Taylor's Twins Talk

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

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.



  • At Sun Apr 13, 10:26:00 PM , Blogger Marty said...

    My vote on Liriano has been pretty consistent, he should have started in the bullpen and slowly been exposed to MLB hitters while stretching out his endurance and his confidence.

    But, Liriano did start in AAA and did not do well. Why call up someone struggling in AAA to struggle in the majors?

  • At Sun Apr 13, 10:32:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    First, let me say that this is all extremely speculative -- all I have is guesswork to go on (which is usually the case, after all!).

    My basic thought process is this -- I don't think he was struggling in the minors for any physical reasons, and I don't think he could get into the right mental frame of mind pitching in AAA. We know that Liriano is a capable major league pitcher, and if the physical side is ready, then I think calling him up was necessary. I actually don't dislike your idea of starting him in the bullpen first, where his struggles would probably do less damage -- although I think that a couple of painful starts might do the job quicker.

    Basically, I'm guessing (and that's all it is) that Liriano was going to struggle for awhile as he moved back into the big leagues regardless of anything he did at AAA. I think he'll more quickly be back to something close to the "old Liriano" with this "throw him in the deep end" approach than he would with an overly cautious approach that kept him in the minors for an extended period of time.

  • At Mon Apr 14, 12:55:00 AM , Blogger Marty said...

    It depends on how you look at this year.

    If you see this year as one where the Twins have nothing to do but build up the organization for 2010, sure, waste 5-6 starts trying to fix Liriano.

    However, I see the Twins as having an opportunity to get back above .500 at the end of the season. Between Gomez, Kubel, Mauer, Morneau and our pitching staff the Twins could create a lot of excitement, grow the fanbase (and the Pohlad coffers) and still be able to build the organization for 2010. Thus, I'd prefer not to waste starts and call off the season (at least not this soon).

  • At Mon Apr 14, 01:09:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    I see what you're saying, but I'm still going to push back. I don't think the Twins are giving up on the season by giving Liriano starts where he is likely to struggle. If I'm right and he'll regain his form after a few poor starts, then I consider this a sort of investment moving forward. If I'm wrong and he's bad all year -- well, that's a problem. Unless you wanted to keep Liriano in the minor leagues all season, however, or in the bullpen all year (a waste of resources either way, in my opinion), then I still say that a period of readjustment was necessary for him. Why not do it now?

  • At Mon Apr 14, 11:12:00 AM , Blogger neckrolls said...

    Nobody was going to beat Bannister yesterday, so it was hardly a wasted start. I'm interested to see how the next start goes - at home, under controlled weather conditions.

    Ironically, despite the anemic start by the Twins offense, Santana would be undefeated if he'd gotten the run support that Livan's had. And he'd be winless if he'd had Bonser's run support. What a crapshoot!

  • At Mon Apr 14, 11:28:00 AM , Blogger Marty said...

    Having a mop up role in the bullpen for two months (where his struggles wouldn't influence the team's record) is not the same as starting him on the mound and allowing his struggles to influence the team's record.

    I think he could very easily have stretched himself out in the bullpen (look at how they are using Bass) gained confidence and when he was getting MLB hitters out consistently then would be the time to start him, so he would at least have a chance at not struggling.

    As it is, this start was very telling about the future on Liriano. Last year he threw 30-40% sliders and 50% fastballs, this start he threw less than 10 sliders. If he can't throw the pitch which got him to the majors, I would say again starting him is throwing away games.

    Let's not try to force Liriano's recovery to fit our needs as fans. Bulpen or AAA until he starts to look good again.

  • At Mon Apr 14, 04:30:00 PM , Blogger JST said...


    Your point about Liriano not throwing sliders is a very, very good one, and could be the key to the whole shebang. I actually consider Liriano's ability to throw sliders part of the physical side of this question -- if Liriano is physically unable to throw sliders at this point, then I agree with you 100% that he needs to be in the minor leagues learning a new way to get guys out. I'm not certain that this is actually physical, though -- I think Liriano might be mentally resistant to throwing the pitch that caused him problems in the past. It's that mental resistance that I think he needs to get over at the big league level.

    Overall, this is the most compelling argument I think you've made for keeping Liriano in the minors rather than the big leagues. If in another 3 or 4 starts he's still throwing sliders at a drastically reduced rate, I'll acknowledge that it was a mistake to bring him up when they did.

    One last thing -- the bullpen was an OK option, and as I said in response to an earlier comment, I don't think it's a bad idea. Nonetheless, I can understand the team's desire not to put Liriano in the bullpen. By starting him, you guarantee him work every five days. In the bullpen, you are at the mercy of needing bad starts from your other starters to get him action. For a guy coming off a major injury, the Twins may value the regular work that keeping him in the rotation ensures.

  • At Tue Apr 15, 12:09:00 AM , Blogger Marty said...

    Fair enough.


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