and 2 walks -- a whip of 1.50. Remember, last year he put up a horrid 1.60 WHIP for the season, so let's hope that Livan doesn't return!

5.) It was nice to see Juan Rincon come in for the 7th and not allow a hit. He walked a batter, but he also struck a couple of guys out, and the Twins need him to produce for them. By the way, his ERA on the year is 4.70, which is better than Pat Neshek's 5.00. It's another stat that I don't expect to stay that way (well, honestly, let's hope both guys ERA's fall into the 2.00-3.00 category soon), but it's an interesting stat considering how reviled Rincon is among some members of the fan base.

Alright, that was short and sweet, but it's time to teach. High A report coming later tonight.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Down on the Farm: AA Report

New Britain Rock Cats (8-8)

Starting Pitchers

Thanks to my delay in getting posts up last week, this post covers just five games -- meaning each starter got one trip to the mound between the last post and this one. Unfortunately, none of the starters picked up a win, and for the most part everybody gave up a bunch of hits or a bunch of runs. The best start went to Yohan Pino, who went 5.0 innings in allowing a run on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 batters. Pino now has a very strong ERA of 0.69 on the season. On the other end of the scale, Oswaldo Sosa had the worst start of the week, taking the loss in a 4.0 inning start in which he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2, leaving him with a season ERA of 5.84.

In between were the other three starters -- Anthony Swarzak (4.0 innings, 2 runs, 7 hits, 3 walks, 6 K's), Ryan Mullins (6.0 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 3 walks, 2 K's), and Jay Rainville (5.0 innings, 3 runs, 7 hits, a walk, and 2 K's). Swarzak's season ERA sits at 1.35, while Mullins is at 1.57 and Rainville at 5.40.

Relief Pitchers
Armando Gabino put together the best week out of the 'pen, making three appearances and going 6.0 scoreless innings while allowing 6 hits and striking out 5 batters and picking up a win. His season ERA sits at 1.80. Zach Ward, meanwhile, retained his 0.00 ERA for the season by going 5.0 innings in two appearances and allowing just 1 unearned run off of 5 hits and a walk while striking out 6. It was also a pretty good week for Ben Julianel, who pitched 5.2 innings in three games, allowing 2 unearned runs off of 3 hits and 6 walks (he had a 4 walk game in which he took the loss). Julianel's season ERA sits at 2.53. The last guy in the "solid" category for the week was Kyle Aselton, who went 3.0 innings in 2 games and allowed an earned run (although he allowed 3 total runs). He did pick up a win in his second game, however, and his season ERA sits at 1.13, so no complaints.

On the downside of the list, Jay Sawatski got into two games and allowed 5 earned runs in 4.0 innings of work off of 8 hits and a walk (he struck out 4). Sawatski's 8.64 ERA is easily the worst on the staff at this point, so hopefully he can get it together as he moves forward. Jason Miller also struggled a bit in his lone outing of the week, going 2.1 innings and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with 2 K's to bring his season ERA to 5.79. Meanwhile, David Shinskie did not pitch this week after being placed on the 7-Day DL, and reliever Danny Graves joined the team on Monday to replace him on the roster.

When last I wrote about the Rock Cats, Drew Butera was looking strong offensively -- and I suggested that his average would start falling pretty soon. The last week bore out my prediction, as Butera went just 1-for-12 on the week in his 3 games, dropping his batting average to .231; that's the Butera I expected to see! I'm not making fun of Butera -- he's supposedly a very good defensive player who is an asset to the organization. There was really nothing in his background to suggest he was going to start hitting near .300, so this drop was not unexpected. Jeff Christy got two starts behind the plate, and he also struggled at the plate, going 1-for-7 to take his season average to .222.

Brock Peterson picked up 4 starts at 1B this week and 1 at DH, going 7-for-20 with a home run and a couple of doubles. It's nice to see Peterson start to pick up offensively (his season average now sits at .242), because I think he's an interesting player who I don't want to see stall out in AA. Erik Lis also got a start at 1B this week, along with a start in right field and three as the DH. Lis went 6-for-21 on the week, which was also an improvement (he's now hitting .179 on the season), and he also showed some power by knocking a couple of balls out of the park and (somewhat surprisingly) tripling. Unfortunately, the strikeouts were still fairly high this week (he had 6 of them), but overall it was a much better week than what he had been doing.

At 2B, Felix Molina picked up a couple of starts (along with a start at SS), going 3-for-10 to bring his season average to .259. He was joined at 2B by Steven Tolleson, who got two starts there as well and went 1-for-10. Tolleson really isn't seeing the ball -- he struck out 4 times, and his season average is .146. Hopefully he can snap out of it quickly, otherwise his playing time is going to stay pretty low, and that could make matters worse.

Third base belonged to Luke Hughes again this week, as he started four games there along with a start at second. Hughes continues to surprise me with his great offensive performances -- he went 10-for-23 on the week and is hitting .344 on the season. Amongst the highlights this week, Hughes hit a couple of homers, doubled twice, and and drove in three runs. On the downside, he made three errors (one each in three straight games). I'll take a few errors if he keeps hitting .344, though!

Trevor Plouffe started 4 games at SS and one at 3B, going 6-for-28 to bring his season average to .246. Amongst Plouffe's hit this week were a couple of doubles and a triple. He picked up hits in four of his five games, but he was really bad in his third game of the week, when he went 0-for-5 with 3 K's.

Matt Moses started all five games in left field, going 4-for-19 on the week to bring his season average to .220. He hit three doubles in that span and picked up 3 RBI's. Unfortunately, .220 (or even 4-for-19) isn't going to cut it for the once top prospect.

Dustin Martin, meanwhile, started all five games in center. After starting strong, Martin started to come back to Earth this week, going 4-for-21 on the week to drop his season average to .339. He did hit another homerun, but he also struck out 7 times, which is not a good sign. Regular center fielder Brandon Roberts (who is hitting just .182 on the year) didn't play this week, but last I checked he hadn't gone on the DL. I expect he's nursing a minor injury, and hopefully will return this week.

Right field belonged to David Winfree, who started four games at the position and started once at DH. Winfree continued to really struggle, going 2-for-16 to drop his batting average to .192. He only struck out twice, which is good -- and it's made better by the fact that he walked 6 times, which with the low number of K's suggests he's seeing the ball well. Something, however, isn't working particularly well, but I'm hopeful because of how he seems to be seeing the ball that Winfree will be able to turn things around. Of course, I'm not physically seeing his AB's, so the box score numbers may be deceiving. I hope for Winfree's sake that I'm right, though, and that he'll start to turn things around soon.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Down on the Farm: AAA Report

Rochester Red Wings (8-10)

Starting Pitchers
Kevin Mulvey continued to impress this week, winning his sole start by going 7.0 innings and allowing just one run on 6 hits while striking out 9 batters, bringing his season ERA to 1.02. He by far continues to outshine fellow former-Met Philip Humber, who in two starts this week went 8.2 innings, allowing a combined 7 runs (5 earned) on 9 hits and 8 walks with 5 K's. Humber's season ERA sits at a rather precarious 5.09 this season, which is not particularly encouraging.

Meanwhile, lefty Brian Duensing had a reasonably solid week, picking up a win and a loss in his two starts. He actually pitched better in the loss, but his line for both games was pretty consistent -- he allowed 5.2 innings, 4 hits, and 2 walks in both starts. In his win, however, Duensing allowed 3 runs and struck out just 1 batter, while he allowed just 1 run and struck out 5 batters in the game that he lost. Baseball can be a bit strange that way. These two starts took Duensing's season ERA to a solid 2.74. Fellow lefty Glen Perkins continued to struggle this week, going just 4.1 innings in his lone start and allowing 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks while striking out five. He now has a 5.14 ERA on the season.

The Red Wings also got spot starts this week out of Casey Daigle (2.2 innings, 2 runs on 5 hits with a K in a losing effort) and Heath Totten (4.0 innings, 4 hits, 5 K's). Expect Kevin Slowey to get at least one start for the team while he's on his rehab assignment -- and maybe more than that. If there's nowhere in the Twins rotation for Slowey to slot into, he could wind up starting for the Red Wings for quite awhile.

Relief Pitchers
Closer Bobby Korecky was the workhorse this week, getting into 5 games and picking up 3 saves, a win, and a loss. On the downside, he allowed his first earned run of the year -- but that still leaves him with an extremely solid 0.73 ERA on the season. Overall, Korecky pitched 6.1 innings over those 5 games, giving up 7 hits and 2 walks in addition to that previously mentioned run while striking out 4 batters.

Two bullpen lefties also turned in solid performances for the Red Wings this week. Carmen Cali put together four solid outings, going 3.2 innings and picking up a couple of wins while not allowing any runs and giving up just 3 hits and 3 walks along with 2 K's to bring his season ERA down to 2.08. Meanwhile, off-season addition Mariano Gomez pitched 6.2 innings in 3 games, picking up a save while not allowing a run and giving up just 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4 batters. Gomez has been stingy enough to have a 0.77 ERA this season, and may be involved in the conversation if the Twins lose a reliever to injury and need to call someone up. A third lefty, Ricky Barrett, also had an OK week as he went 3.0 innings in 2 games, allowing an earned run on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3 to bring his season ERA to 2.79.

On the right-handed side of the 'pen, Julio DePaula got into 3 games and went 6.0 innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 5 walks while striking out 6 (all in one game, in which he pitched 3.2 innings). DePaula's 2.84 ERA this year testifies to the fact that he's been pretty consistent so far this season. Spot starters Casey Daigle and Heath Totten also got a relief appearance each, with Totten going 1.1 innings and allowing an unearned run on a hit with 2 K's to bring his season ERA to 3.18, and Daigle going 2.0 innings allowing just 3 walks to bring his season ERA to 3.86.

I really wish I had good news for you Jose Morales fans, but he still hasn't quite snapped out of his offensive slump. He was a little better this week, going 4-for-21 (which, on the good side, did include a homer) in 6 starts behind the plate. That certainly was an improvement, but it still only brought his batting average to .143 on the season. Morales's backup Eli Whiteside also continues to be terrible at the plate, going 0-for-5 in two starts to drop his season average to .071.

Recently promoted Brian Buscher got 4 starts at 1B this week, which was the most of anyone. By now, you're probably aware that Buscher was hitting .345 by the time he earned his promotion. Before getting the call, he went 9-for-23 this week with a couple of long balls. Matt Macri also got a couple of starts at 1B, along with two starts at 3B and three as the DH. Macri went 7-for-23 this week to raise his season average to .271. The best thing about Macri's week was that he continued to cut down on his strikeouts, with just 3 K's this week. Meanwhile, Randy Ruiz also got a couple of starts at 1B this week along with 2 as the DH, going 4-for-15 with a double and an RBI to go along with 6 K's.

Howie Clark continues to be the starting shortstop for the Red Wings, and he actually hit pretty well this week, going 8-for-29 with 2 doubles and a triple to raise his batting average to .244. I personally would still prefer to see someone (anyone!) younger playing at this position, but there aren't a ton of candidates in AA who are ready to take it over, so I'll live with Clark for now.

With Macri spending most of his time at 1B and DH, Chris Basak picked up the bulk of the playing time at third, starting five games there and two at short. Basak went 5-for-21 on the week to raise his season average up to the lofty heights of .211. I guess starting Basak irks me more than starting Clark, incidentally. I still don't know why the Twins claimed him (how many times have I said that? I need to let it go!).

Finally, Alexi Casilla started 6 games at SS and 1 at 2B while continuing his epic struggles at the plate. Casilla went just 4-for-26 on the week, and his season average now sits at .164. Casilla's status as a prospect is starting to take a hit in my book -- but it's still very early, and there's plenty of time for him to turn things around and put together a decent season. He has to start in a hurry, though!

I was proud of myself last week for correctly predicting that Tommy Watkins would start to get some playing time in left field, but even I didn't see this coming -- Watkins started 6 games in LF this week and didn't get so much as one play as an infielder. Unfortunately, his change of position didn't improve his hitting, as he went just 4-for-17 to bring his average to .160 on the season. Jon Knott, who had been starting regularly in left, got two starts at the position along with 1 as the DH, and he was even worse than Watkins for the week: he put together a 1-for-11 week, and is now hitting just .179 on the year.

Jason Pridie started all 8 games for the Red Wings in center this week (they had a double-header on the schedule due to first week weather issues), and really turned himself around offensively, going 11-for-29 with 2 doubles, 2 triples, and a dinger. His season average now sits at .274, and while that isn't great it's a whole lot better than the .182 he sported a week ago. He also drove in a bunch of runs -- 9 of them, to be precise. It's nice to see Pridie get his offense on track after a weak start to his season.

Right field primarily belonged to Darnell McDonald, who was activated after a season-starting stint on the 7-day DL. McDonald went 9-for-24 to get his season off to a strong start, hitting a homerun and pickin up a couple of doubles (he went 3-for-3 with those two doubles and a couple of walks in his last start of the week). I'm not big on McDonald's future as a big leaguer (remember how he looked up during his short callup last year?), but that doesn't mean I don't wish him well, and I'm happy to see him start off hot. Meanwhile, Garrett Jones also got two starts in right along with a game as the DH, and he went just 1-for-11 to drop his season average to .224.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Down on the Farm: Low A Report

Beloit Snappers (6-9)

Starting Pitchers
Michael McCardell didn't pick up any decisions this week, but his two starts were pretty solid. In his opening performance, McCardell went 5.1 innings and allowed just 1 unearned run on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out six. In his second outing, McCardell lasted 7.0 innings, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 dingers while striking out nine. His season ERA sits at 2.76. Most of the other Snappers starters struggled a bit this week. David Bromberg went 5.0 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7 in his sole start of the week. Daniel Berlind made it just 3.0 innings in his lone start, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and 5 walks with 3 K's. Brian Kirwan picked up two starts, winning his first (a 5.0 innings, 1 run performance in which he allowed just 2 hits and 4 walks while striking out 5) and taking a no decision in his second (a 4.2 inning, 3 run outing in which he allowed 8 hits). Despite that last rough start, Kirwan leads the Snappers starters with a very solid 1.76 ERA so far this season.

Then, there's Michael Tarsi. His week was so bad he easily deserves a paragraph of his own. Unfortunately, Tarsi was knocked around about as bad as I've seen anybody ever knocked around in back-to-back starts -- and I imagine that he's going to need to deliver in his next start or be relegated to the bullpen (or, even worse, to extended spring training). In Tarsi's first start of the week, he lasted just 2.0 innings, allowing 9 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and a walk. His second start was better relative to the first, but was still pretty horrid -- he went 4.1 innings and allowed 8 earned runs on 11 hits and 2 walks. I don't know what's going on with Tarsi, but his 16.68 ERA so far this season strongly suggests that all is not right. Hopefully it's just a mechanical issue or some such that his pitching coach can work with him on.

Relief Pitchers
Charles Nolte and Steven Hirschfeld are the final two members of the Snappers pitching staff to hold onto a pristine 0.00 ERA this season. Nolte made it into three games this week, going 6.0 innings. Two of Nolte's starts were solid, as he allowed just a 2 hits and a walk while striking out 8 batters in them. Unfortunately, Nolte's middle appearance this week saw him take the loss after allowing 5 unearned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in 1.1 innings of work. Steven Hirschfeld also allowed a couple of unearned runs in one of his performances, but unlike Nolte he didn't get stuck with a loss. Talk about lucky, though -- Hirschfeld got a win for 0.1 innings of work in the second of his two appearances this week.

Elsewhere in the 'pen, Spencer Steedley got into just one game this week, picking up a win in a 3.0 innings performance in which he gave up a run on a hit and 2 walks while striking out 5. The workhorse of the week was Matthew Williams, who made it into 4 games and pitched 8.1 innings while allowing just 3 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 and picking up a win. Blair Erickson also made it into four games, but one of those involved a 0.1 inning performance in which Erickson allowed 4 earned runs on 2 hits and a walk. Erickson's season ERA sits at 6.35 on the year. Dominique Rodgers (3 games, 4.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 3 K's) and Loek Van Mil (1.2 innings, 2 earned runs, 2 hits, 2 K's) also got some action this week.

Gregory Yersich continued to get the bulk of time behind the plate this week, starting 4 games as the catcher and 2 as the DH. Unfortunately, he struggled at the plate, going 3-for-18 to bring his season average to .172. He did hit two homeruns, but that seems to be more of an anomaly than some sign that he's suddenly developing serious power. Unfortunately for Yersich, the guys behind him have generally hit pretty well this season. Daniel Lehmann started 2 games behind the plate and came in as a defensive replacement in a third, going 2-for-8 on the week -- but his season average still sits at .350. Meanwhile, recent acquisition Jair Fernandez started 2 games behind the plate, going 3-for-6 on the week with a double to bring his season average to .444.

Garrett Olson plays all over the place, but his four starts at 1B made him the primary 1B for the Snappers this week (Olson also started three games at SS and one at 3B). Olson went 9-for-29 on the week with a double and a triple, and is now hitting .283 on the year. Chris Parmelee, meanwhile, got three starts at 1B and three in right field. Parmelee's excellent week (he went 8-for-17 at the plate) was capped by a 3-for-5 game in which he doubled, homered, and drove in seven runs. Now that's a solid line in the box score. Of Parmelee's eight hits this week, three were doubles, one was a triple, and then there was that previously mentioned homer. Pretty solid evidence that Parmelee has been seeing the ball well of late. His season average sits at .317.

Steven Singleton was the team's primary second sacker, getting five starts there and two as the DH. Singleton went 11-for-27 to raise his season average all the way up to .400, and he scored 10 runs while knocking a ball out of the yard to boot. How's that for a week? Ramon Santana was the backup, starting 3 games at 2B, 2 at SS, and 1 as the DH. Santana went 5-for-20 to take his season average to .237, but the most notable thing about his week is the fact that he made 4 errors this week. Yikes!

Speaking of errors, Deibinson Romero had a couple of bad days at 3B (he started 7 games there this week), making four errors in his first two games of the week. He seems to have calmed down after that, but it's pretty clear that Romero at this point isn't destined to win a big league Gold Glove anytime soon. Romero went 4-for-26 on the week and is hitting just .208 this season.

Finally, Chris Cates started three games at SS, going 3-for-13 to bring his season average to a rather paltry .174. He did steal a couple of bases and also picked up a couple of RBI's, so the week wasn't all bad.

Ozzie Lewis picked up 5 starts in left, going 2-for-17 with an RBI and 6 K's (including 4 in one game). Lewis has so far been the least effective offensive player on the Snappers roster, posting a batting average that could best be described as sub-sub-Mendoza line (.098). Fortunately for him, his competition in left (Ben Petsch) is also struggling at the plate. Petsch, who started 3 games in left and one as the DH, went 3-for-14 and is hitting just .161.

Joe Benson remained the primary center fielder for the Snappers, starting 7 games there this week. Benson went 6-for-22 (after a 1-for-12 start), picking up a homer in his last game. He also stole a couple of bases, but was caught stealing in his last two attempts of the week. Benson is hitting .265 on the season.

With Chris Parmelee splitting his time between right and 1B, Mark Dolenc got the chance to start five games in RF and one as the DH. He went 7-for-25 on the week, including a 3-for-3, two run performance in which he doubled and stole a base. Dolenc is hitting .237 so far this season.

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Everett to the DL - UPDATED

UPDATE: Buscher it is. Apparently the team decided to make the announcement earlier than they first intended. No surprise at all -- the original post follows:

Joe Christensen is
reporting that the Twins are sending Shortstop Adam Everett to the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder. I'm sure upon hearing the news there was much tearing of garments and gnashing of teeth throughout Twins Nation -- or not. There's not a player on the team who has been less beneficial to the organization so far this season than Everett (well, maybe Mike Lamb who is hitting a woeful .143), although I'll give Everett the benefit of the doubt and assume that part of his poor play has been the result of this mysterious injury. Everett last played on April 14, so I would guess that his trip to the DL will be made retroactive to that date, making him eligible to return on April 29.

So who gets called up? I don't think it's a surprise that the smart money is on Brian Buscher. The Twins will make it official one way or another after today's game. Why Buscher? Well, first off, he's unquestionably the most deserving based on what he's done for Rochester through the first 2+ weeks of the AAA season, having posted a .345 average in 58 AB's while hitting four homeruns and keeping his strikeouts down (11). Add to that the fact that Mike Lamb has been horrible, and that Buscher would provide left-handed power off the bench on days he doesn't start, and he seems like a natural fit. Of course, he's also on the 40-man roster, so there wouldn't be any issues there.

The alternatives just don't seem nearly as attractive: Matt Macri is on the 40-man roster and can play around the infield, but he's hitting .275 with just 1 homerun and so doesn't look as strong as Buscher. Veteran options like Howie Clark, Garrett Jones, Randy Ruiz, and Chris Basak are available to fill a variety of bench roles for the team, but none of them are on the 40-man roster (the Twins do have two empty slots available, so adding them to the roster wouldn't hurt anything immediately), but none of them is playing nearly as well as Buscher right now.

The Twins could also decide to call up a pitcher to give them insurance if Brian Bass is going to miss a few more days. If they wanted a long guy they could call up a starter like Kevin Mulvey (he's pitched great, but isn't on the roster), or they could go with a reliever like Julio DePaula or even Bobby Korecky, both of whom are already on the roster. More than likely, the callup would just be for a couple of days before Bass was ready to come back, and then the Twins would probably call up Buscher (or one of the other position players mentioned above). This is possible, but I would say pretty unlikely.

For all of those reasons, I expect to hear that Brian Buscher has been recalled to the big leagues when today's game is done -- and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in the starting lineup tomorrow.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Down on the Farm: High A Report

Ft. Myers Miracle (8-6)

Starting Pitchers
The two best starts of the week were both turned in by former Santana-acquisition Deolis Guerra, who went 10.0 innings in his two starts without allowing a run. Guerra picked up the win in one of those games, allowing 8 hits and 6 walks with 6 K's between the two starts. On the season, Guerra has an extremely solid 0.60 ERA. Lefty Tyler Robertson was so-so in his two starts, neither of which led to a decision. In his first start, Robertson lasted just 4.0 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7 -- with that many K's and hits allowed, I imagine his pitch count was awfully elevated. His second outing was a bit better as he lasted 5.0 innings and allowed just an unearned run on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out five. Robertson has a 2.57 ERA on the season.

Elsewhere, the results were mixed. Bigtime prospect Jeff Manship picked up a win in the first of his two starts this week, going 5.0 innings and allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits and a walk while striking out four. Unfortunately, in his second outing Manship went just 4.0 innings and allowed 5 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. Manship has a season ERA of 4.50, so needless to say he hasn't been dominating to this point. Alex Burnett turned in a solid performance in his sole start of the week, going 5.1 innings and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk with 4 K's -- his season ERA now rests at 5.23. Finally, things haven't gone so well for former Gopher Cole Devries, whose ERA is at 6.92 for the season after he allowed 5 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in 5.2 innings of work in his sole start of the week.

Relief Pitchers
The most pleasant surprise of the early season in the Miracle bullpen to this point has been Anthony Slama, who has yet to allow an earned run in eight innings of work. This week, Slama appeared in 4 games, picking up 2 saves and a win over that span. He is joined in the 0.00 ERA club by regular closer Robert Delaney (who did suffer an unfortunate loss after giving up an unearned run in the second of his two appearances this week), and Danny Vais (who got the win in both of his relief appearances this week, striking out 3 batters in each case and allowing just a hit and a walk in his 7.0 innings of work.

Elsewhere in the 'pen, Matthew Fox went 6.1 innings over three games, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in that stretch while striking out 7 batters and picking up a win. His season ERA is at 3.76, so to this point he's been a reasonable option for the Miracle. Julio Lugo, whose season ERA is sitting at 8.53, started to drop it a bit this week as he went 4.2 innings while allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk with 5 K's. This week also saw the season debut of former Reds closer Danny Graves, who was . . . not that good. Graves pitched 4.0 innings and allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk in his first two appearances in the organization. Finally, the Twins released Aaron Craig, who made a couple of appearances for the organization without recording an out this season.

Highly touted prospect Wilson Ramos has struggled so far this year, posting a .194 batting average 36 AB's. This week's 2-for-17 performance certainly didn't help matters. Backup Allan de San Miguel has also struggled offensively, thus living up to his "great defense, horrid bat" reputation. To this point, de San Miguel has a .154 batting average on the season after going 0-for-7 this week. Third stringer Rodolfo Palacios, meanwhile, actually got a chance to crouch behind the plate this week (albeit as a defensive replacement late in a game), going 0-for-3 in extremely limited playing time. Palacios is the last Miracle player without a hit this year.

Johnny Woodard held down the fort at 1B again this week for Ft. Myers, getting 7 starts there along with a start as the DH. It was a pretty solid week for Woodard, who belted three home runs on the way to going 12-for-33 on the week and raising his season batting average to .273.

At second base, Brian Dinkelman picked up seven starts and went 9-for-28 with a homer, four doubles and a triple. Dinkelman is now hitting .319 on the season, and seems to be making a pretty solid impression so far.

Third base belonged primarily to Danny Valencia, who started 6 games there and 2 games as the DH. Valencia struggled at the plate this week, going 5-for-29 as his average fell to .250 on the year. He did pick up a homerun, but his other four hits this week were all singles. ON the plus side, Valencia drew 6 walks and struck out just 3 times, which is a pretty solid ratio. Whit Robbins also got some playing time at third this week, starting two games there and getting two more starts as the DH. Robbins went 4-for-16 on the week, which raised his season batting average to a rather anemic .208.

Speaking of anemic offense, Miracle shortstop Yancarlos Ortiz did his part by going 3-for-18 on the week to bring his season average to .172. Week one success story Toby Gardenhire, meanwhile, fell back to earth in a big way this week by going 1-for-12 in his 3 starts at short and 1 start at second. Gardenhire's season average is still sitting at .300 thanks to a strong first week, but if these four games were any indication Gardenhire is once again in for a year of offensive struggles.

Juan Portes once again got the bulk of the playing time in left field, starting four games there along with a start as the DH. Portes went 7-for-21 on the week and is now hitting .216 on the season. All seven of Portes hits this week were singles, which surely isn't doing much for his slugging percentage. He also struck out 5 times, including three K's in an 0-for-3 performance in his second start of the week.

Center belonged exclusively to Danny Santiesteban this week, as he started all 8 games there. He went 9-for-30 on the week to raise his season average to .243, and he did it with some pizazz, picking up 2 doubles, a triple and a longball. He also picked up 8 RBI's, so he was all over the run production for the Miracle.

In right field Rene Tosoni got the start 6 times to go along with 2 starts in left. Tosoni has been the best offensive performer for the Miracle this season, with a season average sitting at .342. This week's performance (8-for-26) was therefore actually a bit of a drop for Tosoni, but he remained extremely consistent, getting a hit in all but one of his starts. Edward Ovalle picked up the remaining three starts in right along with 2 starts in left, going 5-for-17 on the week to raise his average up to .212 on the season. In his best game, Ovalle went 3-for-4 with a run, an RBI, a walk, and a couple of steals.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Down on the Farm: AA Report

New Britain Rock Cats (6-5)

Starting Pitchers
The Rock Cats got two starts each this week (well, week-plus since I'm two days behind) from Oswaldo Sosa, Ryan Mullins, and Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak was the best of the bunch, picking up two wins in two great performances -- 6.0 innings in each, no runs and 3 hits allowed in each, and 14 strikeouts without any walks total between the two (including a 10 K performance yesterday). Mullins was also consistently good, although his record was 1-1; he went 6.0 innings in each, allowing 2 runs, 6 hits, and 1 walk in each game (one of the runs was unearned in his first start), while striking out 7 hitters between the two starts. Even though he took the loss in that second game, those were both really solid performances. Oswaldo Sosa wasn't so good -- in his first start he was fine, taking a no decision after going 5.0 scoreless innings and allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out five. Unfortunately, his second start saw him take the loss after lasting just 3.1 innings, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits and 6 walks.

The other two starters this week were Jay Rainville, who got the win after going 5.0 innings and giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits while striking out 2 batters, and Yohan Pino, who went 4.0 scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 3 batters. Pino's start was more than likely short because he's building up arm strength -- up to this point he had been used only in relief this season.

Relief Pitchers
Zach Ward was the bullpen MVP for the Rock Cats this week, picking up a win in three appearances and going 4.1 scoreless innings while allowing just 2 hits and a walk and striking out 3 batters. Also with an impressive week was Kyle Aselton, who pitched twice for 3.0 innings allowing 2 hits and striking out three. Armando Gabino allowed one run in three appearances totaling three innings of work on two hits while striking out two batters.

Jason Miller also had an interesting week -- also listed by the team as a possible starter this season, Miller has so far been used exclusively in the bullpen. However, the second of his two appearances this week came in the game that Pino started, and like Pino he also went 4.0 innings in that game, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits and a walk while picking up the win. In an earlier appearance, Miller gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in an inning of work.

Also getting into games this week were closer David Shinskie (3 games, 6.0 innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 5 K's); Jay Sawatski (2 games, 3.1 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 K's); and Ben Julianel (3 games, 3.0 innings, 3 runs [1 earned], 5 hits, 2 walks, 4 K's).

Once again, Drew Butera got the bulk of the catching duties this week, starting six games behind the plate and going 6-for-21 (including a 3-for-5 game in which he scored three runs) and settling in with a .296 batting average on the season. Backup Jeff Christy went 3-for-7 in his two starts and is hitting .273 on the season. It's still early, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised by Butera's offensive prowess -- expect that average to fall steadily from here, though.

First base belonged almost exclusively to Brock Peterson this week, as he started all but one game there (seven total) while also getting a start as the DH. He also started to turn things around at the plate -- after starting off his season 0-for-11, Peterson went 8-for-31 this week to raise his average to the thunderous heights of .190 (hey, it takes awhile to dig out of an 0-for-11 hole!).

Second base was the province of Steven Tolleson, who picked up six starts at the position to go along with a start at shortstop. After starting off reasonably hot offensively this week, Tolleson finished off with an 0-for-10 stretch that saw his average fall to .161 on the season. He did pick up a homerun and a couple of doubles this week, though. Now he just needs to get out of his current skid so he can dig himself out of that sub-Mendoza line territory. Two starts late this week also went to Felix Molina, who went 2-for-7 to bring his season average to .235 -- had I written this column on time, however, Molina would have been totally MIA from it since he didn't start at all from Tuesday the 8th to Monday the 14th.

Luke Hughes continued to hold down third base for the Rock Cats, and he put together a reasonably solid week at the plate, going 9-for-29 to bring his season average to .289. Hughes also walked a ton this week, jogging to first eight times (including a three walk game), while also picking up a homerun and three doubles. In other words, Hughes is off to a pretty impressive start, keeping his strikeout rate relatively low, and driving the ball reasonably well. He also stole a couple of bases. Not much to complain about from him so far.

Trevor Plouffe started 7 games at short for the Rock cats this week, going 7-for-29 and taking his season average to .235. Plouffe did put together a great game midweek, going 4-for-6 with a homerun and a double, driving in 4 runs and scoring 3 himself. Unfortunately, Plouffe made three errors this week and is still striking out way more than he's walking. I still hold out hope for Plouffe, but he needs to get that average up and stop making so many errors or else he's going to end up as a bust.

Left field was a haven for a couple of guys, with Matt Moses and Erik Lis both getting four starts there. Moses also started four games as the DH, and went 7-for-32 on the week with a couple of doubles and three RBI's. So far this season, Moses is hitting .225, and he's made a couple of errors -- I'd say to this point, the experiment of moving him to the outfield to take the pressure off hasn't worked (but it's early!). Just a question, by the way -- how is moving Moses from his natural position supposed to make him feel better at the plate? I'm not sure I follow the logic. Erik Lis, meanwhile, continued to really struggle this week in his 4 left field and 2 DH starts. Lis went just 3-for-27 on the week with three singles and a walk (at least he only struck out twice!). He's now hitting just .114 on the season. Lis is one of my favorite prospects, but even I'm sitting here going "yikes!".

Center field was primarily the domain of Dustin Martin this week, an interesting development since Brandon Roberts was the primary center fielder at the very beginning of the season. Martin has been fantastic so far, though, so it makes sense -- he went 12-for-29 on the week and is hitting .429 so far on the year. He also stole 5 bases this week. So far, what's not to like? Well, unless you're a big Brandon Roberts fan. Roberts was only able to get into three games this week, which included only two starts. He ended up going 3-for-10 and is hitting .182 on the year.

Finally, right field belonged primarily to David Winfree, who started 7 games. He went 7-for-27 on the week and is now hitting .222 on the season. The best part of the week was that Winfree went yard twice and picked up 5 RBI's in the games when he homered. He also kept his K's in check (he had 5 in those 27 AB's), although walking just once wasn't all that impressive. Like Moses, Winfree is transitioning to the outfield full time, and as with Moses I don't know that we can view that transition as a success so far. It's still very early, though (how many times have I said that in those post?) so I'm willing to give it some time.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One More Day Off

Push everything back by another night -- AA on Thursday, High A on Friday, Low A on Saturday. Until then, hopefully the Twins can figure out James Shields. If someone is placed on the DL tonight or something like that I'll post my thoughts; barring that I'll be back tomorrow night.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blog Update

It's that time of year again -- finals are approaching (although I have mostly papers rather than traditional finals this year), and while I've tried to ignore it as much as possible to keep blogging regularly, tonight is one of those nights when I need to work on school and not blogging. This will undoubtedly happen from time to time over the next three weeks as I finish up the semester (and, incidentally, this is why the relief pitcher organizational rankings are still not done -- that's what's been sacrificed to this point).

So -- the regularly scheduled Down on the Farm reports for the rest of the week are all being pushed back one day for now, and I won't be posting a nightly notes column tonight. I anticipate returning to a regular blogging schedule tomorrow. Until then, Go Twins (and Wild)!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Down on the Farm: AAA Report

Rochester Red Wings (3-7)

Starting Pitchers
The Red Wings played seven games this week and, unfortunately, didn't get a lot of support from the starting pitchers. Kevin Mulvey opened the week for the Red Wings last Monday, going 5.2 scoreless innings and giving up 5 hits and a walk while striking out 5 in picking up the win. Things would go downhill from there. Mulvey's second start of the week actually wasn't bad -- he went 5 innings, giving up an earned run on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 -- but he got no run support and ended up taking the loss. Can't blame Mulvey for that one. Philip Humber's start mid-week was alright -- he went 5 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 2 -- but the offense let him down too, and he took the loss.

Most of the rest of the week was rough: Brian Duensing took the loss in a 6.0 inning, 6 run performance (although just one of those runs was earned -- like the offense, the defense for the Red Wings hasn't been great this year); Glen Perkins went just 4.2 innings in his lone start of the week, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and walks while striking out 5; and Heath Totten finally made his first Red Wings start, lasting just 3.0 innings and allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits while striking out 3. Of course, the most notable start of the week was from a pitcher no longer with the Red Wings -- Francisco Liriano stopped by for a 4.0 inning, 3 run performance in which he allowed 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. Twins fans have since see him make his less-than-triumphant return to the big leagues.

Relief Pitchers
Bobby Korecky continued to put up solid performances this week, making three appearances and going a total of 5.0 scoreless innings while allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5 batters. Korecky technically blew a save in his last appearance of the week, but just to show how charmed he's been this year, he later got the win when the Red Wings came back. Mariano Gomez wasn't far behind Korecky in terms of success this week -- he came in twice to get one batter, striking that batter out each time, and then came in for a 3.0 inning appearance in which he allowed just a hit and a walk while striking out 3 batters. Most everybody else in the bullpen was at least reasonably solid: Julio DePaula went 5.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run; Ricky Barrett went 4.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs; and Carmen Cali went 4.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs. Only Casey Daigle really struggled this week, making three appearances and going just 2.0 innings while allowing 3 earned runs, including a performance where he failed to get an out while allowing a hit, a walk, and an earned run. Incidentally, starters Glen Perkins and Heath Totten also each got a relief appearance this week, with Totten getting an out in 1/3 of an inning, and Perkins going 2.0 innings, allowing an earned run on a hit and two walks.

Things are not good in catcher-ville for the Red Wings. Promising starter Jose Morales went just 1-for-19 on the week and is hitting a horrendous .107 on the season, while veteran backup Eli Whiteside went 0-6 with three K's in his two starts. I really have nothing more to say on this subject, other than it's early and I'm sure Morales will figure out his swing.

The theme of not hitting carries over throughout the team this week, and looking at some of the season batting averages for regular players is enough to make a fan faint -- check it out: Randy Ruiz (.225); Howie Clark (.188); Chris Basak (.176); Alexi Casilla (.172); Tommy Watkins (.000). In fact, only Brian Buscher, with his .314 average, is doing much of anything offensively for the entire Red Wings team. Buscher split his time primarily between first base and DH this week, starting three games at each and adding a start at 3B for good measure. For the week, he went 9-for-27 with a homer and a double, and without question paced the offense.

Elsewhere in the infield, Alexi Casilla split time between 2B and SS, with Howie Clark and Chris Basak getting the starts at those positions, respectively, when Casilla was on the other side. Meanwhile, Matt Macri once again was the primary third-baseman, and went 7-for-25 on the week with three doubles, a triple, and a homer. He also continued to strike out a bunch, but with 7 K's this week he at least cut it down a bit from when he was seemingly striking out every other time at the plate. In fact, at this point Macri's five errors are the biggest concern with his performance for the Red Wings.

If the infielders were bad, the outfielders were terrible this week. Garrett Jones came into the week having gone 6-for-12 in the first few games of the year, but this week he fell back to Earth by going 4-for-26 (including an 0-for-15 stretch over the last four games of the week). Jones started every game in right field this week. The primary left fielder for the week was, as expected, Jon Knott -- and Knott went 5-for-21 (a good performance for this outfield, as it turned out). Tommy Watkins, meanwhile, did indeed get a start in the left, as I predicted last week. Sadly, he went 0-for-6 on the week and still doesn't have a hit this season. Finally, Jason Pridie finds himself hitting just .182 on the season, including a 4-for-22 performance this week.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #12

The Twins wrapped up their fourth series of the year with a 5-1 loss to the Royals, putting them at 6-6 on the year. Here are some thoughts on today's game:

1.) As expected, Francisco Liriano was less than sharp today against the Royals, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits and 5 walks in 4.2 innings. Opponents of the decision to activate Liriano will no doubt use this start as evidence that Liriano should still be in AAA -- but I don't think it's nearly that simple. Liriano was expected to struggle in his first big league appearance in roughly 18 months, and anyone who thought we'd be getting the Liriano of June 2006 immediately was not thinking things through. The true test of the decision to call Liriano up will come in the next two or three starts, as Liriano either does or does not get back into a groove. I personally don't think that staying in Rochester would have helped Liriano; I think he needs to find his footing against big league hitters. Hopefully we'll see improvement in each of his next few starts.

2.) Nice job by Brian Bass to come in and get 7 outs while allowing just a walk. After a pretty rough first few big league appearances, Bass seems to be settling in and getting a bit more comfortable in his role. As for Juan Rincon -- the homerun was unfortunate, but at least it was the only hit he allowed in his inning of work. Still, it's telling that Rincon was used in the eighth inning of a game that was pretty much out of control; he pretty much seems to be the last option out of the 'pen right now (not counting Bass, who has a very specific job -- inning eater following short starts).

3.) What can you say about the offense when the team picks up only three hits, one of which came from Adam Everett? I guess you could blame it on Joe Mauer and Matt Tolbert being on the bench, but I'd rather give credit to Brian Bannister, who was absolutely in control for the entire game.

4.) Tiger Woods is great, but I don't mind seeing him struggle at The Masters. Things would be no fun at all if he just won every major with ease, and Tiger losing is, at this point, a better story than Tiger winning. However, I have to say that this has been a bit of a boring Masters for me -- no story lines have really stuck out for me (except for Tiger's pseudo-charge yesterday).

5.) Since this was a short notes column, I thought I'd give you a look at a few former Twins to see how they've performed through the first two weeks of the season. They are most definitely in no particular order:

Jason Bartlett (Tampa Bay) - .158/.200 OBP/38 AB's
Matt Garza (Tampa Bay) - 0-0/9.00 ERA/5-5 K-BB (disabled list)
Johan Santana (New York Mets) - 1-2/3.05 ERA/18-4 K-BB
Alex Romero (Arizona) - .667/.500 OBP/3 AB's
Torii Hunter (Los Angeles Angels) - .298/.353 OBP/4 HR/47 AB's
Luis Rivas (Pittsburgh) - .250/.273 OBP/32 AB's
Kevin Cameron (San Diego -- AAA) - 1.69 ERA/5.1 innings/3-2 K-BB

This is just a list of a few guys I thought were interesting -- obviously it isn't intended to be exhaustive. I was particularly interested to realize that Kevin Cameron didn't make the Padres roster after a solid 2007 season. Cameron was drafted by the Padres in the 2006 rule 5 draft, and justified the selection by playing great last year. Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring and then a thumb injury this spring, and barely pitched in spring training. That resulted in his failing to make the big league roster and being sent to Portland, the Padres AAA club. Of course, the rule 5 obligation of carrying a player on the big league roster only applies for the year after the player is drafted, so with options remaining, Cameron could be sent to AAA with no problems.

I also find it interesting that Johan Santana's start with the Mets seems to have been viewed in some quarters as disappointing. Yes, he's 1-2 -- but his ERA and K-BB numbers are absolutely nothing to sneeze at. It's as if some people expected him to go 28-0 with about 400 K's and an ERA under 1.00. C'mon folks, he's good but he ain't that good.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #10

Back to .500! It's been something of a topsy-turvy season, but the Twins find themselves just a game behind the Royals for the division lead (how strange does that sound?). Here are some notes:

1.) I really am at a loss for what to say about Livan Hernandez. For the third straight start, he kept his WHIP in check (7 hits and a walk in 7 innings), and the result was another victory (which will usually be the case when you keep guys off the bases). We're moving beyond Ramon Ortiz territory here and into "maybe Livan isn't as washed up as we thought he was" territory. Frankly, I didn't expect three starts like this all year out of Livan. It's hard to admit, but I'm starting to think I was wrong. Of course, two of Hernandez's starts this season have come against the Royals, so perhaps I should avoid getting excited until Hernandez faces a team like the Yankees or Red Sox.

2.) What on earth has gotten into Matt Tolbert? First, he outlasts a bunch of guys in spring training to win a very unexpected roster spot, and then he dominates big league pitching to the tune of 10 hits in 18 AB's and an on-base percentage in the .600 region? Good lord, man! At this point, is it wrong to suggest a sort of uber-rotation over the course of four days, with Tolbert starting at 2B, SS, and 3B in consecutive days and getting the fourth day off? That would give the regular starters and Tolbert each a chance to play 3 out of every 4 days. It's a bit unconventional, but he has to get in the lineup somehow, doesn't he? And as bad as Adam Everett has been so far, it seems unlikely the Twins are going to just dump him so early in the season. The most interesting thing about Tolbert's rise, though, has been the virtual disappearance of Nick Punto. The joke coming into the season was that Gardy was in love with Punto and would put him in the lineup far too often. I'd say that particular man-crush has been shattered, since Punto has a sum total of three at-bats so far this season. Not that I'm complaining!

3.) Congrats to Denard Span on his first career RBI and first career outfield assist, and to Carlos Gomez on his first career triple (and by the way, how does a dude with wheels like Gomez's not hit a triple until the 67th game of his career?). I love young players -- firsts are a lot of fun!

4.) Francisco Liriano is on his way back to the big leagues, and will make his first big league start since late 2006 on Sunday. I've stated before that I thought Liriano might as well get called up if he was physically ready, and I stand by that (and will continue to stand by that even if he struggles in his first few starts back -- which, frankly, is likely). One interesting note on the decision to call him up now -- through today, Liriano will have spent 15 days on "optional assignment" to the minor leagues. To use up an option year, a player has to spend at least 20 days on optional assignment. Translation: if Liriano spends the rest of the season on the Major League roster (something that I think is likely, but by no means certain), then he'll still have two option years left. Not that I expect him to have to use those option years, but it's still an interesting development.

5.) Congrats to the Wild on pulling off a win in Game 2 against the Avalanche. Since I live in Colorado, there are some significant bragging rights for me against some of my friends and colleagues if the Wild can win this series -- I'd be rooting for them anyway, but this makes things even more interesting. I have to say, as a casual hockey fan I have really enjoyed these first two games; two overtimes, plenty of drama, what more could you ask for out of playoff hockey?

6.) Most of you have probably already seen that the Twins sent Doug Deeds to the Cubs to complete the Craig Monroe deal. While I never like to see high-level minor leaguers go, I can't say that I'm all that heartbroken by Deeds' departure -- he had some power, and a career minor league average of .291, but he also struck out a ton and struggled as a half-time player in Rochester last year. It's certainly possible that he could someday make his way to the big leagues, but I don't think it's likely. If anything, his departure clears some space in AAA for more promising players (although not in a real sense right now -- he's spent the first 8 days of the minor league season on the 7-Day DL). I wish Deeds luck in his new home.

7.) UPDATE: Tim Lahey is officially back in the fold, and is reporting to extended spring training. My original post on Lahey follows: Incidentally, it sounded yesterday like Tim Lahey, lost in the Rule 5 Draft, was probably on his way back to the Twins after he cleared waivers with the Phillies. I didn't see confirmation of that, but it seemed like something close to a done deal (the Twins aren't just going to let him go to the Phillies for nothing, but it's possible they swung some sort of a deal, which has been en vogue of late). Hopefully we'll get some sort of definite confirmation in the next day or so -- maybe by his appearance in a Rochester box score, if nothing else. Just as a reminder, the Twins have already made trades with Seattle and Washington for R.A. Dickey and Garrett Guzman, respectively, settling the account for those Rule 5 picks (the Mariners gave up catcher Jair Fernandez, while the Nationals gave up someone or something not yet named -- that I've seen at least).


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Down on the Farm: Low A Report

Beloit Snappers (2-5)

Starting Pitching
The starter has recorded a decision in every game the Snappers have played so far this season, which is too bad since there have been a lot more losses than wins to go around. Two excellent starts were turned in earlier this week by Brian Kirwan (5.2 innings, a hit and a walk, and 4 K's) and spot-starter Steven Hirschfeld (5.0 innings, 3 hits and 2 walks, and 3 K's), who started one half of a double-header. Unfortunately, the other four regular starters were pretty poor. David Bromberg, who was the only guy to get two starts this week, gave up a combined total of 9 earned runs off of 7 hits and 4 walks in 8 total innings of work while striking out 8 batters. Michael Tarsi went 5.0 innings in his start, but gave up 6 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and a walk while striking out five. Mike McCardell and Dan Berlind also both had short starts this week. This is an interesting rotation, but they didn't play up to their potential in the first week -- I'm pretty confident there are better things to come.

Relief Pitching
Without question, the most exciting pitcher of the first week out of the Snappers' bullpen was Loek Van Mil, who pitched 4 perfect innings in two appearances while striking out 5 batters. Honestly, I didn't expect him to start so strong, and I'll be watching his future performances very closely to see whether he can continue being effective. Dominique Rodgers (3.0 innings, one hit, 4 K's) and Blair Erickson (2.1 innings, one hit, one K) also had really effective weeks. Honestly, no one performed all that badly -- none of the relievers allowed an earned run in any of their appearances (although Steven Hirschfeld pitched in the season opener and allowed 4 unearned runs to score off of two hits and two walks in his lone inning of work). The workhorse of the bullpen so far has been Spencer Steedley, who has pitched 6.1 innings in three appearances, allowing 3 hits and a walk in that span. Most remarkable, though, was Steedley's performance on Wednesday night: in 2.2 innings, he struck out 7 batters while allowing just a hit and a walk. Now that's a nice line in the box score.

Gregory Yersich was the busiest of the Snappers' three catchers this week, getting three starts behind the plate and one as the DH. In that span, he went 2-11 with a couple of walks, a rare triple, a couple of runs scored, and four strikeouts. His primary backup was Daniel Lehmann, who started three games behind the plate. Lehmann went 2-9 with a couple of doubles and three runs scored. The remaining start went to recently-acquired Jair Fernandez, who went 1-3 with a double and a strikeout in his lone game of the week.

The Snappers split the playing time around most of the infield this week, with only third base having a true regular starter. At first base, Ben Petsch got the most starts with three. Petsch also got a start as the DH in one game, and all told he went 2-13 on the week while striking out four times and making two errors in one of his starts. Chris Parmelee and Garrett Olson each got two starts at first this week, but Parmelee was primarily an outfielder and Olson primarily a shortstop, so I'll cover them when I get to those positions.

At second, Steven Singleton and Chris Cates both started three games, with Singleton also starting twice as the DH. Singleton had a very solid week at the plate, going 7-19 with 3 RBI's. Unfortunately, he also got caught stealing in the two attempts that he made. Cates, meanwhile, went 1-8 with a strikeout and an error -- there's really not much more to say about that line. Backup infielder Ramon Santana started the remaining game at 2B, and also picked up three starts at shortstop and one at 3B. In the process, he hit 4-17 with a double, three walks, and a steal.

As mentioned above, Deibinson Romero held down third base, getting six starts at the position and DH'ing on the day he wasn't at third. Romero went 7-23 on the week, hitting two doubles and drawing two walks while picking pu a couple of RBI's and striking out five times. He also made a couple of errors this week, so hopefully he can get a grip on that.

Finally, shortstop primarily belonged to Garrett Olson this week, who also started twice at 1B. Olson went 4-20 on the week with a couple of solo homeruns and a double.

Joe Benson was the only player to start every game at the same position for the Snappers this week, hanging out in center field. He went 5-24 at the plate, with three of those hits being doubles. His worst stat of the week was unquestionably his 9 strikeouts, especially considering that he hit leadoff in every game and drew only one walk. Not prototypical leadoff numbers, that's for sure! Then again, this is Low A ball, so things are bound to be a little strange from time to time.

In left field, Ozzie Lewis picked up 5 starts this week along with a start as the DH. Lewis really struggled, going 2-21. On the plus side, he only struck out three times, and he walloped a homer in the season opener.

Chris Parmelee, meanwhile, started four games in RF and two at 1B. His season got off to a weak start, as he went 0-5 in the opener with five strikeouts -- yep, you read that right. After going 0-3 the next night, Parmelee settled into a rhythm, hitting three solo homers in three consecutive games. He ended up with a 5-20 week, and after that five strikeout opener, he struck out just two more times in fifteen at-bats.

Backup outfielder Mark Dolenc picked up quite a bit of playing time, starting three games in RF and two in LF. He went 2-13 at the plate with a stolen base and a couple of runs scored while striking out three times.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #9

I took a couple of days off due to time constraints (those Down on the Farm reports can take time to put together), but I figured that a 12-run outburst deserved a nightly notes post if anything did. Incidentally, if you're looking for the Ft. Myers Miracle DOTF report, it's immediately below this post. Now for the notes:

1.) Let me just mention up front that I really don't like listening to Hawk Harrelson, the White Sox prime TV guy (he's the "you can put it on the board -- YES!" guy, for those of you not in the know). However, I have to admit one thing: more than I can ever recall in the past, Harrelson has absolutely gone out of his way to say nice things about the Twins players and organization. It's hard to hate a guy who is being so nice! I still get annoyed by his signature calls (the aforementioned homerun call and his equally annoying "he gone," uttered when an opposing player strikes out), but I'm going to stop saying mean things about the Sox announce team -- for now.

2.) Scott Baker needed 88 pitches to get through 5 innings of work and gave up those three solo dingers, but even though this won't go down as a quality start I'm not complaining. Baker allowed just 5 hits and a walk in his five innings while striking out 7 batters, and the bottom line is that he let just three runs score. That's not great by any means, but it's perfectly serviceable, and would have given the Twins a chance to win even if they hadn't scored 12 runs. It's nice to see him get the win to move to 2-0 on the season.

3.) In case you didn't check the box score, Brian Bass got a save for his four-inning performance in which he allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on three hits. As with Baker, Bass's performance wasn't great but did the job -- and honestly, this is exactly the sort of situation that Bass is on the roster for. He rattled off the meaningless innings that the team doesn't want to waste its better, more established relievers on. I certainly can't complain about his job tonight.

4.) It sounds like the Twins pitching situation is in flux right now, as the Twins wait to see whether they get a rainout tomorrow. If they play, the Twins are expected to put Kevin Slowey on the DL (retroactive to April 4) and call up someone to start Sunday's game -- and it seems likely that that someone would be Francisco Liriano (more on that in a second). If they get rained out, the Twins would still need a starter for Tuesday -- but it remains to be seen whether Slowey would be recovered in time to make that start or if they'd still put him on the DL (I'm guessing the latter). We should know fairly soon what's going on, but for now there are just too many moving parts to nail it down.

5.) Now, onto that Liriano story -- to activate him or not to activate him? Honestly, despite his unimpressive minor league performances, I believe Ron Gardenhire and Stan Cliburn when they say that Liriano is fine physically. If that's true, then he might as well get back to the big leagues and readjust to big league hitters. Could he benefit from staying in AAA for awhile? Maybe -- but I'm not completely convinced of that. He's already throwing all of his pitches, including the slider. He's throwing a 91-94 MPH fastball. He's not in the minors to continue learning how to pitch. Why keep him there if he's physically ready to go? I don't think there's a wrong answer here, and I won't be upset if he's kept in Rochester for awhile, but I'm pretty sure that if I was making the decision I would activate him.

6.) Do I have to apologize to Brendan Harris? After going 3-4 today, he now is hitting .348 on the year, and he hasn't been terrible defensively (although he did make two errors today, which shouldn't be ignored). Certainly, it's nice to see offensive production out of that position, and Nick Punto almost certainly wouldn't give the team that. I do feel a bit bad for Matt Tolbert, though, who won't be playing much at 2B if Harris continues to hit.

7.) Of course, Tolbert could end up playing at SS if Adam Everett keep up his woeful .095 clip. A reader commented a few days ago that Everett and not Harris should be more worried about Tolbert's strong play early, and I kind of dismissed the comment -- but I have to admit that maybe there's something to it. Everett is a veteran, though, and while he's not going to hit all that well, we have to expect that he'll improve a bit -- right? Maybe? Is it wrong to dream?

8.) I hear Carlos Gomez made a great catch today. Sadly, I was driving home and haven't seen a replay yet. Not really surprising, though, is it? Dude's awfully fast, and speed gets you in a position to make spectacular catches, right? Still, it's encouraging to actually see it happen, rather than just speculating that it should happen.

9.) Grand Slams are fun -- frankly, though, I can't believe that Jason Kubel has three of them in his career. At least, that's the stat that the White Sox folks put on the board when he drilled it -- anyone know if that's right? I'm too lazy to look it up right now . . .

10.) I'm going to end tonight by mentioning the Matt Garza-to-the-DL situation that has made for an interesting day. Garza seems to have suggested to the media that he felt something in his arm as early as last year, but that he didn't say anything to anybody. Ron Gardenhire seemed a bit defensive when talking about this (probably worrying that someone in the Rays organization might think the Twins pawned off damaged goods to the team). That's extremely unlikely, however. If the Twins knew about it, first off, then they should have been up front about it -- and I have to say that I would be surprised (and extremely disappointed) if Bill Smith tried to pull a fast one on another team with something like that. It's just not realistic that something like that could have happened here, though. First, why would Matt Garza tell the Twins but not tell the Rays? Also, if there was anything significantly wrong, why didn't the physical that you know Garza was put through detect it? Nobody has been accused of wrong-doing here (except maybe for Garza for possibly not being upfront with the Twins about some non-medically detectable pain), but I thought I should at least point out that the Twins almost certainly weren't being devious when making the swap with the Rays. Now, let's hope that Garza gets well soon -- I don't want to see a talented guy like him shut down with arm trouble before his career really even gets a chance to get started.