Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #55

The Twins are making quite a habit out of playing in extra inning ballgames. Tonight's result was particularly disappointing after what was, for most of the evening, a very strong night for the bullpen. Here are some notes:

1.) First, I haven't yet mentioned today's roster move and feel that I should comment on it ever so briefly. The Twins today activated everybody's favorite scapegoat Nick Punto from the 15-Day DL. The move had been anticipated (perhaps "feared" would be a better word) for the better part of a week, since Punto was originally eligible to be activated. To make room for Punto on the active roster, the Twins designated Howie Clark for assignment, removing him both from the active roster and the 40-man roster. That means the Twins have 39 players on the 40-man roster, giving them increased flexibility should it be necessary to add someone in the coming weeks.

While this idea will be foreign to many of you, I'm actually glad that Punto is back. For one thing, he's a significantly more versatile player than is Clark, with the ability to play pretty much wherever he's needed. He's also faster and significantly better defensively. Based on last year's offensive results, you may question his ability with the bat -- but this year, Punto is doing reasonably well at the plate, and I think his ceiling is higher than Clark's is. In other words, there is no downside to replacing Clark with Punto on the roster (unless you're afraid that Gardy will overuse Punto, which is a mistake he wouldn't make with Clark -- I don't actually have an answer for this, and it's the one legitimate concern about Punto's return that I can see).

As for Clark, he had always seemed to me to be the logical choice to be moved. Essentially, the choice was between Clark or Matt Macri, and a variety of people (from bloggers to Strib columnists) were suggesting that Macri was the likely choice to go down since he could be optioned away easily (as opposed to being designated for assignment, which was the only option for removing Clark from the active roster), and because Macri could benefit from playing every day in Rochester. These are perfectly legitimate arguments, but I still thought it likely that Clark would be leaving the team for two reasons: (1) he hadn't played since May 24; and (2) it makes sense to get a bit of a look at Macri at the big league level. Certainly, the decision could easily have been made to send down Macri instead of Clark, but Clark always seemed like a better choice to me. The question now is whether or not anyone will bother to claim Clark off waivers. If not, he'll end up back in Rochester, with a chance to have his contract purchased again later in the year if needed. If so, he'll be gone -- something which I had wanted to see since he signed by the organization.

2.) Everybody who has been following the team at all closely knew that this was almost certainly Boof Bonser's last start for what could be quite some time. His only hope (and it was always a very slim hope) was to have great start tonight, which would then maybe force the Twins to reconsider. Tonight was not that night -- Bonser was alright (just 2 earned runs, albeit 5 runs total; 5 hits and 3 walks in 5+ innings; over 100 pitches in those 5+ innings), but not nearly good enough to accomplish what he was hoping to accomplish. In other words, same old Boof. Barring a setback with Baker (who gave up a lot of hits tonight in Ft. Myers but got through 5 innings in decent shape), Bonser will soon be in the bullpen.

3.) For much of this season, the bullpen has been tremendously disappointing, turning quickly from an anticipated strength to one of the team's most glaring weaknesses (with the noticeable exception of Joe Nathan). Tonight, however, the bullpen seemed to be on the way to delivering a strong performance that was likely to generate a win for the team. Jesse Crain did allow a run on 2 hits in an inning of work (putting his season ERA over 4.00), but Craig Breslow, Matt Guerrier, Joe Nathan, and Dennys Reyes combined to go 4 scoreless innings allowing just a hit and a walk between them. Of course, Juan Rincon then came in and laid an egg, which we've all come to expect. I'll have more to say on that in the next note, but I'll stick with the positive and say that if the bullpen gets back on track, and the team keeps knocking the ball around a bit, this team will legitimately be contending for a playoff spot at the end of the year. I'm surprised to hear myself saying that, and it wouldn't be true if the division wasn't so mediocre, but it nonetheless seems to be the case.

4.) Speaking of Craig Breslow, congratulations to him on an extremely successful Twins debut. Breslow, who as was pointed out both in the Strib and on TV was essentially left to rot in the Indians bullpen for most of May, must have been relieved to actually get into an important game. He demonstrated pretty clearly that has the physical and mental makeup to get big outs in important games, and that was great to see. I know that many people (including Dick & Bert) are discussing Breslow's place on the team as, essentially, a "tryout" that could end when Scott Baker comes back, but I continue to think (as I mentioned yesterday) that either Brian Bass or Juan Rincon will be leaving instead. I still think that Brian Bass is the most likely candidate, but Rincon was once again ineffective tonight in losing the game, and I would be neither surprised nor saddened if he were the guy dismissed by the team to make room for Baker. One thing seems clear -- Breslow's debut performance, while only one appearance, gave a pretty good indication of why he should get more than 5 or 6 days with the team and why he makes the bullpen better than it is with either Rincon or Bass.

5.) It seems Michael Cuddyer will now have a chance to shave off his beard, following his game-tying homerun tonight. It's far more important to the Twins that Cuddyer gets his homer swing back than that Mauer does, simply because of the kind of hitters they are. Still, I'm starting to root for a Mauer dinger because he looks a bit ridiculous with his beard-0'horrors. Nice to see Cuddyer getting a few multi-hit games in. Hopefully his swing is on its way back -- although that weak 11th inning K left me with the same horrid taste in my mouth as some of his other recent flailings.

6.) Mike Lamb continues to rake, raising his batting average to .256 (impressive considering how horribly he was hitting for most of the year), and Delmon Young went 3-for-5. Once again, if players like Lamb and Young simply start to perform even close to how they were expected to perform, the offense will be in pretty good shape. This, to me, is another reason to be very optimistic about things to come.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Twins Claim Breslow

No notes tonight (I confess that I was watching LOST instead of the Twins), but I did decide that I needed to comment on the Twins roster moves today -- especially the possible consequences moving forward.

First, in case you hadn't heard, the Twins claimed lefty reliever Craig Breslow off waivers from the Indians, and he will join the team before tomorrow's game against the Yankees. Since the team's 40-man roster was filled up after adding Howie Clark and Sergio Santos over the last few weeks, the Twins had to transfer Pat Neshek from the 15-Day DL to the 60-Day DL. Breslow will almost certainly be replacing reliever Bobby Korecky on the active roster. Korecky is the only pitcher in the bullpen who can be optioned to Rochester, making him the logical choice to go down.

Breslow is an interesting claim. Most obviously, he gives the Twins a second lefty out of the bullpen, which should put a little less stress on Dennys Reyes and should give the Twins a chance to mix and match a bit more with the 'pen late in close games. If you look at Breslow's career ERA, it's not bad -- 2.95 at the big league level, including 3.24 in 8.1 innings with the Indians this season. Unfortunately, Breslow also has a very high WHIP of 1.66 for his career and 1.80 this season. That suggests that at some point, that ERA will start to rise. Another factor on the plus side is that at least at the minor league level he strikes out a lot of guys while keeping his walks down, which is usually indicative of a guy who has good stuff. Breslow will turn 28 in August, so he should be in peak condition, and hopefully can add something to the Twins bullpen. While I don't think Breslow's addition will make or break the Twins season, I do think it was a reasonably good pickup.

I do have to say, however, that I feel pretty bad for Bobby Korecky. This kid pitched his heart out over his last few appearances, establishing at least in the short term that he could be just as effective as the more established relievers (*ahem* Juan Rincon *ahem*) around him. He basically got caught in a numbers squeeze, and because of where he is in his career (i.e. he has options available), he is the guy getting shipped out.

There is an interesting consequence to this that has not been touched on by the Twins website or the Strib as of this writing, however. We know that Scott Baker is going to be ready to come back in the middle of next week (barring a setback). We also are 90% sure that Boof Bonser is headed to the bullpen when that happens. The wrench in the works now, though, is that there isn't an easy corresponding roster move available to make room for Baker to rejoin the team. With Korecky presumably shipping out to Rochester, the Twins will be forced to either part ways with a current reliever or do something creative with the rotation.

The first option seems to be for the Twins to waive one of the current relievers. Many fans have been shouting for them to do this to Juan Rincon for awhile now, and certainly that could happen. With Rincon making a fair amount of money and with an ERA of 4.30, however, my guess is that Rincon isn't going anywhere -- but it's only a guess. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Rincon disappeared, ultimately. The other option here is probably Brian Bass. Bass had a few good moments with the team, but the bottom line is that (following that horrid performance in Detroit), his ERA is now sitting at 5.74 and his WHIP is 1.76. He also largely becomes expendable with Boof in the bullpen, because Bonser would pretty much be taking his "long relief" role. To me, that makes Bass the most likely choice to be waived when Baker is activated and Boof is sent to the 'pen.

Of course, there are a few other, more creative (and therefore less likely) options. The easiest would be for the Twins to waive Bonser, thus avoiding the need for a corresponding roster move. I think I've made myself fairly clear over the last few days -- I don't think Bonser is worth all that much to this team. My preference would be to keep him around, simply because I don't like giving up pieces for nothing, and because there is still a chance that Bonser could turn his career around. Nonetheless, I wouldn't spend much time crying about this if the Twins pulled the trigger (at least, until he put on another uniform and crushed us a la Sidney Ponson).

Another option would be for the Twins to send down a different starter who still had options left. That pretty much would have to be either Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn, and that's not likely. Blackburn's 3.39 ERA led the team's starters before tonight, and he's simply pitched too well to go down. Slowey may have been an option before he pitched tonight, but he now has a 3.37 ERA and, like Blackburn, seems to be doing quite well in the big leagues, thank you very much. This isn't really the same situation as with Korecky, either -- true, Korecky has come up big in his last few outings, but to be honest he hasn't pitched all that much. Blackburn and Slowey have more established track records in the big leagues. While sending one of these guys down and keeping both Bonser and Baker in the rotation would solve the personnel problem, then, it would do so in a strange way that ultimately would leave the team much worse off. The chances of this happening are virtually nil.

Finally, and perhaps least likely, the Twins could expand to 13 pitchers. There was a time when the Twins were loath to carry even 12 pitchers, but that has been the norm this season. It's no longer unheard of for a team to carry 13 guys, either -- I remember the Tigers being one of the first teams to do it, but several other teams have gone with 13 for stretches of time. To make this work, the team would probably have to sacrifice an infielder, and with Nick Punto set to replace Howie Clark on the roster this Saturday, the most likely candidate to go down to make room for Baker would be Matt Macri. I don't think I need to spend too much time pointing out how short-handed this would leave the team in the infield, and how much it would handcuff any in game strategy. Even though such considerations are less important in the AL than the NL, they still figure in. This possibility seems too remote to consider seriously -- the Twins just aren't the kind of team to carry 13 pitchers.

It will be interesting to watch over the next week or so as all of this sorts itself out. My guess is that Brian Bass is in his last days as a Twin (and I'm not judging whether that's good or bad, just saying that I think it's likely).

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #52

Honestly, I wasn't going to post anything tonight. I thought it was a good night to take a night off, with the Twins apparently on the way to a loss in the middle game of a series. I mean, what would I have talked about? Livan giving up a bunch of runs? We've come to expect that from Livan on a semi-regular basis. Ragging on Delmon Young? That's just tiresome. So, I figured, I might as well wait until tomorrow and sum up the Royals series then. The Twins had other ideas, and I couldn't not post on a night when the team scored 5 in the ninth to tie and then picked up the win in the 10th. Here are some notes:

1.) Even for Livan, 13 hits in 6 innings is a bit excessive. It's remarkable how he can wiggle his way out of trouble quite often -- the thing is, though, that he allows so many baserunners that it's just not possible to wiggle out of all of the problems. No question, he was bailed out big time by the bullpen and, to a much greater extent, by the offense. His ERA is now at 4.60, and his WHIP is probably in the 1.60 range (I haven't run the numbers -- it was at 1.46 entering this game). There's not much else to say here -- he was remarkably good early this season, but he's reverted to form. I'm a little worried about what's to come.

2.) A moment on the Royals -- I actually feel very bad for the teams fans tonight. The implosion of the bullpen in the ninth inning, resulting in a 10th straight loss, was undoubtedly heartbreaking. So many things went right tonight -- and still this team lost. I was watching the Royals feed tonight on MLB.tv, and when Craig Monroe hit his homerun the announcers just had absolutely nothing to say. It was a wee bit painful . . . but of course I got over that quickly simply because I was overjoyed that the Twins had completed the comeback.

3.) Speaking of that homerun, you've got to give credit to Craig Monroe. Before tonight, he hadn't played since the 24th. He hadn't actually had a hit since May 15. He undoubtedly felt that he would get a shot to start today, for one of several reasons -- the possibility of a Delmon Young punishment, the fact that Monroe had good numbers against Zack Greinke, the fact that he hadn't played in forever. When he didn't get in the lineup, he could have pouted and gone into the game in the 9th distracted. Instead, he took his cuts and hit one of the three fastballs he faced into the stands.

4.) There was a lot of talk in the blogosphere and beyond suggesting that Delmon Young should have been benched tonight to send a message. I understand the urge, and I can't say I'm thrilled with his .258 average and lack of power. However, I think it would have been a mistake to bench Young tonight. To avoid having this in his head, he needed to get back on the field and move past Tuesday night. I think it was the right decision -- but it should also be noted that Young is in a brutal slump, and should probably sit for that reason sometime soon. Maybe even today, although I doubt it's going to happen.

5.) In his last four games, Mike Lamb is 8-for-16. It's easy to play around with small stretches of games to make a point, and undoubtedly this stretch is just an example of an upswing which big league players go through all the time. This particular stretch is nonetheless significant in that it demonstrates what should have been obvious even while Lamb was struggling -- he's still perfectly capable of putting together good stretches. As I've said several times recently, if he can hit .270-.280 for the rest of the season, I'd be thrilled, and would willingly forgive and forget everything that happened in April and early May.

6.) I'll end by saying some nice things about the bullpen. For what seems like weeks, the bullpen has been predictably bad. Every night, you could expect them to come in and fail to hold things down, and the Twins were winning games in spite of them. That was not the case tonight. Gardy cobbled together four innings of work from five relievers, who combined to allow just 3 hits. Bobby Korecky was once again very strong, Joe Nathan was his usual brilliant self, and even Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain pitched in. Thank you, bullpen. Now, please keep it up.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #51

The Twins have started to play some solid baseball, and they should be beating teams like Kansas City. While a little bit of bad luck and a little bit of bad play nearly resulted in the team coughing up what seemed to be a victory, in the end the Twins were able to overcome all of that to put up a "W" and gain a game on the White Sox. Here are some notes:

1.) I can't say enough good things about Nick Blackburn. Frankly, I just didn't see him having this kind of success so early in his first full big league season -- especially since coming into this year he had never started a single big league game. Blackburn has failed to go at least six innings only twice this season (out of 11 starts), and that time that happened was April 14. He gives up a fair number of hits, but he rarely walks hitters and gets a decent number of strikeouts. Most impressively, he always seems composed on the mound.

I'm personally thrilled that Blackburn is finding success, for fantasy baseball reasons. I'm in a keeper league where a player has to be assigned a contract if drafted in the Major League phase of our draft (yes, we also draft minor leaguers), and fearful that Blackburn would be drafted by a rather well known Twins fan/blogger who shall remain nameless, I took him. At the time, I didn't expect him to start the season in the big leagues, and if he did I certainly didn't expect him to have success. Basically, I was planning on stashing him on my bench for a year. Instead, he's been a solid starter for my team. Can't say I saw that one coming!

2.) What exactly was Delmon Young doing in the ninth? Yes, it was a really tough play to try to deal with -- but you can't go so overboard going after a ball that you end up taking yourself out of the play entirely. He owes Blackburn a steak.

3.) Alexi Casilla went 3-for-4 and is now hitting .324 on the season. Yeah, I'd say the whole "Alexi is a shortstop, not a second baseman" thing is out the window. I have no idea why he couldn't hit in Rochester before his callup, but that seems to be behind him. If Casilla can hold that spot down for the rest of the year, what does that mean for the other infielders? I would guess that Brendan Harris will get the most playing time, splitting his games between short and third. Mike Lamb and Adam Everett will then both essentially be in a platoon. Nick Punto will probably rarely play -- I'm sure your all horrified by that. Frankly, I'd prefer if the Twins just cut Everett and moved on, but that's probably asking too much.

4.) I feel a little bad for Howie Clark. I know, this sounds strange since I mocked him so ruthlessly. However, Clark was probably destined for at least a bit of playing time at second base after his callup. Then, Alexi Casilla came out and started playing like a real big leaguer. All of a sudden, Clark is a fixture on the bench -- even more so than he otherwise would have been. I guess those are the breaks.

5.) The Twins are moving forward with a "Bonser to the Bullpen" transition plan, which is really not surprising after Bonser's horrendous May. Frankly, as I mentioned on Sunday, this is exactly what has to happen here. It's probably not fair of me, but frankly I wouldn't mind if the Twins did something a little more permanent. I don't think Bonser is going to be able to compete with the other young starters on this team long-term, and I'm over the novelty of having a guy named "Boof" in the rotation. I really hope I'm wrong on Bonser (it certainly wouldn't be the first time that I mis-evaluated a player), but I don't think he's ever going to be a consistently good Major League pitcher.

6.) I had originally written a note on how Michael Cuddyer looked terrible by striking out in important situations late in the game, and how that was more significant than his two hits. Well, of course, Cuddyer went and picked up a third (rather important) hit in the 12th inning, winning the game for the Twins. While he still looked horrid when striking out, even I can't find a way to complain about a three hit game that included a game winner. Hopefully the hits are more telling about what lies ahead than the strikeouts.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #50

No matter how ugly yesterday's 19-3 loss was, the bottom line is that the Twins are leaving Detroit with a series victory after picking up a solid 6-1 win today. Here are some notes:

1.) There's simply no better place to start than with the excellent performance of Glen Perkins today. After Boof Bonser's horrid outing yesterday, the Twins badly needed Perkins to show something today to save the bullpen. He did just that, going 7.2 innings and allowing just 1 run (on a big Carlos Guillen bomb) on 7 hits and 2 walks. He's more than demonstrated that he belongs in the Twins rotation right now, and it would be a horrid decision to keep Bonser in the rotation at Perkins' expense. I don't know how Perkins will do over the balance of the season, but I'm really encouraged by what he's done so far, and I have a suspicion that he won't be seeing Rochester again anytime soon. If Francisco Liriano starts to pitch well in AAA, the Twins could be faced with a very pleasant conundrum of what to do with all of their talented young pitchers.

2.) It was just 1/3 of an inning, but Matt Guerrier finally did what the Twins have been begging their relievers to do -- bail out a starter. Glen Perkins left runners on 2nd and 3rd when he was taken out in the 8th, and Guerrier got a strikeout to end the inning. Thank you, Matt Guerrier! Of course, Joe Nathan was once again outstanding in the ninth. Ho hum, what else is new?

3.) Mike Lamb put together a very welcome 3-for-4 day today to raise his batting average to .246 on the year. In the month of May, Lamb is hitting .271 with a .684 OPS. By no means are those great numbers, but honestly I'd take that (especially if he could start driving the ball a bit more for doubles and homers -- something he's been doing in his last couple of games). Lamb has been too good of a Major League hitter throughout his career to keep playing as poorly as he did in April (when he hit an atrocious .197), so I'm not surprised that he's started to improve a bit. The question is whether he can hit at a .270-.280 clip for the rest of the year. I'm starting to get a wee bit hopeful that such a thing might be possible.

4.) At times, this season has felt like a slog -- but the team is sitting at 25-25 and is just 2 games behind the White Sox after 50 games. That right on the pace that I predicted the Twins would be on (I guessed in February that they'd finish 82-80 -- although my other predictions are pretty much laughable), and I think that's encouraging. Why? Well, the bullpen has been really bad. Delmon Young isn't hitting like anyone expected, and certainly isn't making us forget Torii Hunter. Adam Everett and Mike Lamb (until quite recently) have been miserable. Francisco Liriano was brutal and is back in AAA. Boof Bonser has been Boof Bonser. Infielders are dropping like flies. Despite so many things not going as planned, the Twins have still banked a .500 record through the first 50 games. Twins fans should be pleased -- there is plenty of room for improvement on this squad, yet despite that they're usually competitive.

5.) The best day of racing on the calendar is going well so far -- there was a great Formula 1 Race this morning, and the Indy 500 has been decent. There's nothing like getting up at 5:30 in the morning and looking forward to somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours of racing in three great events. I hope you're all having a great Memorial Day weekend so far!

6.) I plan on posting a Good, Bad, Ugly post on the Ft. Myers Miracle either tonight or tomorrow. Work is also continuing on the Relief Pitcher Org Rankings (the first 10 players are already posted, and if you're clever you can find them on the site -- although I'm not going to make it general knowledge where they are until I'm done). Also, in the next week to ten days, you should look for posts covering early awards-leaders, my early choices for the All-Star Game, and possibly some other things I've been thinking about but won't talk about (since I can't promise them yet!).


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #49

I'm not committed enough to have all that much to say about a game that produced a drubbing like this. Expect the notes to be short.

1.) I'll start with the positive. I love watching big league debuts, and Matt Macri had a good one tonight, going 2-for-3 with a couple of singles, a stolen base, a walk, a run scored and an RBI. That's a very nice way to start a big league career. Macri turns 26 in a couple of days, so this seems like the perfect time for him to break out a little bit. The only other comment I have is that he's a bit bigger than I thought he would be -- I never bothered to look at his height and weight before tonight, but his player file on the Twins website lists him at 6'2" and 215 lbs. I look forward to see him get some playing time in the next week or so, and am somewhat hopeful that he'll play well enough to stick around when Nick Punto comes back.

2.) When Scott Baker is ready, the Twins need to put him in Boof Bonser's spot in the rotation. Bonser's ERA now sits at over 6.00, and while everybody has a bad game once in awhile, Bonser has been bad most of the year. He managed to put together a reasonably efficient start his last time out, but that was an aberration -- most of the time, it's a struggle to get him through 6 innings in under 100 pitches. His curve ball occasionally is nasty, but too often its just a big lolling pitch that a player can time and drive. If Bonser had any options left, I don't think there's any question that he'd be on his way back to AAA. Since he's out of options, the Twins will have a tougher call to make.

I don't really want the Twins to completely give up on Bonser by trying to pass him through waivers, although it might be worth it to see what kind of offer he could fetch through a waiver trade. I guess the only real possibility would be to put him in the bullpen for awhile, but with the bullpen struggling I don't know that that's a great option either. Basically, Bonser has put the Twins in an uncomfortable position for which there isn't a great answer. I just don't think the team can afford to keep trotting him out once every five days, especially when it would be at the expense of Glen Perkins or Kevin Slowey. UPDATE: Looks like the Twins are probably thinking along the lines of putting Bonser in the bullpen when Baker is ready, according to Joe C. of the Strib. Makes sense to me.

3.) Suddenly, Brian Bass has an ERA of 5.74 and Juan Rincon has an ERA of 4.50. Going to take awhile for Bass to recover from that humdinger of a line -- 1.1 innings, 7 earned runs on 7 hits. Ugh.

4.) Tomorrow is the best day of auto racing all year. The best individual race, in my opinion, is the Daytona 500 because it marks the return of racing from a mostly barren (in a racing sense) winter, and because its just a great race to watch. However, even though Daytona is the best single race, even it can't compare with the trifecta that takes place tomorrow. Starting at 5:30 AM Mountain time, Formula 1 holds the Grand Prix of Monaco -- a great race on an extremely narrow track. That's followed up with the Indianapolis 500, and while that race isn't what it used to be it's still a great spectacle. Finally, the evening concludes with NASCAR's longest race -- the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina. I will be sitting on my couch all day tomorrow watching racing (the Twins will be on my computer, and hopefully will avoid losing by 16 runs).

5.) Just for the record, I'm rooting for the Celtics and Penguins tonight. Boston looks good, but the Pens have some work to do in the third period.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #48

Tonight looked for awhile like it just might end in tragedy, but ultimately the Twins ended up with a comfortable victory. Here's a fairly short notes post:

1.) Kevin Slowey's scoreless six inning performance was very welcome, as it finally gets him out of the winless rut. I still believe that Slowey and Glen Perkins are on the bubble -- one of them is going to have to go down when Scott Baker returns (unless the Twins get creative and move Boof Bonser to the bullpen, or something similar). Tonight's start undoubtedly helped Slowey's cause. I suspect that Slowey has the edge in this battle, but since Perkins is the only lefty in the Twins rotation, you never know what might happen. It was particularly nice to see Slowey avoid giving up a homer, since he's been doing a lot of that lately.

2.) The bullpen continues to disappoint. Dennys Reyes, who had a great start to his season, saw his ERA balloon to 3.55 after his horrific 7th inning. In case you missed it, Reyes failed to record an out while allowing 3 hits and 3 earned runs. Jesse Crain was a bit better, allowing just 1 earned run on Sheffield's homer. At least Matt Guerrier buckled down to record a scoreless inning (albeit with a walk allowed), and new bullpen hero Bobby Korecky closed out the 5-run win with a reasonable 9th inning performance. You have to think this inning was just as important as what he did the other night for Korecky, since in some sense he showed that wasn't a fluke. I'm starting to believe in his ability to get guys out a little bit.

3.) It was nice to see Mike Lamb break out of the "zero homers" club, but I don't think he's the guy any fans are really all that concerned about. Come on, Delmon and Joe!

4.) Think there's a chance that Matt Macri could make his big league debut tomorrow? I personally would like to see it, and it doesn't seem all that unusual for guys to get a start on their second day in the big leagues. I have no idea whether we'll see this or not tomorrow, but I'm hopeful. UPDATE:
Looks like I'll get my wish. The Twins Notes column in the Strib suggests that Macri is expected to get the start at 3B tomorrow.

5.) I didn't watch all that closely, but the talk of Brendan Harris seeming smoother and more comfortable at shortstop seemed legit on the plays I saw him make tonight. Meanwhile, I'm 99% certain Harris would have had no shot at the ball that Casilla robbed tonight (I forget the inning). Since absolutely no one has been happy with the performance of Adam Everett, is there any possibility that the Twins decide to keep Harris around as the starting shortstop and wave goodbye to Everett? I wouldn't be all that disappointed by such a move, and I doubt many of you would either. Unfortunately, the Twins are probably unlikely to make such a move.

6.) Barry Zito got a win tonight for the Giants, and I guess I'm happy for him -- but I have to admit that a very cruel part of me was rooting for him to just keep losing. It's the same part of me that wants to see Andruw Jones hit under .200 for the season. Schadenfreude is alive and well in Taylor-land.

7.) Believe it or not, relievers are now ranked and I'm just in the process of finishing writing the post. I'm no longer promising a delivery date, because I've failed to deliver for about three months. Nonetheless, progress is being made! Expect a Good, Bad, Ugly post on the Miracle either tomorrow or Sunday, and Nightly Notes posts on both days barring unexpected developments.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #47

It's sort of frustrating when momentum turns and it feels like you're going to win a ballgame that you by all rights should lose, only to see the momentum switch back again and deny you the unexpected victory. That's exactly what happened to the Twins today, and it's frustrating. You can't really blame the bullpen, though -- this was mostly on Livan. Here are some notes:

1.) As Joe C. reported this morning, Adam Everett is heading back to the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. In his place the Twins are calling up Matt Macri, who you may recall was acquired from the Colorado Rockies last August in exchange for Ramon Ortiz. To think that the Twins were able to spin Ortiz not just into a player that they felt comfortable adding to the 40-man roster, but someone who is actually going to make it to the big leagues, is rather remarkable.

The Twins didn't have a lot of other choices that were desirable. I've been advocating for Brian Buscher to get called back up, but with both Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert out, that wouldn't really work -- the Twins would have only Alexi Casilla and Brendan Harris to legitimately play in the middle infield, and that's just not feasible. Chris Basak could have been added to the roster can called up, but he's more roster filler than a guy with a legit shot at being used in the big leagues. Same for Sergio Santos. A lot of people were pushing for either Luke Hughes or Trevor Plouffe to be called up from AA, and there was even some breathless speculation that since Plouffe wasn't in the Rock Cats lineup today and Hughes was, Plouffe was getting the call. As it turns out, sometimes a day off is just a day off. While I think Hughes deserves a promotion to AAA and Plouffe is having a very nice offensive season, I didn't want to see either of them in the big leagues right now, because the jump from AA to AAA just seems to be too much. Adding in the fact that Macri was already on the 40-man roster, and his callup was pretty much inevitable.

I look forward to seeing Macri make his big league debut, and am very interested to see what kinds of lineups Gardy puts together over the next 10 days or so while Nick Punto gets healthy.

2.) Ten hits and two walks in 5.1 innings for Livan today. That's much worse even than 2007 Livan! I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this -- as has already been established, Livan will have days like this. We just have to deal with it, and at least the lineup was able to bail him out by tying the game up late.

3.) Matt Guerrier wasn't very good today, giving up 2 hits and 3 walks in 1.2 innings. I'm also not going to belabor this point, but Guerrier really needs to step up. With Juan Rincon firmly out of contention for a role of any importance and no one else really stepping up (well, except for Bobby Korecky!), the Twins need Guerrier to take on a leadership role. On the plus side, the Twins got a good inning of work out of Jesse Crain, who needed just 11 pitches to get through the 8th. Maybe he'll be able to settle into a groove. Someone, anyone, has to step up and start acting like a setup man.

4.) Carlos Gomez is good. I remember prior to the Santana trade I said that the Twins needed to acquire a center fielder who could immediately step in and make a difference. The only way they could get a player like that was to trade Johan, and that's one of the reasons I was strongly in favor of a trade. I really, really doubted whether Carlos Gomez could fill that role and immediately make an impact for this team, but nearly two months into the season I don't think there's any question that he's been a huge catalyst for this team and is one of the biggest reasons (along with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau) that this team is hovering around .500. What I really appreciate is that, while Gomez still occasionally looks very raw, he's improved dramatically since the start of the season. It seems (although the sample size is small) that he's learning quickly and well. I'm incredibly excited about his future.

5.) With Alexi Casilla once again playing regularly at 2B is whether or not he'll end up staying there or whether this is a short-term thing until Nick Punto gets back. I know the Twins like him at shortstop, but I wonder whether or not his ticket to staying in the big leagues might not still be at second base. We'll see whether he keeps playing reasonably well -- if he can't keep the batting average above .250 (and it's at .278 now, so all is good for the moment), then it won't be a question the team needs to worry about. If he plays well, though, mightn't he be left in place as the Twins starting second baseman?

6.) Cuddyer needed a good game, and he responded with a 2-for-4 performance and a couple of walks. It's a nice start, but he has a lot of work to do if he's going to dig himself out of the giant hole he's in with his batting average.

7.) Anybody else feel heartbroken after the Lakers comeback last night? I don't particularly like the Spurs, but I've never liked the Lakers and I want so badly for them to not make it to the NBA Finals. I actually (somewhat surprisingly) find myself rooting for the Celtics overall this year -- I say surprisingly because the city of Boston has had way too much sporting success over the last five years or so, and yet here I am rooting for the Celtics. I guess I'd just like to see KG get a ring. I have to admit, incidentally, that a Lakers-Celtics finals would be awfully interesting -- so long as Boston won.

8.) Go Pens! Also, who in the NHL was responsible for scheduling the finals directly against the NBA's Eastern Conference finals? I heard Tirico and Van Pelt talking about this either yesterday or the day before on ESPN Radio, and they too were incredulous. You would think something could have been moved around when it became clear that two Detroit teams were going to be involved in this thing.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blog Update

Because blogging about a team that just allowed Sidney Ponson to pitch a complete game can be hazardous to one's health, I'm going to refrain from posting any notes tonight. I fully anticipate posting a Notes column after tomorrow's game, but if I succumb to peer pressure and go see Indy 4 in the afternoon rather than watching the game, then expect a Good, Bad, Ugly post on the Ft. Myers Miracle in its place. Go Spurs!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part II

This is the second in a series of posts looking at what's gone right and what's gone wrong at the various minor league levels of the Twins organization. A couple of days ago, I covered the AAA Rochester Red Wings, and today I'll be looking at the AA New Britain Rock Cats. Hope you enjoy!

New Britain Rock Cats (22-21)

The Good


Last season, righty Zach Ward was a mediocre starter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. This season, he's been converted to the bullpen, and the results so far have been extremely good. In 28.0 innings over 17 appearances, Ward has allowed just one Earned Run (and just 2 runs total) for a 0.32 ERA. His WHIP is sitting at 1.07, which is very good (if not quite as unbelievable as his ERA), and his 24-12 K-BB ratio is also quite good. The Twins bullpen has also been bolstered by solid efforts from Armando Gabino (2.96 ERA/1.17 WHIP/27.1 innings/18-11 K-BB) and, to a lesser extent, Jason Miller (3.94 ERA/1.25 WHIP/29.2 innings/26-10 K-BB). If you just look at the ERA stat, Kyle Aselton (2.22) and Ben Julianel (2.91) also are doing quite well, but the other stats suggest trouble ahead -- especially for Aselton, who has a really high 1.60 WHIP and a terrible 15-18 K-BB ratio for a guy with such a low ERA. I would suggest that unless he stops giving up so many base runners, his ERA will skyrocket.

In the rotation, lefty Ryan Mullins has been solid, posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 50.1 innings while striking out 30 and walking 20. Those numbers aren't eye-popping, but they're not bad in the least. Yohan Pino has been even better -- his 3.25 ERA is a bit higher, but he has a very low 1.08 WHIP and a great 23-6 K-BB ratio in 36.0 innings of work. Anthony Swarzak has also been OK, posting a 4.06 ERA and 1.40 WHIP along with a very good 40-14 K-BB ratio in 44.1 innings.

Position Players

The name "Luke Hughes" jumps immediately to mind -- Hughes, who has a .356 batting average, 1.068 OPS, .417 On-Base Percentage, 10 homers, and a reasonable 30-16 K-BB ratio in 146 AB's has been covered so much already this season that, despite never having played above AA, he's been discussed as a possible big league callup. He's sort of this year's Matt Tolbert, just a level lower in the organization. Without question, the Australian righty deserves the attention for now -- but the question is whether he can sustain it. If I were the Twins, I'd wait another couple of weeks to ensure that he doesn't cool off, and if he keeps playing well I'd promote him to Rochester. We'll see what they end up deciding.

Middle infielders Steven Tolleson (2B) and Trevor Plouffe (SS) have also been playing very well this year. Tolleson, a 5th round pick from 2005, has always hit reasonably well, but this season he's putting up a .328/.938 in 134 AB's. Meanwhile, 2004 first round pick Trevor Plouffe, written off by many as a bust after a couple of underwhelming seasons in 2005 and 2006, is continuing the comeback from oblivion that he started in 2007 -- he's hitting .294/.779 in 153 AB's this season. Honorable mentions in this category also go to outfielder Dustin Martin (.314/.813/140 AB's) and one of my favorite Twins minor leaguers, Erik Lis (.290/.809/145 AB's). I should also mention that after a somewhat unexpected promotion, Toby Gardenhire is hitting .300/.714 in 40 AB's.

The Bad


There are plenty of pitchers to talk about in the "ugly" category, but no one here -- apparently, things either are going really right or really wrong for Rock Cats pitchers.

Position Players

Matt Moses and David Winfree are both being converted from infield positions to the outfield this year, so maybe some offensive problems are excusable. Nonetheless, 2003 first rounder Moses hasn't hit well since 2005 with Ft. Myers, and just isn't going anywhere right now in the organization. He's starting to look like a lost cause, thanks in part to his .245/.678 in 155 AB's this season. Those aren't terrible numbers, but if that's the best he can do after 6 years in the minors, it's never going to be enough. Winfree is another 2003 draft pick (a 13th rounder) who just hasn't hit to his potential. His .227 average is tempered a bit by his .781 OPS (thanks to 10 homers), but I'm still putting him in the bad category because the average has got to be better than that. It's arguable that I just shouldn't have put him on either list, since you could make the case that he's been somewhere between "bad" and "good" this season. Finally, the Twins brought Felix Molina back into the fold this off-season (he could have left as a minor league free agent), and he's picked up 105 AB's for the Rock Cats. Unfortunately, he's hitting just .238 with a .613 OPS. I have to think there'd be someone better to give this roster spot to at this point.

The Ugly


Ready for your eyes to bleed? The most eye-popping numbers come from reliever Jay Sawatski, who has an 8.72 ERA and horrid 2.03 WHIP in 21.2 innings to go along with a 23-13 K-BB ratio (which isn't bad -- too bad the other numbers are so horrible). A reliever is one thing, but two starters have been equally bad -- worse, if you consider the number of innings they've pitched. Top prospect Oswaldo Sosa, who is on the 40-man roster -- has been really, really bad -- he has a 7.20 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP along with an outlandish 23-25 K-BB ratio in 35.0 innings of work. What on earth happened here? I have to think that Sosa can turn it around, but these numbers are so bad that I really do wonder a bit. Also horrid has been Jay Rainville, who has a 7.53 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP along with a 25-12 K-BB ratio in 43.0 innings. This is a pretty sorry bunch right now!

Position Players

There are only three guys who qualify for this spot by my criteria (I pretty much limit this to guys who are hitting under .200), and none of them have over 100 AB's just yet. In fact, center fielder Brandon Roberts has just 32 AB's, having battled an injury problem. He's currently rehabbing in extended spring training, and hopefully will hit better than his current .188/.423 upon his return. The other two guys on the list are the team's two catchers, Drew Butera (.194/.530 in 93 AB's) and Jeff Christy (.196/.535 in 51 AB's).

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #44

I'm pleased to say that I had to rewrite this introduction. In the prior version, I lamented the loss that I was sure was coming. The game just had that horrible feel to it -- especially after what happened in Colorado -- and I had little faith in a comeback. Thankfully, I was wrong, and once again this team proved that it had more grit than any of us often give it credit for. Tonight wasn't pretty, by any means, but a win is a win and I'll certainly take it. Here are some notes:

1.) Boof's start wasn't great, but through 6 innings he had only allowed a couple of runs on two solo blasts. The start was also encouraging because it was incredibly economical -- if the stats from MLB.com are to be believed, he had only thrown 79 pitches through 6.1 innings, which for him is nearly miraculous. Sadly, he left the game with the lead and watched it disappear.

2.) Speaking of the bullpen, you think Bobby Korecky might have earned himself a reprieve from some of the "Danny Graves" speculation that's been running rampant recently? I've not been immune to such talk -- I suggested yesterday that Mariano Gomez, a lefty who is doing very well in Rochester, might find himself with the big club as a replacement for the seldom used Korecky -- but tonight sure seemed to provide a huge boost to Korecky's chances of sticking in the bigs for awhile. In fact, with Juan Rincon self-destructing and Jesse Crain having walked the pitcher with the bases loaded the other day, Korecky might find himself getting some more chances to pitch in tough spots. I don't know whether he'll succeed or not, but it sure was fun to watch him get the last two outs in the top of the 11th tonight! And how about that base hit? His swing was looked pretty darned good! It looked an awful lot like Francisco thought he could just beat him with a fastball, and Korecky slapped it into right field. Not a good decision, apparently!

3.) That Alexi Casilla homerun was fun to watch. It reminded me a little of Cristian Guzman, who I distinctly recall hitting a few blasts to the same area in right field where Casilla hit his homerun tonight. Of course, the swing was a bit different -- I seem to remember Guzman flailing at pitches from the left side, even when he connected on one and gave it a ride, while Casilla's swing actually looked pretty smooth. Even with that difference, though, the first thing I thought of was Guzman. Incidentally, if you haven't been paying attention, Guzman is putting together a nice season for the Nationals with a .298 average and 4 dingers. At least they're finally getting something out of him.

4.) A lot of people have been ragging on Delmon Young for his slow start to the season, and I understand that aside from batting average he isn't doing what the team expected. Until the Colorado series, he had hit only 4 extra base hits all season, and he still hasn't hit any homeruns. However, Young is at least hitting .287, and he's started to hit a few doubles and triples (I wouldn't expect the triples to keep coming, but the doubles would be nice -- and so would a few homers). I realize people want more power, but good things happen when a guy gets on base, and I'm not willing to declare him a failure after less than two months of game action, especially when he's actually hitting. If you want to vent your frustrations, vent them at Michael Cuddyer, who has been downright worthless of late and is hitting just .226 after tonight's game, in which he left an astonishing 9 men on base. I like Cuddyer, but I don't like his play right now in the least.

5.) Once again, I have regularly ragged on the Twins for signing Howie Clark and then for keeping him in Rochester. After tonight's game winner, I will relent. He gets a free 10 days with no snide comments.

6.) Congrats to Jon Lester on picking up a no-no tonight. His is such a compelling story that I have to root for him, even though I'm turning against the Red Sox pretty quickly. As a matter of fact (and I can't believe I'm saying this), it would be more interesting to me if the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs than if the Yankees did (although it would be great if somehow the Rays won that division and the Angels and A's took two playoff spots -- not going to happen, but I can hope, right?).

7.) Of course, if the Red Sox do make the playoffs (as expected) and win the American League (as seems likely), is it so wrong of me to hope that we just might see the Cubs get to the World Series this year?

8.) The Twins released outfielder (and former catcher) Ben Petsch yesterday, which surprised me a bit. Petsch, who was picked in the 19th round of last year's draft, was hitting just .224 with the Beloit Snappers. Despite that, this seems like an awfully hasty decision on a young player who was pretty successful in college and who hadn't even been in the organization for a year. I assume one of four things is going on here: (1) Petsch could have decided that he didn't really want to keep playing anymore and asked to be released; (2) Petsch suffered some sort of injury that would have made it difficult for him to get better anytime soon; (3) the Twins decided through their player evaluation process that there was a major flaw somewhere in Petsch's game; or (4) Petsch did something on the behavioral side of things that the Twins simply could not accept. I haven't read anything on this other than the fact that it occurred, so if anyone has any insight on it, please leave a note in the comments.

9.) Anybody else excited for Indy 4? I expect it to be extremely schlocky and probably not that good as a stand alone film, but let's be honest here -- no one is going to this movie to see a stand-alone story. If you're going (and I suspect a lot of people will be going), it will be for the sake of nostalgia. I was 7 when the last Indy movie came out, but these flicks were an integral part of my childhood -- easily as much as Star Wars. I admit to being incredibly excited for this movie, largely because I will now get a chance to see an Indy film on the big screen. Even if it's terrible, it will be worth the $10.

10.) Did anyone not from Dallas or Philadelphia want to see anything other than Pittsburgh/Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals? Didn't think so.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part I

The phrase is something of a cliche, but it's apt for looking at what's gone right -- and wrong -- with any particular issue. Today, I'm beginning a four-part series full-season minor league clubs, starting with the Rochester Red Wings.

Rochester Red Wings (17-27)

The Good


Brian Duensing and Kevin Mulvey both have losing records, but both have pitched pretty well so far this season. Duensing has a 3.44 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 52.1 innings of work, moving himself into a position to be considered for a callup in the event that the Twins starting staff suffers another injury. Mulvey, meanwhile, has fallen off considerably from a great first 3 weeks or so, but still has a 3.89 ERA in 41.2 innings -- although his 1.56 WHIP is higher than I'd like to see. Glen Perkins (2.97 ERA/1.41 WHIP/33.1 IP) has been the best of the Rochester pitchers this year, but of course he's currently with the Twins and undoubtedly is hoping to stay there.

In the bullpen, minor league free agents are thriving. Lefty Mariano Gomez has a 2.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 26.2 innings, and with Bobby Korecky currently in the Twins bullpen and getting little use, the question has to be asked whether Gomez could find himself getting a callup. Casey Daigle has also been solid for the Red Wings, posting a 2.57 ERA and slightly high 1.52 WHIP in 21.0 innings. Meanwhile, Heath Totten has a 3.86 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 21.0 innings, and back-from-the-dead Danny Graves has a 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 9.0 innings since being promoted to AAA.

That's not to say that only the free agents have had success -- long-time Twins prospects Julio DePaula and Ricky Barrett have been solid this year (2.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 25.2 innings for DePaula, and 2.96 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24.1 innings for Barrett) as well, and Rule 5 returnee Tim Lahey has a 3.96 ERA and very solid 1.06 WHIP in 16.0 innings since coming back to the organization. In other words -- the bullpen has been pretty darned good for Rochester this year.

Position Players

There are fewer offensive success stories for the Red Wings, but some of those stories are pretty compelling. Denard Span has been a great story, making his big league debut when Michael Cuddyer went down with an injury and playing outstanding baseball in AAA. Span has a .378 batting average and unbelievable 1.031 OPS in 90 AB's. He's added 14 steals, 3 homers, and a stunning .486 OBP to that mix. What do you even say to that?

I'm also stunned by the performance of Darnell McDonald so far this year. McDonald, you may remember, was picked up from the Nationals last year in exchange for letting Washington send Rule 5 pick Levale Speigner to the minors. He had a brief stint in the big leagues and didn't show much, and it was somewhat surprising that he was still hanging around the team this spring. After starting the season with an injury, McDonald has gone on a tear, hitting .336/.992 with 4 homers in 110 AB's. I certainly didn't expect this out of the veteran McDonald, and it will be interesting to see if he can hold up over the summer.

Meanwhile, third baseman Brian Buscher deserves credit for shrugging off a horrid spring by hitting .322/.898 in 118 AB's so far this season, and for finding his power stroke (he's hit 6 homers for the Red Wings in that span). Honorable mention also goes to catcher Jose Morales, who was absolutely terrible early in the season -- he's managed to raise his batting average to a very respectable .281 in 121 AB's. Over his last 10 games, Morales is hitting .471 -- I'd say he's solved whatever the problem was early this year.

The Bad


There's not actually much to talk about in the bad category. Former Met Philip Humber qualifies with his 5.09 ERA and 1.75 WHIP (and perhaps more disturbingly his near-parity 22-19 K-BB ratio). In fact, that line is close to being in the "ugly" category, but I'm going to be generous. Outside of that, there's no one else I can point to in Rochester who has consistently been bad.

Position Players

I was very excited about first baseman/DH Randy Ruiz this spring, because of his power potential and his seeming ability to hit for a decent average. Unfortunately, in 146 AB's for the Red Wings, Ruiz is hitting just .247 and has just 2 homers. Worse (and this stat belongs firmly in the "ugly" category), Ruiz has an eye-popping 48 K's in those 146 AB's, and just 7 walks. Yikes.

Former "Ray" Jason Pridie has also been pretty mediocre this year, hitting .231 in 169 AB's. Like Ruiz, Pridie has also had a brutal strikeout problem with 47 of them this season. That's a better ratio than Ruiz, but is still a horrid number, especially for a player like Pridie who certainly shouldn't be aiming for the fences.

The Ugly


There's no one on the team that I think needs to be in this category. You could argue that a couple of Francisco Liriano's starts could fit in this category, but I'm giving him a pass, and his actual ERA puts him somewhere just above the "Bad" category.

Position Players

Where to start? I guess the most disappointing player has been 1B/OF/DH Garrett Jones, who has a .181 average in 138 AB's. He's joined by the since-released Eli Whiteside, a backup catcher who hit just .167 in 24 AB's, and new backup catcher Ryan Jorgensen, who is hitting .143 in 14 AB's. I could also easily put recently claimed Sergio Santos on this list for his .171 BA in 105 AB's. Then, there's the sad performance of Tommy Watkins, the longtime Twins minor leaguer who was a popular callup to the Twins last year before seeing his season end with an injury. Unfortunately, after being brought back into the fold in the off-season (he could have left as a minor league free agent), Watkins is hitting just .179 in 56 AB's while dealing with injuries.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Recent Transaction Thoughts

In what may be an impending sign of the apocalypse, the Twins were forced to purchase the contract of veteran Howie Clark from Rochester yesterday after Matt Tolbert went on the 15-day DL with a torn left thumb ligament. As La Velle Neal put it in his Strib column, "the pickings [in Rochester] were slim" since Alexi Casilla was already up and Matt Macri is on the minor league DL.

I don't completely disagree with La Velle -- the pickings are indeed slim in the Rochester infield -- but I think that, for the reasons I've mentioned previously, the Twins didn't necessarily need a middle infielder. Brian Buscher could have been called up if the Twins had decided to go in that direction. I don't think that Clark gives them all that much more flexibility than Busher would have. Tolbert, of course, is flexible enough to play 2B, 3B, or SS as needed. Clark is pretty much a 2B/3B guy, while Buscher is known more as a 1B/3B. With Alexi Casilla on the roster and able to play 2B or SS as needed, however, I wouldn't be all that worried about having yet another 2B on the team.

Clark is a perfectly serviceable minor league backup, I suppose -- he's a career .262 big league hitter -- so I probably shouldn't complain so much. Buscher, after all, isn't a major prospect who is somehow being harmed by spending time in the minors. I'm just not all that excited about the possibility of a Mike Lamb/Adam Everett/Howie Clark infield. That said, I hope he performs well while he's with the team, and until Tolbert knows the extent of his injury, who knows how long that will be?

Finally, La Velle also noted that the Twins recently claimed Sergio Santos off waivers from the Blue Jays. My first reaction is "why," and my second reaction is "holy crap, the roster is back to 40 guys!". As to the "why," Santos is a career .249 hitter in the minor leagues, and I'm not so sure he's ever going to improve on that. He also doesn't appear to have any real speed -- he's been getting about 2 steals in 400+ AB's the last few years -- so he's not an asset there. His fielding percentages don't appear to be all that outstanding, but I'm sure many of you are aware of how difficult it is to actually measure fielding, so I'll leave that one alone. This just seems like a perplexing waiver claim, on par with the claim of Chris Basak from the Yankees last year. While Basak is still in the organization, he's playing poorly in Rochester and is unlikely ever to really contribute. It seems the Twins higher-ups are of the opinion that the team is lacking infield depth, and is grabbing players like Santos to try to remedy that. It should also be noted (for those of you who care) that this is Santos' third option year. He was originally added to the D'Backs 40-man roster in November 2005, and was then traded to the Blue Jays in December of that year. He has subsequently been optioned in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

As to the roster, it's been a bit surprising that the Twins have gone for weeks with just 38 guys on the 40-man roster. That is no longer the case, with Clark and Santos being added. As has been pointed out elsewhere, however, that doesn't mean the Twins don't have some flexibility if needed -- Pat Neshek can be placed on the 60-Day DL whenever (and if ever) the team needs to open up another roster spot.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #39

When I jokingly suggested that the Twins would get swept by the Blue Jays after taking 3-of-4 from the Red Sox, I wasn't serious. Sadly, my non-prediction may turn out to be accurate when all is said and done tomorrow. I guess that's part of why I love baseball -- it's just so unpredictable! Anyway, here are a few notes:

1.) When I praised Boof for hanging in there after his last poor first inning, I didn't intend for him to go and duplicate it. Unfortunately, he gave up 4 runs in the first and essentially cost his team this game -- stunningly, Roy Halladay wasn't great tonight, and a good start would have been enough to get it done. I don't think that Bonser is in any immediate danger of being removed from the rotation, but if Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins were both pitching better than him when Scott Baker eventually returns, it could mean a trip to the bullpen for Boof, at least for a short while. It's frustrating to watch Boof struggle early, though, because he's been so good after that initial inning in his last couple of starts, demonstrating that he has good stuff. He just needs to put it all together for a good game.

2.) Juan Rincon had another good outing and has his ERA at 3.37. This bears watching . . .

3.) I wanted to see Alexi Casilla start. I got my wish and he went 0-for-3 with 2 K's. Ouch.

4.) Jason Kubel must not have liked seeing Craig Monroe play so well -- he's now gone deep and doubled twice in his last 5 at-bats. Hey, if worrying about playing time gets Kubel turned around, I'll be happy -- I certainly am not rooting for the guy to struggle. Best case scenario: both Kubel and Monroe get it going well enough to give Gardy some headaches deciding who to start.

5.) Sadly, the Twins are no longer in first place. It was fun while it lasted -- and hopefully they'll get right back up there in the next few days.

6.) With the Twins and A's falling out of first place, the Rays and Marlins are left holding down the line for "unexpected first place teams." While I like the Rays a lot better than the Marlins, Florida doesn't have to face anything like the Red Sox and Yankees twosome that confronts Tampa Bay. As a result, I'd say Florida is the best bet amongst the surprisingly strong teams to stay in first and make the playoffs.

7.) Minor league stuff hopefully tomorrow -- I spent too much time messing around after I got home from work today to get anything together for a post.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blog Update

No "Nightly Notes" post tonight -- I'm taking the night off. Hopefully the Twins can come back and steal a win (Jason Kubel just hit a homer, so there's still hope). I'll be back with a Nightly Notes post tomorrow, and possibly also a post covering some minor league players I've been pleased with this season, and some I'm a bit disappointed in. Go Twins!

Oh -- and congrats to the Penguins, who made it 3-0 over the Flyers tonight. After the Stars left Minnesota, I didn't have any loyalty to a hockey team until I went to college in Pittsburgh, when I sort of adopted the Pens. If it came down to the Wild and the Pens, I guess I'd go with the Wild -- but since I don't have to make a decision I'm all about the Pittsburgh for the rest of this season, at least.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #37

Another day, another win. With the White Sox playing the Angels tonight, there's a good chance that the Twins will go into action tomorrow with a 1.5 game lead in the AL Central. Raise your hand if you anticipated this! Here are some notes:

1.) How exactly do the Twins keep winning games? The starting third baseman is hitting .231 and the starting shortstop is hitting .204. Expected contributors like Jason Kubel and Delmon Young have underperformed (although my apologies for lumping Young in with Kubel -- his failings this year have been much less than Kubel's). The bullpen has largely not been the dominant force it was expected to be (with the big exceptions of Joe Nathan and Dennys Reyes). The first franchise lefty was traded in the off-season, and the heir apparent is back in Rochester getting his head screwed on straight. By all accounts, the Twins simply should not be in first place -- and yet they are. And ya know what? Suddenly, I'm starting to say "bring on the Indians, Tigers, and White Sox." At the beginning of the season, I thought the Twins were at best the third best team in the division. Now, I think they've got a chance to do something special. Unbelievable.

2.) I don't know what kind of magic Rick Anderson worked on Livan Hernandez after that first inning, but it worked pretty darned well. Hernandez still ended up allowing 10 hits and a walk in 6 innings (far too close to a 2.00 WHIP for comfort), but he prevented those batters from scoring with the exception of the Manny homerun. He's now performed well enough, for long enough, to shed any comparisons with Ramon Ortiz. Bill Smith -- I'm sorry.

3.) Juan Rincon's 2 inning performance today was huge -- with Pat Neshek out of action, the Twins need people to step up. Rincon now has a 3.60 ERA and will almost certainly start to see some meaningful game action. Maybe, just maybe, he'll pull it off and re-establish himself as a legitimate option in close situations.

4.) There's been a lot of speculation of late that Danny Graves could find himself in a Twins uniform at some point in the not-so distant future. La Velle Neal touted the possibility this afternoon, noting that Graves was being given a spot start for the Red Wings tonight. Graves then proceeded to go 4.0 innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out a couple of batters. So is all of this talk crazy? Well, maybe not -- with Neshek out for the year and the Twins having a hole in the 'pen (currently being filled by Bobby Korecky), there seems to be a natural spot for Graves. In fact, I think something like this could actually happen sooner rather than later -- the Twins will probably continue to monitor Graves' progress before they make a move, but if he goes out and puts together a few decent performances I could easily see them pulling the trigger and putting him in Korecky's place.

5.) Delmon Young is probably fine after rolling his ankle tonight, but when he left the game I started thinking about what the Twins would do if he went on the DL. It wasn't a very long internal discussion -- Denard Span would almost certainly get the call. I briefly considered the possibility that the Twins would go with Darnell McDonald, who is hitting .330 for the Red Wings, but with Span also playing well and already being on the 40-man roster, it seems clear they would just go with Span again in the event of another injury.

6.) The next series against the Blue Jays will be interesting because the Blue Jays haven't been playing particularly well of late. After beating up on the AL East leading Red Sox, the Twins now get the East bottom feeders (albeit bottom feeders with awfully good pitching). That's the sort of thing that the baseball gods tend to notice -- while I hope the Twins keep up their solid play, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the Jays came away with a sweep. And no, of course I don't really believe in the baseball gods. Really . . .


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #36

Well, that was a rollercoaster! The exciting thing about this series with the Red Sox is that the Twins have demonstrated that they can hang with Boston -- at least in the short term, and at home -- and that's tremendously important. These games haven't been pretty, but they sure have been interesting. Here are some notes:

1.) Nick Blackburn was awfully hot and cold tonight -- he gave up 4 runs on 9 hits and a walk in six innings work, but at times looked over-powering, such as when he struck out Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell back-to-back to end the first inning after getting himself in a bit of trouble. That's the mark of a young pitcher who hasn't quite found his way, I think. The important thing to remember is that the Red Sox offense is extremely good, and holding them to 4 runs is nothing to sneeze at. I'm sure Blackburn wasn't happy with his performance when he left the game, but I'll take it.

2.) Of course, the bullpen nearly coughed up the Twins lead thanks to rocky performances by Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan. On the plus side, Dennys Reyes retained his 0.00 ERA, and Joe Nathan gutted out his save. That toss to third to nail J.D. Drew after Coco Crisp knocked the ball back up the box showed that Nathan had his mind in the right place. Of course, we aren't worried about Nathan -- he's been excellent all season, and this was an aberration. The Twins need Guerrier to step up in the absence of Pat Neshek. Brian Bass had an eighth inning performance yesterday that left a bit to be desired. Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon haven't yet stepped up. I have faith in this group, but someone is going to have to step up!

3.) Craig Monroe certainly threw down the gauntlet tonight in his quest for more playing time, going 2-for-4 with a couple of homers and 4 RBI's. Now, the homerun off of Wakefield was not really a typical major league homerun -- he basically destroyed a batting practice fastball, which you don't see that often -- but a 2 homerun game is still impressive. Monroe's average is now sitting at .284, while one-time phenom Jason Kubel is hitting .222 and looking completely overmatched. What to do in this situation? I still think Kubel has potential, but I've thought that for a long time and he hasn't panned out. He sort of reminds me of David Ortiz -- a player who the team kept thinking would bust out, and who never did with the Twins. Of course, we all know what happened next, and I hope something similar doesn't happen to Kubel! Nonetheless, the way Monroe is playing it seems pretty clear that he should be getting the bulk of the playing time right now.

4.) Mike Lamb has quietly raised his batting average to .238 while Adam Everett is hitting .200. Neither of those averages will blow anyone away, but they're heading in the right direction, at least. Also, how much fun is it to see a guy like Everett go deep? I always love it when tiny middle infielders uncork one.

5.) Could we see Alexi Casilla tomorrow? I don't know how Brendan Harris is feeling, but if he's not yet 100% I think we could see Alexi at second. It should be noted, however, that Twins officials have suggested several times that Casilla was more a shortstop than a second baseman, so it might be a mixed message to have him start at 2B. We'll see over the next couple of weeks. I was somewhat critical of the decision to call him up, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to see how he performs on his callup.

6.) Just a quick blog update -- believe it or not, I should actually get a chance to finish the Relief Pitcher Organizational Rankings post sometime this week. I have done nothing on this in about two months, so I had to start from scratch putting together my materials and compiling my rankings. That work has once again begun in earnest, and I expect to be putting the post together a little at a time starting tomorrow or Tuesday.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Twins Players Dropping Like Flies: UPDATED

For the last few days, Nick Punto has been nursing a hamstring issue and has been unable to play. Now, we find out from Joe Christensen at the Strib that Punto is headed to the DL since the injury isn't getting any better. With Brendan Harris also nursing a leg injury, the Twins will be rather short-handed again tonight.

I know that many Twins fans completely gave up on Punto after last year's debacle. As has almost certainly been apparent to those of you who read this blog on a semi-regular occasion, I am not amongst that group. While I long ago conceded that he shouldn't be starting every day, I think his versatility and strength defensively is an asset to the team, as is his speed and (as unquantifiable as this is) his energy and heart. In my mind, he belongs on the roster to fill exactly the role that he has filled this season, and I'm disappointed to see him get hurt.

The Twins have not yet announced who will be called up from Rochester to replace Punto on the roster, but it seems pretty likely that it will be Brian Buscher, who of course was just with the team during Adam Everett's stint on the DL. If the Twins didn't have Matt Tolbert on the roster, they might have to consider calling up a player who could more naturally play at shortstop. Tolbert obviates that need, however, and Buscher seems like the logical choice because of relative big league experience and his success in AAA so far this season. As much as some fans might like to see Alexi Casilla at the big league level again, he's having a terrible year at the plate, and it seems to make a lot more sense to keep him playing every day in AAA. We should find out during or after the game what move the Twins have actually made. If it's in any way surprising, I'll comment further.

UPDATE: Joe C. is reporting that Alexi Casilla was scratched from his scheduled start for the Red Wings tonight, making him the likely callup. I confess to being a bit underwhelmed by this decision -- as I mentioned earlier, Casilla has not played well for the Red Wings. On the other hand, Casilla is more like Nick Punto than Brian Buscher is, and Buscher hasn't been playing so well that he had to be called up in this kind of situation. Best case scenario, I suppose, is that Casilla gets some playing time and plays well enough to get his confidence up and to regain his status as a top prospect in the organization. It felt throughout the spring like he kept taking steps backward, and for the most part that seems to have continued in Rochester. Maybe this will be a chance to turn things around.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #34

Did anyone see that one coming? Tonight's game felt pretty much unwinnable for most of the night -- in fact, right up until Mike Lamb drove in the winning runs. Here are some thoughts on the night:

1.) Check the post below this one for my thoughts on the Pat Neshek situation. Bottom line: I wish Pat the best in his recovery.

2.) I suspect that I'm often labeled an apologist for Twins management, from Terry Ryan to Bill Smith to Ron Gardenhire. Generally, I accept the label willingly -- when in doubt, I trust the professionals in the organization to make the right decision. I suspect Smith will prove himself to be an excellent GM in time, and I think Gardy is, overall, a very good manager. One of the things that I simply can't stand, however, is his propensity to bunt over a runner on first with no outs when trailing by a run. Occasionally, based on the context of a given situation, I actually think this move makes sense -- and you can usually make at least some sort of argument for such a move.

Unfortunately, I don't think tonight was such a night. I guess it's pretty brazen of me to be sitting here condemning a move that, in the end, turned out alright. However, this was quite possibly the worst possible time to bunt a runner over and give up an out. Here's why: first, you take the bat out of the hand of Matt Tolbert, who is hitting nearly .300 on the season; second, while that advances the runner to second, the next batter up was Adam Everett -- admittedly, Everett had 2 hits coming into that at-bat, but he's still hitting just .209 on the season; and third, that almost certainly was going to put Carlos Gomez at the plate with 2 outs and the tying run on 2nd. The same Carlos Gomez, mind you, who occasionally screws himself into the ground swinging the bat. It would be an understatement to say he's a bit excitable.

All of that, in my mind, adds up to a big old flashing "NO" when it comes to deciding whether or not to have Tolbert sacrifice. Again, things obviously turned out just fine -- better than fine, actually, since the team got the win. I've mentioned before, however, that judging a decision by the result can be a bit tricky, because in a one-of event like this the wrong decision can lead to the right result, if you catch my drift. I think over time, sac bunts with no outs are detrimental, and when the circumstances are such as those which faced the Twins tonight, I think the better move would be to let the hitter swing away.

3.) Since I'm on the subject, how about Gomez? The fact that he took a walk tonight was huge. He was up against one of the better closers in the game with a chance to tie the game, yet he still managed to avoid swinging at bad pitches and drew the walk. Admittedly, a couple of the pitches in that at-bat were about a mile out of the strike zone, so he should have been able to hold up. That doesn't make it any less significant that he did hold up. It's possible this walk was meaningless. It's also possible, however, that the walk was a sign of increasing plate discipline on Gomez's part. You would think that Gomez, as excitable as he is and in this kind of situation, would have swung like Jason Kubel against the Yankees in the playoffs (remember that?). Anyway, I'd at least like to think it was significant -- we'll see.

4.) Patrick Reusse thinks the Rays bamboozled the Twins in the Garza and Bartlett for Young, Harris, and Pridie deal. He bases this on 34 games of action. Mind you, Garza has a 4.91 ERA and a 13-11 K-BB ratio with a WHIP of 1.52. I'll admit, Delmon has left a lot to be desired so far this season, but how Reusse managed to draw the conclusion that he drew based on the numbers available to him is beyond me. Then again, we're talking about Pat Reusse. Maybe he has mystical powers that make things more obvious to him than they are to we mere mortals and shoddy bloggers . . .


Neshek to the DL

If you're watching the game, you just heard the news about Pat Neshek -- and unfortunately it isn't good. Neshek apparently has a torn muscle (Ok, the TV guys lie -- I guess it's a partially torn UCL) in his arm and will miss at least a couple of months (make that an absolute minimum of 3 months and probably the rest of the season). This is kind of what I think most of us feared yesterday when we saw the injury, because when a pitcher winces and grabs his arm the way Neshek did the news usually isn't good.

While I haven't yet heard any plans about what the Twins will do to replace Neshek, I'll reiterate what I said last night -- for the immediate future, I would guess that Neshek will go on the DL after the game and Glen Perkins will be activated to make tomorrow's start. That would leave Bobby Korecky on the roster, and I would presume he'll stay there until (at a minimum) Scott Baker is activated.

At that point, if Perkins has pitched adequately in the couple of starts he's going to receive, my guess is that he'll replace Korecky in the bullpen. Of course, if the Twins decide that Perkins is more important as a starter they may return him to AAA so that he gets regular work. That would probably leave Korecky in the 'pen, although other AAA pitchers like Julio DePaula, Ricky Barrett, and Carmen Cali could potentially be considered I suppose.

The other question is how the Twins will structure the bullpen. Obviously, Joe Nathan is still the closer -- but who is his setup man? The most likely answer would seem to be Matt Guerrier, who has pitched reasonably well this year. That means Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain will usually be left to handle the 7th with a lead on the line -- although I think Gardy will be very flexible (as he should be) and use whoever makes sense in the circumstances at hand.

As I said yesterday, while I'm disappointed that Neshek is hurt, I don't think that this dooms the Twins. They've been winning despite the fact that most of the bullpen has been underperforming (Joe Nathan being the obvious exception), and I don't think that's going to change. Hopefully Guerrier, Crain, and Rincon can step up and handle the pressure of pitching in more intense situations. So long as the Twins offense performs, I think the team will be fine.

Best wishes to Pat as he recuperates.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #33

The Twins were unable to utilize their 13-1 drubbing of the White Sox on Wednesday as a momentum-grabber, losing today to the White Sox 6-2 in a game that started off pretty interesting and then deteriorated rather quickly. Here are a few thoughts:

1.) First, some random speculation on the Pat Neshek situation. I saw a lot of angst after Neshek injured his elbow and left the game today (while trolling on a message board or two). Believe me, I understand why -- I like Neshek, and so far in his young career he's been a vital part of the Twins bullpen. However, even if he ends up missing significant time I'm not sure how much it will hurt the Twins. After all, they're above .500 with Neshek putting up a 4.72 ERA so far this year. I'm not saying it won't hurt at all -- he's a proven major leaguer who almost certainly will bring that ERA down substantially. My point is only that so far this season, Neshek has not been amazing, and I think the Twins would be able to survive without him for awhile if necessary. Again, I hope sincerely that it's not necessary to find out!

So what happens if Neshek needs to be disabled? I think the most likely solution is just to keep Bobby Korecky around for awhile longer. I don't say this because Korecky has necessarily earned it -- he has a 4.91 ERA in 3.2 innings of work, so who knows what he'd do in the long run -- but because it's just the easiest option. No one in AAA is burning things up to the point where they have to be called up, so why not stick with Korecky? If Neshek's injury winds up being long-term, I think there's a distinct possibility that Korecky could be swapped out for somebody like Glen Perkins, however.

2.) Speaking of Perkins, he's scheduled to make his first big league start on Saturday and I'm extremely excited to see it. I essentially see Perkins as being in an uphill battle to win a spot in the rotation over the next two starts -- if he puts up really solid numbers and Kevin Slowey struggles, I think it could be Slowey who heads back to Rochester when Scott Baker is ready to come back and not Perkins. I think it's an uphill battle simply because I think the Twins are a bit more convinced about Slowey's readiness to be a big league starter at this point -- but I don't think it's insurmountable by any means.

As for Slowey's start today, it wasn't great but I also don't think the team should overreact. Yes, the fifth inning (in which he gave up 2 homers and surrendered the lead) was rough -- but in 5.0 innings of work Slowey gave up just 4 hits and didn't walk anybody. Those are good numbers, and if he could have kept the ball in the park we'd all be raving. As it is, 3 runs in 5 innings isn't a bad line for a guy making his first big league start in over a month. I was fine with what he did today.

3.) I just noticed that Dennys Reyes has a 0.00 ERA, although he walked a guy without getting an out today. Despite that, his WHIP is still below 1.00 for the season. He's only pitched 9.0 innings, but he has to be doing something right, doesn't he? I wonder how long he can keep it up (now I suppose I jinxed him!).

4.) Just a rhetorical question -- Where would the Twins offense be without Joe Mauer? He's back to hitting .346 after today's 2-for-3 stretch. Of course, the only game the Twins won in the series was the one where he sat, but that's not Joe's fault. It just amazes me sometimes how good he is when he's hot (and not grounding into 3 double plays in a game).

5.) Just asking -- at this point, what's the rationale for starting Everett and Lamb ever? I'm saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because I don't think either of them are really as bad as they've played so far. Nonetheless, when you look at the lineup and see that either of them isn't starting, doesn't it make you a little bit happy?

6.) Speaking of people who many fans don't want in the lineup, Nick Punto was supposed to be in the lineup today but was a late scratch. The fact that *gasp* Gardy was going to actually put him in the lineup (one day after a 2-for-5, 5 RBI performance, remember) caused many on the Strib message boards to shudder and scream about how he's not worthy to be on a big league roster and all the usual rubbish. Let me just point out that Brendan Harris, Punto's replacement for the day, went 0-for-3 and left 4 runners on base. His season average is now .248. Punto, meanwhile, is hitting .265. Once again -- chill out on Punto until he actually deserves to be catcalled. I bring this up fairly often, but that's because I just don't understand it. I'm not saying, by the way, that Punto should be in the starting lineup every day (although I would actually think long and hard about that if somebody said they were putting him at SS or 3B right now, to be honest). I am saying that I think the role he's in now is perfectly suited to him, and I don't think it's so horrible to see his name in the lineup.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #32

I need to head to bed early tonight, so I'm not going to get a chance to see the end of the game. All I'll say for the night is: Way to go Livan! I certainly don't expect him to do it a lot, but I have to admit he's been a pretty solid investment so far for the Twins. Also, congrats to Carlos Gomez on a GREAT night (still want him to go down?).

Oh yeah -- Barry Zito can't buy a break, can he? He dropped to 0-7 despite pitching well tonight against the Pirates. Since I think this was a bad baseball news, I admit that I sort of wanted to see him struggle for awhile, but what's happening is just brutal. As bad as the Giants are, you have to think that even if Zito turns it around for good, he's still got a great shot at 20 losses.

I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts on Kevin Slowey's return, but don't expect it until fairly late; I have a class get together tomorrow night, and won't be writing until about 10:00 mountain time. Until then . . .


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nightly Notes: Game #31

The Twins couldn't keep winning forever, and tonight the White Sox snapped the nice 5-game winning streak the team had going. I don't have a lot to say about the loss -- what do you say about a 1-hit performance where the starter was so-so but not terrible? I do have a few other things to comment on, so here's an abbreviated nightly notes column:

1.) I'm not the first one to point out the absurdity of the MLBPA whining about collusion in the Barry Bonds situation, but there was another salvo fired on ESPN.com on the issue today. Apparently, the union has "opened an investigation" into the free-agent market, which has seen Bonds and other veterans such as Kenny Lofton without jobs.

Here's a thought: maybe teams have finally realized that hiring retread veterans like Lofton, or toxic clubhouse agents like Bonds, is smart neither economically or in a baseball sense. Look, Lofton has had a great run as he's aged, filling in beautifully as a one-year replacement for teams that were between center fielders. There's a distinct chance that he could still play. Unfortunately, he's also going to turn 41 on May 31, and one of these years there just wasn't going to be anything left in the tank. Why pay a veteran to sit on the bench when you can have a youngster get big league experience doing the same thing? And Bonds? I don't need to rehash what's been said by so many others. Collusion is not the issue here.

I don't usually say things quite this categorical, but the position of the union here is just utterly idiotic. The other important thing to recognize with this issue is that for every veteran who hangs in the league too long, a young player is left off a big league roster. Who do you think the union cares more about supporting -- guys like Barry Bonds (who, incidentally, cared so much about his union that he became the first player ever to drop out of the MLBPA licensing agreement) who make a ton of many and have lots of notoriety, or guys like Rajai Davis and Eidar Torres and Matt Tolbert who the average fan has never heard of? Not a hard question to answer.

Does the Union seriously have nothing better to do? Unbelievable.

2.) This is a day late, but I think it's interesting so I'm covering it. Back on April 29, I happened to be messing around with my MLB.tv account and stumbled across the Diamondbacks/Astros game while Max Scherzer was throwing his warm up tosses. I'd seen his name in an article on ESPN.com a day or two before when he was called up, and was quite pleased at my good fortune. In case you hadn't heard, Scherzer proceeded to throw down one of the best big league debuts imaginable -- he went 4.1 perfect innings, striking out 7 Astros in the process. To say the least I was impressed.

As a result, I was pretty interested in seeing how Scherzer performed in his first big league start yesterday against the Phillies. Unfortunately, he must have been a bit too amped up (remember Matt Garza's debut? Same problem), as he last just 4.0 innings and allowed 5 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. Keith Law says Scherzer is more suited to the bullpen, for a variety of reasons, and I assume he's probably right (he knows these guys a lot better than I do!). Still, I was a bit disappointed -- I was hoping for the arrival of a new phenom. Maybe Scherzer will be able to dominant in his next start. Of course, since I'm a pseudo-Rockies fan since I live in Colorado I probably shouldn't be rooting for the D'Backs to get another stud pitcher . . .

3.) Poor Detroit.

4.) The Red Wings recently parted ways with superfluous outfielder Jon Knott and catcher Eli Whiteside. Maybe they shouldn't be stopping there -- veteran minor leaguer Tommy Watkins is hitting just .158 on the season, second sacker Howie Clark is at .225, and 1B/OF/DH Garrett Jones is hitting just .172. Far be it from me to suggest that these guys can't turn things around, but I have to think that the Twins could find a few younger, more promising players to fill those roster spots. Look, I don't have anything against these guys personally -- I just don't think they're adding much to the organization at this point.


Baker to the DL

As was widely expected, Scott Baker is being sent to the Disabled List tomorrow. More interesting, although still not exactly surprising, is the news that he will be replaced on the roster by lefty Glen Perkins, who will start Saturday's game against Boston. Perkins was the logical choice over Brian Duensing and Kevin Mulvey because (1) he's left-handed (as is Duensing), (2) he's the only one of the three on the 40-man roster, and (3) he's been pitching quite well of late.

The biggest winner from this move (other than Perkins, of course), is Bobby Korecky. The righty was on pace to being sent down to make room for Kevin Slowey, who is scheduled to start on Thursday. Instead, Korecky can now hang around until after Friday's game when he will almost certainly be sent down to make room for Perkins (barring something quite strange and unexpected happening). Every day in the big leagues is a good day, right?

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Quick Note

In case you haven't seen it, former Twin Jacque Jones was designated for assignment (a.k.a. released) by the Detroit Tigers today after hitting just .165 in 79 AB's. The move allows Gary Sheffield to be shifted into left field, which he requested. Sheffield feels that his problems at the plate (.265 a year ago, .185 this year) are due to his being used as a DH. "Once I started DHing and saw what it was all about, it's not me. It just don't fit my personality."

Now, here's the thing -- I don't completely discount this explanation. We've all heard players complain about DH duty before, and I'm sure that for some people just sitting around waiting to hit really doesn't mesh with what they need to perform effectively. Maybe Gary Sheffield is one of those people. Nonetheless, I tend to think that Sheffield's diminishing performance is due more to his age (he's 39) than to his shift to being a DH. I haven't seen any specific numbers measuring his bat speed, but I guess it's beginning to fall off -- and that's always been the key to his success. Maybe he'll prove me wrong by starting to perform while playing in left field (and honestly, he has nowhere to go but up right now, so some improvement should be expected). I just don't expect him to be all that much better playing in the field than he was as a DH.