Friday, May 1, 2009

Twins Reach .500 Mark with Series Win

With Joe Mauer just a few days away from returning to the team, the Twins would be very fortunate if they were to be at the .500 mark come Friday. As we, the fans, have learned so far this season, no victory comes easy to the Twins. After taking two of three from Cleveland, the defending American League Champion, Tampa Bay Rays came to town for a three game set. After being the Cinderella story of the Majors last year, the Rays have started the 2009 season like previous season, near the bottom of the AL East. Although it is early, both teams need some victories to stay close in their respective divisional races.

After a few rough outings for Scott Baker, he should some improvement. He worked six innings, giving up four earned runs off six hits. He struck out seven batters and walked only one. You may be wondering where the homeruns are? Well, that’s the best part. He didn’t give up a homerun tonight. His pitch location was much better tonight, as he wasn’t leaving as many strikes up in the zone. Some fans were a little worried about Baker’s first couple starts, but I don’t think there needs to be any panic. It’s too early in the season to be saying if someone will have a bad year or not.

The Twins offense was only able to get five hits off the Tampa pitching. However, one of those hits was a Joe Crede homerun that came in the sixth inning of Jeff Niemann. That was really the only highlight of the Twins offense all night. The Twins 3-4-5 hitting (Morneau, Kubel, Crede) went 1-for-11 with the lone hit being Crede’s homerun. If these three guys aren’t hitting well in games, it will be very tough to win them.

Francisco Liriano is another Twins pitcher that has had early season struggles. If there is on pitcher that all eyes are on this year, it has to be Liriano. He is entering the 2nd year after having Tommy John Surgery and that is about the time when pitchers are close to being fully healed and back to their old self. Today Liriano looked like the pitcher of old. Although his stats weren’t stellar, he was able to keep the Rays in check. He would give up two earned runs off seven hits in six and two-thirds innings of work. After Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares were able to pitch 1⅓ scoreless innings, Nathan came in for the save attempt. This is more than usually a piece of cake. Well the very first pitch from Nathan to Ben Zobrist was not what we expect. Zobrist launched the pitch to right field for a homerun over the baggy. Nathan was able to get out of the 9th without anymore harm done.

With the blown save by Nathan, this forced the Twins offense to step up and get him the win. After hitting a first inning, two run homer, Justin Morneau was relatively quiet throughout the game. Well that all changed in the ninth inning. After two Twins hits and a wild pitch, the Twins were in position to win the game. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin stepped up to the plate looking for a game winning hit. As we the fans have seen so far this year, a base loaded situation with one out is no sure bet for a run.

The Rays actually brought Zobrist in from right field to be a fifth infielder. Well even that couldn’t stop Morneau from being the hero. Justin would hit a fastball right to Akinori Iwamura, who flipped it to Jason Bartlett at second. However, Akinori had trouble getting it out of his glove, which allowed Justin to reach first just before the ball got there. This allowed Jose Morales to score the winning run. So the Twins almost found a way to blow a perfect situation, but Lady Luck was on our side.

After a dramatic win last night, the Twins looked to carry the momentum into the rubber match of the series. With Scott Kazmir on the mound, it seemed like it might be tough to get some runs. Well, it was a totally different story. The Twins got to Kazmir early and often. The Twins scored four runs in the first inning, allowing them to bat around the order. The Twins would later tack on four more runs, before Kazmir was finally pulled from the game. The key to the Twins scoring was the top of their order. With Morneau hitting the 3rd spot, the 1-2-3 hitters went 9-for-14 with six runs scored and two RBI.

With early run support, Nick Blackburn was able to pitch without much worry. Looking for his second straight win, Blackburn pitched a very good game. Blackburn isn’t known as a big strikeout pitcher, which was evident in this game. He was able to force 11 groundouts and 7 flyouts. He was able to get three strikeouts on top of that and walked only one batter. Craig Breslow and Luis Ayala would later each pitch an inning. Ayala however did give up one run in the ninth, but by that point the game was out of reach.

The Twins will start a three game series against Kansas City on Friday night. The biggest news in the upcoming series will be the return of Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Twins fans are ecstatic about his anticipated return. He instantly will provide protection for Morneau and his leadership behind the plated so coveted by many around the league. The Twins, will however, have to decide who to send down to Triple-A or place on the disabled list. There has been talk of placing Mike Redmond on the DL with a sore shoulder, as Jose Morales has been playing very well. I will keep you updated on this as more information is revealed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Twins Show Up; Win Series

After an embarrassing two game series against Boston, the Twins needed to rebound and try to move up in the AL Central. Entering their three game series in Cleveland, the Twins were 7-9 and 1½ games back in the AL Central. I know it’s probably not as important to worry about standings this early, but when you play division rivals, every win matters.

After a decent outing against Los Angeles his last time out, Nick Blackburn threw a stellar game to open the series. With the Twins starting pitching struggling as of late, they needed some good outings during the series. This would be tough because the Indians are a very good hitting ballclub, but have gotten off to a very rocky start. Blackburn would last seven innings, giving up one earned run off six hits, while striking out four batters. Recently called up Jose Mijares would relieve Blackburn in the eighth and pitch a scoreless inning. Although it wasn’t a save situation, Joe Nathan would get some work by pitching a scoreless ninth.

Justin Morneau tacked on his fourth homerun off the season in the fourth inning off Cleveland pitcher, Fausto Carmona to make it a 3-1 score at the time. The Twins would also get RBIs from Jason Kubel, Joe Crede and Jose Morales. Morales as been a pleasant surprise to the Twins, who are eagerly awaiting Joe Mauer’s return from his back issues.

If you thought Nick Blackburn’s performance Friday night was something to talk about, Kevin Slowey “one-upped” Blackburn. Kevin Slowey, who fixed a mechanical problem that noticed after his second start, pitched a near complete game shutout. We all know Kevin Slowey is the command guru of the Twins five starting pitchers and today he backed that up. In eight innings of work, he gave up one earned run off eight hits. Of the 114 pitches he threw, 84 of them were called for strikes. He would go on to strike out seven batters and walk none. Slowey would attempt to go for the complete game shutout, but he would give up three straight singles to load the bases, before being relieved by Luis Ayala.

If there is one Twins hitter that has surprised me the most this season, it has to be Jason Kubel. He has been on fire since the Los Angeles series when he hit for the cycle. He would take on two more homeruns in this game, one of which game in a back-to-back effort with Joe Crede in the ninth.

With the Twins trying to go for the sweep, they sent Glen Perkins to the mound. In his first three starts, Perkins lasted eight innings each time. Today was a different story. In his first start away from the Metrodome, Perkins lasted just five innings, giving up four earned runs off seven hits. The positive from the Twins pitching today was their bullpen. They pitched three scoreless innings in an attempt to give the Twins hitting a chance to comeback.

As many Twins fans know, the Twins always struggle when they have runners in scoring position with zero or one out in a critical situation. Well that arose in the seventh inning. Down 4-2 and runners on 2nd and 3rd, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel both came up to the plate and both of them struck out swinging. I almost expect this to happen when we have the bases loaded or runners in scoring position with no one out or one out. The only high note for the Twins offense today was Jose Morales. Hit hot hitting would continue has he would go 4-for-4 to raise his average to .375.

The Twins will now head home and try to take advantage of a struggling Tampa Bay team. The Twins also announced that Joe Mauer could make his return during this series at some point, rather than the Kansas City series. The Twins would send Jose Morales down to Triple-A Rochester, while Mike Redmond jumps back into his normal back-up role.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Twins Off To Slow Start

Before I share my thoughts on the season thus far I want to apologize for the lack of updates. It has been a rough start to the season and there has been very little to write about, but I am aiming to write more in hopes that it brings good luck to the Twins.

Despite the Twins being just two games back in the A.L. Central, they sure haven’t been playing that well. The Twins are currently 7-9, while the Indians are 5-10. This is very interesting because both the Twins and Indians were expected to be atop of the Central. But then again we are only less than a month into the season, so we have a long ways to go.

The Twins starting rotation as struggled to return to their 2008 form, when they surprised the entire MLB as being one of the youngest, but most productive rotations. With the same exact rotation that the Twins had last year, they are getting opposite results. The Twins starting pitching has a combined record of 4-8 with a dreadful 5.59 ERA. They have given up the most earned runs of any starting rotation so far, by allowing 59 earned runs.

Scott Baker, who started the season on the disabled list, was expected to come into the 2009 season as the staff’s #1 pitcher. Through his first two starts, he has managed to give up 12 hits and strikeout just five batters. Well you may be wondering, “What’s so bad about the 12 hits?” Of those 12 hits, seven of them have been homeruns. Baker, as well as most of the Twins starting pitching, has had trouble with his command issues. He has been leaving way too many pitches up in the strike zone. Now, I’m not saying we should get all worried about the pitching yet, but if this is a sign to come, then it could be a very long season.

On the other hand, Glen Perkins has been brilliant. Through three starts he has a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 1.50 and 12 strikeouts. He has yet to allow more than two runs in any start this season. He has really been the only starting pitcher who has been consistent thus far. I think Perkins will be pleasant surprise this year and could prove himself even more as he looks to improve upon his 12-4 record last year.

On the other side of the plate, the Twins hitting has been up and down to start the season. They are hitting just .255 as a team. This is no surprise though, as the Twins tend to start off slow and eventually end up with one of the best team batting averages each year. The only thing I feel the Twins, as a team, need to work on is their ability to get runners home when they have the bases loaded and zero or one out. They always tend to leave the runners stranded.

If I had to pick one hitter that has been the best for the Twins thus far, it would have to be Jason Kubel. Through 14 games as DH, Kubel is batting .327 with two homeruns and a team-leading 12 RBI. His biggest accomplishment as a Major Leaguer came on April 17th against the LA Angels. Down 9-7 with two out in the 8th inning, Kubel stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. Kubel had already gotten a single, double and triple, so all he needed was a homerun to complete the cycle. After taking a first pitch strike, Kubel launched a deep, eventual game-winning grand slam to the upper deck in right field. To complete the cycle by hitting a grand slam was the highlight of not only his career, but for the Twins this season. In the series against the Angels, Kubel went 8-for-14 (.571) with one homerun and 7 RBI. Look for him to have a solid season as the Twins primary Designated Hitter.

On a happier note, the Twins are expected to get Joe Mauer back on May 1st. This is of course assuming everything in his rehab assignment goes without any setbacks. He probably won’t be as effective when he first returns, but once he gets going, I expect this lineup to become more dangerous and really help Morneau drive in more runs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Twins Offense Lackluster Again; Drop Second Straight

After a very disappointing outing by Francisco Liriano, the Twins looked to get back on track and take the series win. With Nick Blackburn on the mound, the Twins offense would have to get going. Because we all remember what happened last time Blackburn pitched in Chicago. He pitched a gem, giving up the only run of the game that sent the White Sox to the playoffs and the Twins back home.

Blackburn pitched very well up until the 5th inning when he would start running into trouble. After giving up one run in the 5th inning to tie the game, the Twins had to get more runs on the board. Well, as we have seen early on in the season, the runs come in spurts. This happened to be one of those spurts where no runs were put on the board. Jim Thome would hit a homerun off Blackburn in the 6th inning, to make it a 3-1 White Sox lead. This was like déjà vu all over again, as Thome’s homerun would be the eventual game-winning hit. The White Sox would tack on three more runs to make it a 6-1victory and take the series.

Meanwhile on the other side, Mark Buehrle pitched another solid game against Twins. He went 6⅓ innings, giving up one run off two hits, while striking out five. The lone run came off the bat of Delmon Young as he hit his first homerun of the season in the 2nd inning. It’s nice to know someone on the Twins wants to try to help the team out by getting a hit.

The Twins will now head back to Minneapolis for a four game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. Kevin Slowey will open the series for the Twins, while Jesse Litsch will get the start for the Jays.

In other Twins news, Scott Baker will be making his season debut on Wednesday after make a minor league start. In his minor league start for the Ft. Myers Miracle, Scott pitched seven innings giving up one run on five hits and struck out three. So he looks to be ready to jump back into the rotation.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Colon Shuts Down Twins Offense

After scoring 12 runs last night in game one of this three game series, the Twins failed to score a single run tonight. This really doesn’t come as a shocker as a majority of the time when the Twins score several runs, they tend to not score the next night. With Francisco Liriano on the mound for the Twins, I was hoping for a solid start and a series opening win.

Unfortunately the White Sox had other ideas. Liriano was not his normal self today. Liriano had difficulty with his command as he walked four batters and only struck out three. The struggles really came in the fourth and fifth innings. He would give up a combined five runs in the two innings. However, he would be pulled from the game with two outs in the fifth inning. Matt Guerrier would relieve him and get out without giving up too much more damage.

However, on the other side, Bartolo Colon was spot on for the White Sox. The former Cy Young winner pitched six solid innings, giving up only three hits. Colon has only made 32 starts over the last couple years, so he is no where near his Cy Young form. Today had to be very encouraging for Ozzie Guillen and the rest of the White Sox staff.

The Twins have been struggling to find runs early on in the season, but these divisional games are very important, so they need to start swinging the bat better. The Twins will go for the series win tomorrow when they send Nick Blackburn to the mound to face off against Mark Buehrle.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Twins Overpower White Sox Bullpen

R.A. Dickey made the start for the Twins due to Scott Baker being placed on the disabled list to star the season. R.A. had a decent outing giving up three earned runs in five innings of work. He would run into trouble in the second inning when he gave up a two RBI-single to Josh Fields, which brought in Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez. He would then give up a solo homerun to Paul Konerko in the third, but that would be the end of the damage against Dickey.

The story of the night was the return of Joe Crede to U.S. Cellular Field, where he called home for nine seasons as a member of the White Sox. As he stepped up to the plate for the first time, former teammate Brian Anderson had them play “All Out of Love”. Crede would go on to hit a solo homerun in that at-bat. The crowd instantly booed him after the ball cleared the left field fence. This to me is a sign of respect as the fans knew how much he meant to that organization and the clutch hitting he provided, especially in the 2005 World Series championship year.

The Twins would later strike major damage to put the game out of reach. With Clayton Richards now pitching in the 7th down one run, all he had to do was keep the White Sox within reach. Well Justin Morneau had other ideas. He would hit his 2nd homerun of the season to make it a 5-3 game. Mike McDougal would come in two batters later and load the bases with no out. That was all manager Ozzie Guillen had to see, before bringing in D.J. Carrasco.

Facing his first batter, Carrasco would face Delmon Young. Delmon Young, who has been struggling this year, would hit a 2-run single to center, which brought home Kubel and Cuddyer, who both walked. Jose Morales would continue his hot hitting at U.S. Cellular field in his short career by hitting a single to center to load the bases yet again. Up came Nick Punto to get some RB Is for himself. This time he flared a pitch down the left field line scoring Crede and Carlos Gomez, who ran for Delmon. The Twins would go on to add two more runs before the carnage in the 7th was over.

In the 7th inning alone, the Twins scored 7 runs off six hits. This was just what the Twins needed after not getting many scoring opportunities last night against the Seattle Mariners in their series finally. The Twins later scored one more run in the 9th to make it a 12-5 victory for the Twins. This was a very important win, as is any divisional game, but to come out of the gates like this really makes a statement on the other teams in the Central.

The Twins will send Francisco Liriano in their Saturday afternoon game against Bartolo Colon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Washburn Outduels Perkins: Series Split

With the Twins looking to take the series victory over the Mariners, Glen Perkins got the call to start. Perkins left everything he had on that mound when he left the mound after the eighth inning. I believe Perkins will be the sleeper in the Twins young rotation and his performance today was just what makes it possible.

In eight innings of work, Perkins gave up one run on five hits while striking out four batters. Of the 106 pitches Perkins threw, 72 of them were strikes. This was probably the best start out of the Twins pitchers thus far. Yes, it’s early, but to see that kind of pitching this early on is a great sign. The only mistake Perkins made was in the first inning when he gave up a RBI-single to Adrian Beltre to make it a 1-0 game early on.

However, Jarrod Washburn was even better going against Perkins. He would only give up five hits in eight innings of work, while striking out four. So what we saw was a mirror image of each other. This was truly a game that fans of defensive duels would love. The Twins just weren’t able to get many scoring chances.

The Twins will now travel to Chicago for a three game series. R.A. Dickey will start for the Twins, as the White Sox send Jose Contreras to the mound.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Morneau Homers Twins to Victory

Four homeruns later the Twins come out on top to win their second straight. With Kevin Slowey on the mound for the Twins, you would have thought there would be a good chance of few runs by the Mariners. Slowey is known for his excellent command around the plate. Some actually compare him to former Twin, Brad Radke, as Radke was a command master during his tenure with the Twins. Well, Slowey got off to a shaky start, but shook it off to notch his first win of the season.

After giving up two homeruns by the fourth inning, Slowey calmed down and proceeded to retire the last seven batters he faced. Kevin ran into the most trouble in the fourth inning. Up 4-2 at that point, he surrendered a solo homerun to Jose Lopez. Yuniesky Betancourt followed that up with an RBI double to center and then later broke the 4-4 tie on a wild pitch by Slowey.

The bullpen then took over in the seventh for Slowey as Craig Breslow came in to pitch one scoreless inning to hold the Twins lead at 5-4. Jesse Crain then came in the 8th to try to get the game to Joe Nathan for the save opportunity in the 9th. Crain was able to get through the 8th and set up what would eventually be Joe Nathan’s 200th save as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

Justin Morneau seemed to be over the tightness in his back he reported at the end of Spring Training. He would give the Twins an early 2-0 lead in the 1st after hitting a 2-run homerun. Denard Span would add his own 2-run HR in the 2nd inning to break a 2-2 tie. However, Justin would later put the team on his shoulders and get an RBI double in the fifth to tie the game.

The winning run would come off the bat of Jason Kubel as he would also hit an RBI double in the fifth inning. Carlos Silva, the Mariners starter pitcher and former Twin, would be pulled after the 5th inning after giving up six earned runs in five innings of work. The Mariners bullpen would go toe-to-toe with the Twins bullpen and not allow a run the rest of the game.

The Twins will send south-paw, Glen Perkins to the mound this afternoon against Jarrod Washburn in the series finale.

On a side note, Joe Mauer took batting practice with the Ft. Myer club and then caught a bullpen session thrown by Scott Baker. Joe reported no soreness after batting practice and the bullpen session. This is great news as he is expected back by the end of April or early May.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Casilla Carries Twins to First Win

“Don’t give up...Don’t ever give up!” Those are not only the words of the great Jim Valvano, but also the words that go through Twins fans thoughts when the Twins are down late. Those words sure came to life last night as the Twins and Mariners squared off in game two of their four game series.

With Erik Bedard and Nick Blackburn on the hill, this was sure to be another very good pitching matchup. Last time Twins fans saw Nick Blackburn in the regular season was when he pitched in the tie-breaking game against Chicago. However, during the off-season he had minor knee surgery and had some swelling late in Spring Training. Some were wondering if he would be on his game tonight.

Nick never quite looked comfortable out there. He pitched five innings, giving up four earned runs off eight hits and only striking out one batter. Blackburn isn’t known as a strikeout pitcher, but more as a groundball pitcher. So the one strikeout is nothing to worry about, but you would still like to see that number higher. The most trouble came in the 4th inning when Endy Chavez, acquired from the Mets in the J.J. Putz trade, singled to right, which brought in Wladimir Balentien and Yuniesky Betancourt to make it 4-0 game.

Here is where that famous line “Don’t give up...Don’t ever give up!” comes into play. Down four heading into the bottom of the 5th, the Twins knew they had to get something going as Blackburn likely wouldn’t make it past the 6th. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Denard Span would hit a single to right, which drove in Carlos Gomez. Two batters later, Michael Cuddyer singled to center which drove in Nick Punto and Denard Span to make it a 4-3 game.

The Twins bullpen would hold the Mariners scoreless until the 9th when Franklin Gutierrez singled to center, which brought Wladimir Balentien home to make it a 5-3 game. Then the fun begins.

Brandon Morrow comes in to try to pick up his first save of the season. Last season, the Mariners blew 31 saves as a team, tied for most in the MLB with St. Louis. So this game was far from over. Morrow would walk three batters to load the bases with no one out, which caused first year manager, Don Wakamatsu, to make a pitching change. In came Miguel Batista to try to get out the jam. The Twins had other ideas.

Denard Span stepped up to the plate for his fifth at bat. He had gone 2-for-4 previous to this at-bat. Span would hit a high chopper in front of the plate to Adrian Beltre, who smartly held onto the baseball. Carlos Gomez would score on the play to pull the Twins within one run of a tie. Alexei Casilla stepped up to the plate looking to be the hero of the game. It took less than 5 seconds for him to be the hero of the night. On the first pitch he hit a liner up the middle to score Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher to win the game for the Twins.

The way the Twins won this game makes them one of, if not, the most exciting team to watch in the Major Leagues. The Twins will try to continue this momentum as they send Kevin Slowey to the mound to face off against former Twin, Carlos Silva.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Griffey and Co. Beat Twins To Open Season

After what appeared to be a fairly good Spring Training for the Twins despite the injuries, they weren’t able to produce against Seattle in the Season Opener. With a fantastic pitching matchup between Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano, this was expected to be a very good game to watch. Well it certainly was, for Seattle fans as the Twins bats were unable to produce much.

King Felix, as Hernandez is referred as, was able to keep the Twins bats quiet for the most part. He lasted eight innings, giving up one earned run on five hits while walking three and striking out six. The most important stat of his outing was that Felix was able to hold the 3-6 hitters (Cuddyer, Morneau, Kubel and Crede) to just one run off two hits in 14 combined at-bats while on the mound. If you are an opposing pitcher and can hold those four to just two hits, you have taken the threat out of the lineup.

Not only was the Mariners pitching spot on throughout the night, but so was their offense. With Ken Griffey Jr. back in Seattle, they look to improve upon what was a very miserable season in 2008. Ken Griffey launched a solo homerun in the 5th inning to extend the Mariners lead to 2-0 at the time. That was Griffey’s 41st homerun against the Twins, the most against any opponent in his career. What makes that really amazing is that he played nine seasons in the National League before returning to Seattle.

He wasn’t the only one to hit the long ball. Franklin Gutierrez would hit a two-run homer off Liriano in the 6th inning, which put the Mariners up 4-1 and the game out of reach.

Francisco had a decent outing despite being told he was going to be the Opening Day starter just a few days before hand. He didn’t surrender any walks, whereas he had some control issues in Spring Training, so that was very nice to see. However, with Baker out two weeks, he will have to step up and be the leader of this rotation until Scott returns to full form.

Look for the Twins to try and bounce back when Nick Blackburn takes on Erik Bedard in game two of this four game series tomorrow night.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 Season Preview; Opening Week

The Minnesota Twins begin their 2009 season on Monday, when they start a 4 game series against the Seattle Mariners. This will be the last Opening Day at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome as the Twins will move into Target Field in 2010. But looking outside right now, I can only imagine going to Opening Day and have there be snow on the ground still. But that’s beside the point. The Twins are now finally able to put that devastating one game playoff loss to the White Sox behind them.

The Twins had an off-season that actually didn’t irritate a lot of fans. For the first time in a few years, they didn’t sign an older player who has very little left in their tank. Instead, they brought in Joe Crede, who will fill a much needed hole at third base. This was hands down the highlight of the off-season. Although it took more than a month to get the contract figured out, it was well worth the wait. The only question about this signing is, how Joe’s back will hold up.

Another story that was very interesting to follow throughout the off-season was the competition for the bullpen spots. With Boof Bonser going down early on in Spring Training with a shoulder injury that would require surgery and make him miss the entire 2009 season, the Twins had many options and have finally made their decision. To be honest, I don’t have total confidence in our bullpen this year. Although the bullpen did look good during Spring Training, we all know the teams don’t play their starters all game.

I believe the relief pitcher to watch this year will be Jesse Crain. He has recently added the “slurve” to his pitching repertoire. That will allow him to mix it up when he needs to and I can see him being the set-up man for Joe Nathan. Look for him to have a very solid season, as he could prove himself to be that 8th inning guy over Matt Guerrier and Luis Ayala.

Then there is the outfield dilemma. What do you do with four good outfielders with only three spots available? Delmon Young, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Michael Cuddyer are all very capable of starting for the Twins, but how do you keep all four happy about their playing time? Well, for Michael Cuddyer, he didn’t have to wait long. Ron Gardenhire named Cuddyer his starter in right field early on. So then that left two spots for Young, Span and Gomez. Some people thought that Carlos Gomez should start the season in Triple-A Rochester. I strongly disagree with their opinion on that. Gomez is one of, if not, the most exciting center fielders to watch and has blazing speed. As we all know Gardenhire is a defensive coach and so Gomez would seem ideal for center field.

So it appears Span and Young could split time in left field, as well as Span getting some starts in center. But I would much rather have 4 good out fielders than three ok outfielders. If one of them is in a slump, then you have that fourth guy to step in.

Where there is good, exciting news, there is always bad news. Early on in the off-season, we learned that Boof Bonser would be lost for the 2009 season due to shoulder surgery. This was a big loss to the Twins bullpen as he was expected to be the long relief pitcher and rebound from a not so good 2008 campaign.

Next up was Joe Mauer. Joe had surgery to remove a kidney obstruction that he had since birth. The surgery was successful, but Joe was having back soreness and was unable to participate at all in Spring Training. This is a huge blow for the Twins, as he will likely miss up to the first month of the regular season. With him out, Mike Redmond and Jose Morales will be sharing catching duties. Although, Redmond will likely get most of the starts behind the plate.

Then when the Twins thought they were all healthy for Spring Training, ready to head home to Minneapolis, Scott Baker is placed on the disabled list. This was a complete surprise to me, as I had heard nothing of any type of soreness or problems. Baker reported some tightness in his throwing shoulder during his last Spring Training start. At first the Twins didn’t think he would have to miss anytime, but they later felt it would be a good idea to let him rest his shoulder before the long season began. R.A. Dickey will jump into the rotation as the #5 starter while Baker is on the DL.

So with all the news, injuries, and transactions that took place during the off-season, I am very confident that the Twins will be a better team than last years. I expect them to build off that season-ending loss to the White Sox. My prediction is that the Twins will go out with a bang in the last season at the “Dome” and win the AL Central by 3 games. Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Chicago will follow in order to round out the AL Central.

Here is to an exciting last season at the Metrodome and to a hopefully good, exciting MLB season.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nick Adenhart Killed in Car Accident

Today is a very sad day not only for the Los Angeles Angels organization, but for Major League Baseball as a community. Around 12:30 this morning local time, Nick Adenhart of the LA Angels was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He was riding in the car with three other people when they were T-boned in the middle of an intersection. Nick was transfered to UC Irvine Medical Center, where he later died.

Nick had a career record of 37-28 with a 3.87 ERA in his minor league career. He pitched three games for the Angels in 2008 going 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA and made the team coming out of Spring Training this year. Nick was ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in the Majors.

I hopefully speak for the rest of the baseball world by saying our prayers are with the Angels organization and Nick's family.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

R.A. Dickey vs. Philip Humber


With the Twins Season Opener at the Metrodome just two weeks away, the roster is starting to take shape. Yet, there are still some position battles still raging on that will be very interesting to watch over the last two weeks of Spring Training. The Twins have had a pretty good Spring and hope to finish on a high note heading into the Regular Season. I believe the most intriguing competition going on is for a spot in the bullpen.

Philip Humber vs. R.A. Dickey

This is possibly the most interesting position battle that is still going on. If you would have asked me at the start of Spring Training whether either of these two would be fighting for a spot, I would have called you crazy. With the loss of Boof Bonser for the 2009 season, the Twins have been trying to figure out who could take his spot. With the starting rotation already set, these two will be battling for the long-relief position and/or the mop-up situation.

R.A. Dickey has had a very solid Spring, although the numbers may not show that. In 8 appearances he is 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA. The stat that surprises me the most is his strikeout and walk total. He has 11 strikeouts and has only walked two batters. Once I think about it, I shouldn’t be that surprised as the Twins pitching staff is known for issuing very few walks throughout the season. And did I forget to mention Dickey is a knuckleball pitcher? That has something to do with the strikeout total as well. Dickey also has the veteran experience advantage over Philip Humber, so Dickey has been in many more situations and knows how to do deal with them.

Philip Humber is an interesting case when it comes to possibly winning the battle for a spot on the 25 man roster. He was acquired in the Johan Santana deal along with Carlos Gomez and Kevin Mulvey. So far, the Twins have really only been able to show off Gomez. I have a feeling we will be seeing more of Humber this season. Not only because we have two open spots and we need them filled, but also because he is out of minor league options. So, I would say he already has the advantage over R.A. Dickey for a spot. If the Twins don’t pick Humber, then he would be designated for assignment, which he can refuse. Then this leaves the Twins with two choices; place him on the active roster or release him. But after the Spring he is having, I don’t see why he shouldn’t win the spot. After giving up four runs in his first appearance, he has gone seven innings giving up only one earned run and just five hits. So he has definitely proven himself thus far and hopefully he can keep this up and earn a spot.

So, after watching and following this battle throughout the Spring, I would have to give the edge to Philip Humber. With two weeks left though, either of them could take a bad turn that would allow the other to win the spot, so this will be very interesting to watch down the stretch. One other scenario is that Humber could be waiting in the wing as an injury replacement if one of the starters goes down with injury. Hopefully that isn’t necessary though.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Player Profile: Carlos Gomez

With Johan Santana on the cusp of becoming a free agent and the Twins getting just a draft pick in return, the Twins had to make a move to insure they would get some quality players. Sure enough the Twins were able to pull off a trade after weeks of discussion. They acquired Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra, and Carlos Gomez. Carlos was the center piece of this deal and he has shown flashes of why he was that part.

Entering the 2008 season, Carlos was only 22 years of age, so that caused some scouts and analysts to question whether he was ready for the big leagues or if he should start in Rochester, the Twins Triple-A affiliate. There was only one problem if he had started in the minors. The Twins would have had nothing to show for right away through the Johan trade. So Carlos started in centerfield for the Twins on Opening Day.

However, his starting job was no gimmie. He had to fight of Denard Span to win the centerfield job. They battled all Spring Training as manager Ron Gardenhire watched and evaluated. It seemed that when one person would start pulling away, the other would get right back into the race. I believe the deciding factor was Carlos’ defensive skills. He has an unbelievable arm and is never afraid to lay out for a ball when it’s coming at him.

If it wasn’t for the defense of Carlos, I believe he would have started in 2008 and spent a good amount of time in the minors to work on his hitting. But Ron is a defensive minded manager and felt that Gomez was the best option for centerfield. Gomez committed just eight errors during the 2008 season in center. He is possibly the most exciting defensive player the Twins have had since Kirby Puckett. Yes, I would put him above Torii Hunter. It is just amazing to watch a Twins game and you think the ball is going to drop and all of the sudden you see Carlos enter the frame and make a game saving catch. If it wasn’t for Carlos last year, the Twins might have ended up with a few more losses.

Another asset of Carlos Gomez’s game that scouts cherish is his speed on the base paths. It has been said many times that Carlos Gomez is the fastest runner in the major leagues. He has said to be even faster than Mets shortstop, Jose Reyes. A good friend of mine, Joe DeMayo, who contributes to New York Baseball Digest, a New York baseball blog site, shared this opinion with me. “He reminds me of Jose Reyes in many ways. He is very raw at the plate, yet he has the blazing speed and fielding ability that Reyes had when he was coming up through the Mets system. He had struggles trying to hit the breaking ball, which Carlos has struggles with now, but in the long run, he was able to figure it out.”

Toss in the field turf, although for only one more season, and Gomez is flat out speedy. By having the amazing speed he does, the opposing pitcher not only has to worry about the batter, but has to worry about Gomez when he is on base. He completely changes the game for the Twins and the opposition. The Twins haven’t really had that kind of threat on the bases for years, so it nice to see we have someone who can get inside the pitchers head.

The one part of Gomez’s game that he still has to polish is his patience at the plate. Last year he struck out 142 times and only drew 25 walks. If he wants to continue to be the highly touted player that he is, he will need to improve those numbers. You do have to remember though that he is only going to be 23 years old when Opening Day rolls around, so he has a long ways to go. So far this Spring he has shown that he is getting better. He is hitting .318 with three homeruns and four runs batted in. He has struck out four times and walked twice. So it is certainly there, it’s just a matter of how disciplined he will be when Opening Day gets here.

So overall, Carlos Gomez is one of the most exciting players in baseball to watch today. He shows that attitude in the game that everyone loves to see. He will go all out on every play and never give up. Whether it’s laying down a bunt to start off an inning, or diving to prevent a potential game winning run. I look forward to watching him evolve into the next great Twins centerfield as he has some big shoes to fill with Kirby Puckett and then Torii Hunter after him.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Training Update; Twins Sign Baker

The Twins continue to play good baseball thus far in Spring Training. The starting pitching has been very solid and the bullpen has performed surprisingly well so far. Only one of the Twins’ losses has been by more than one run, which was a 10-1 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. So that goes to show that the Twins are able to stay close in games. This is nothing new for Twins fans though, as you can never count them out.

Francisco Liriano pitched possibly the best game of any Twins starting pitcher so far in Spring Training. He pitched four innings, while giving up no hits or walks and struck out five batters. This is a very good sign as Liriano is in that 1½ year range of pitchers who had Tommy John Surgery. It typically takes about a year and a half to get the velocity back to pre-surgery form. So I can only imagine that Francisco will be the pitcher he was in 2006, when he won 12 games and was lights out.

Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez are both playing very well this Spring and are letting Ron Gardenhire know that they want their respective outfield starting position. Young is hitting .538 with two doubles and two runs batted in. Carlos, who participated in the Winter Leagues, is hitting .313 with two homeruns and three runs batted in. This is a very good sign from Carlos, as last year he was struggling with his patience at the plate. If he can continue this, he will be even more fun to watch this year.

Where there is good news, there is also always not so good news. Denard Span, one of the three players fighting for an outfield spot, has not been the same player he was last year. He is hitting a miserable .111 with no extra base hits. Although it is still early, this will not help his cause to try and claim a starting lineup position.

Not only is good stuff happening on the field, but off the field as well. This past weekend, the Minnesota Twins and pitcher Scott Baker agreed on a 4 year deal worth 15.25 million dollars. The new contract also carries an option for the 2013 season. This is a huge step forward for the Twins as Baker would have likely been a 10 million dollar pitcher after a couple seasons of arbitration. Bill Smith has really been a nice breath of fresh air for the Twins.

I have also heard that the Twins plan to sit down with Joe Mauer and his agent, Ron Shapiro within the next week to begin preliminary talks about a new contract. I have said this before and I’ll say it again, this has to get done before next season starts, otherwise it could be the Johan Santana fiasco all over again. I will keep you updated on this information and more as it becomes available.

The Twins will be traveling to play the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon with Kevin Slowey taking the mound going against Scott Kazmir.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Joe Mauer a Twin After 2010?

Joe Mauer a Twin past 2010? This is the main question all Twins fans will be asking themselves and others in the coming months and years. Joe Mauer will be entering his contract year starting in 2010, which causes a little concern for Twins fans. We all remember what happened to Johan Santana when his contract was close to running out. Although, the odds of us giving Johan a deal that would have kept him here were slim, the Twins sure learned their lesson. Don’t wait until the last few months.

Joe will be entering the last year of his 33 million, 4 year contract come Opening Day 2010. The Twins will certainly need to start extension talks with Joe and his agent, Ron Shapiro, this Spring. The Twins do not typically discuss contracts during the season, as it may cause distractions, so hopefully Bill Smith will make initial contact with Joe and Ron this Spring. Joe has been one of the faces of this franchise since his debut in 2004. He has been a fan favorite and a bright spot in the Major Leagues.

He is such an important asset to this team, that if the Twins fail to re-sign him, it will be a huge loss and could hurt this franchise beyond belief. I personally think no catcher has played better than Joe over the last 3 years. We all know Joe isn’t the power hitting type, but his high batting average has allowed him to win two A.L. batting titles. Up until that point, no catcher had ever won a batting title in the American League. Now he has managed to accomplish that twice over the last three years. He also has one of the best swings in the majors.

An interesting note about Joe’s approach at the plate and his preparation is that his grandfather will watch every game and report to Joe what he did wrong. His grandfather will record every game and analyze every swing Joe takes and then call him after the game tell him what he saw wrong and then Joe will work on that specific issue. That is the type of dedication that every manager loves to see from his players.

By re-signing Joe, it not only helps him and the Twins obviously, but it helps Justin Morneau and the players who hit after him. By having Justin hitting behind Joe, it doesn’t allow the pitcher to intentionally walk Joe, because then they have to pitch to Justin. So he is a very valuable asset to this club.

I believe a deal will get done by the end of the 2009 regular season. Bill Smith can’t allow this to be the Johan fiasco all over again by letting this drag out until the Spring of his final contract year. Ron Shapiro has a good reputation of keeping players with one team for their entire career. The most notable would have to be Kirby Puckett, the hall of fame Twins center fielder. I found it very interesting that Joe has the same agent that Kirby had when he was with the Twins. Ron was able to keep Kirby in Minnesota his entire career, so this is a very good thing to see. I truly hope the same can happen to Joe come time to discuss his contract.

The biggest issue will obviously be the money involved in the contract talks. With the Yankees and Red Sox likely waiting in the wings if the Twins can’t sign Mauer, there is a lot of pressure for Bill. I think the big question for Bill is, “How high do you go with the dollar amount?” Do you go above 18-20 million per year? Going that high for the Twins would be a first. But with the new stadium opening next season, the Twins will be bringing in more revenue, thus they can give players more money. But as well all know, the Twins are not quick to give out the big bucks. The other question is one Joe will have to answer himself, “Do I want to continue to play in Minnesota? If so, do I give them a hometown discount?”

Being a hometown kid, growing up in St. Paul, it would be very hard for Joe to leave Minnesota. This is truly why I think Joe will remain a Twin past the 2010 season. But anything can happen, especially when the Yankees and Red Sox will be ready to pounce when the 2010 free agency season begins. Until then, lets just cherish the moments we possibly have left with Joe Mauer and the great athlete he is and always will be.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Training Update; Nathan News

Before I get onto my thoughts about Spring Training so far, I would like to share a key piece of news I read this morning. Early this morning, Joe Nathan informed the Twins that his AC joint in his shoulder has been sore and he has withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic. This is a very smart move by Joe. Some players may ignore that and continue to play in the WBC as planned. So I applaud Joe for taking himself out and resting his shoulder/arm.

The Twins are off to a fast start in Spring Training. They now have a record of 4-0 after defeating the New York Yankees yesterday by a score of 7-3. The Twins have been doing everything right so far this Spring. Their hitting has been outstanding; their pitching has been very good. I have been very happy with what I have read and seen thus far. But I have learned from the past, it’s way too early to get excited about the Spring. Anything can happen over the next several weeks.

Francisco Liriano made his Spring debut yesterday and struggled early. He would eventually give up two earned runs off four hits. He pitched two innings, before being relieved by Jason Jones, the Twins Rule V pick. I didn’t expect Francisco to be lights out his first day starting, so I’m not worried about it at all.

The bullpen has been the biggest surprise to be this Spring so far, but like I said, we are only four games into the pre-season. The only bad outing by a Twins relief pitcher has been Philip Humber. Humber gave up four runs on four hits and hit a batter last Thursday against Cincinnati. The Twins did win that game however 10-4. Humber will be interesting to watch this Spring to see if he can rebound and consistently pitch well. Otherwise, he could be gone, as he is out of options.

The Twins hitting has been very impressive in the short amount of time. They have been able to get the runs when they need them and more. Delmon Young has been a surprise this Spring, as he is fighting for an outfield spot. In 3 games he is hitting .857 with one double and two RBI. If he can continue to play like this, he will have the inside track of making the starting lineup come Opening Day.

Another guy who is catching my eye is Brian Buscher. As we all know about the off-season debate of who the Twins third baseman will be. Toss the Joe Crede signing in that mess and Buscher was all of the sudden on the outside looking in to make the Opening Day roster. Well, the Twins may have to re-think their plans as he is off to a fast start. In 3 games, he is hitting .750 with one homerun, four RBI and 11 total bases. The only issue working against him is that the Twins are in need of more right handed power and not left handed power.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Twins Win Spring Opener

With the early afternoon news of Boof Bonser being lost for the 2009 season, the fight for bullpen spots officially began tonight. There were some good looking performances and then there were some not so good performances by some.

Recently acquired Luis Ayala came into the game during the 5th inning allowing one hit in his only inning of work. He got two quick outs and looked very good. I think he will end up as the 7th inning guy or possibly the set-up man for Joe Nathan. But it’s way too early to give a final prediction as to what his role will be.

Justin Jones, the relief pitcher acquired in the Rule V Draft, had a rough night. He also pitched just one inning, as was the case with many pitchers, giving up one earned run on 2 hits. He also walked one batter and struck out another. Small outings like this may not seem like they are a big deal, but they add up quick and before you know it, you are on the outside looking in.

There were many good performances by some of the Twins hitters, but the one that stuck out the most to me tonight was the hitting by third baseman, Brian Buscher. With all the talk of Joe Crede and who would enter 2009 as the Twins starting third baseman, it might get in his head and affect his performance. Well tonight he was able to look past that and go 2-for-2 as well as scoring a run. Even though Buscher could very well start in Triple-A Rochester, having a strong Spring performance could get him a shot to stay at the Major League Level.

Minnesota will face Cincinnati today at 1:05 EST. Lineups to be released towards game time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boof Bonser Lost For Season

What originally the Twins thought was maybe just a sore arm or something minor, turned out to be a major injury. Boof Bonser had surgery to try to figure out what was causing his arm soreness and pain. Well it turns out Boof had a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff in the right shoulder. Recovery time will be six to eight months, so count him out for the 2009 season.

The interesting thing about this is that he had two seperate MRIs performed on that shoulder and they came up clean. Usually you see this right away on the MRIs, but I guess not this time. This will open the competition up for the bullpen much more and will make things very interesting.

I will continue to keep you updated on this story as more information is reported.

On an happier note, here are the starting lineups for tonight's game against Boston:

Spring Training Preview

Spring Training will arrive in full force today as exhibition games begin. Every team can put the 2008 season behind them once and for all. However, that could be tough to do for the Minnesota Twins. They came within one game of making the playoffs last year, but fell short in the tie-breaking game with Chicago. But we can’t dwell in the past, as today marks the start of what I think will be a very exciting year for the Twins.

There weren’t any off-season moves made until last week when the Twins signed Joe Crede to become their full-time third baseman. A lot of people are afraid his back problems will flair up during the season, but I have a feeling he will remain healthy all year and provide that right handed power that they desperately need. He will play his first game as Twin on Friday. The Twins just want to give him time to test out his back and get adjusted to the team before throwing him out there.

Despite the fact that the Twins only signed one bullpen arm this off-season, in Luis Ayala. I believe this was a good signing. Although he struggled last season, he has shown that he can be a decent 8th inning guy, if needed. The Twins and their fans also learned this week that Boof Bonser will be out for a while as he will have exploratory surgery on his shoulder. He had reported soreness towards the end of last season and he wanted to rest it during the winter and see how it was in Spring Training. So this makes the Ayala signing that much better.

With the World Baseball Classic back for its second go around, the Twins will be without a few key players this spring. This will give some prospects to show the fans and the front office a glimpse of the future. Some of the names that will be participating in the World Baseball Classic and thus not playing Spring Training games are: Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Luis Ayala, Justin Morneau, and Nick Punto.

With Nathan, Crain and Ayala participating, this will set up a competition to see who might be capable of being part of the Twins bullpen. Another interesting note is that Twins Manager, Ron Gardenhire has speculated that he may go with just an 11-man pitching staff. So with the five starters set (Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, Perkins, and Slowey), this leaves 6 relief spots. But with Nathan, Crain, Ayala, Guerrier, Breslow set. This leaves that one spot with many candidates. So in my opinion, this will be the competition to watch this Spring.

Who starts in the outfield on Opening Day? That is a question many Twins fans have been wondering all winter. With the emergence of Denard Span last Spring, it will be very interesting to see if he can repeat that performance this year. The only difference is, he likely won’t be fighting Carlos Gomez for the center field job. I fully expect Carlos to be the Opening Day center fielder. This leaves left field and right field to be decided this Spring. There are three candidates for these two spots; Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Denard Span. With Cuddyer’s strong arm in right field, I would keep him there, assuming he gets the start on Opening Day.

Now the real decision comes in left field. Do you give it to Delmon Young, a right handed batter that has power potential? Or do you give it to Denard Span, who was a good lead-off hitter last year? I think Gardenhire will think this one over up until Opening Day. I think Span will win the job in the long run, but nothing is set in stone yet. We could very well see a platoon in left field with Delmon and Denard, but that is just an idea. So my guess is the outfield will be Span-Gomez-Cuddyer.

So there is a lot of interesting items to keep an eye on this Spring, but there is one piece that is very important. That would be the health of Joe Mauer. On Tuesday, he swung the bat for the first time since his procedure in December. He reported pain-free, which is a great sign, but expect the Twins to continue to take this at a day-by-day situation. Twins fans likely won’t see much of Joe this Spring, so this will open the door for fans to see Wilson Ramos. He is regarded as one of the Twins best hitting prospects. So it will be fun to watch what he will bring to the Twins when he eventually reaches the Majors.

These are the major storylines to follow during the Spring Training games. The Twins open against the Boston Red Sox tonight at 7:05 PM EST. Glen Perkins will get the start tonight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Joe Crede Is a Twin

After many weeks and even months of talk about Joe Crede becoming the Minnesota Twins third baseman for the 2009 season, it has finally happened. The deal was first reported by SI’s Jon Heyman and later confirmed by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The contract is worth 2.5 million dollars with incentives that could increase the contract to 7 million dollars.

Many of the Twins fans were questioning whether Joe was worth the estimated 5-7 million dollars that we were hearing about since the start of these talks. It appears that the Orlando Hudson signing, 3.4 million dollars, with Arizona made this deal possible. That deal didn’t help Scott Boras, who represents Joe, to try and get the 7 million he wanted.

I commend Bill Smith greatly for getting this deal done, as I was a fan of the Twins signing Crede from the very beginning. Toss in the fact that it’s only worth 2.5 million dollars right now and that is possibly Bill’s best move as the Twins GM. With this move, Brian Buscher will more than likely be sent down to the Twins Triple-A affiliate, Rochester, while Brendan Harris will become a utility player for the Twins.

Joe Crede will probably be the #5 hitter behind Justin Morneau in the lineup, thus bumping Kubel and Cuddyer down one spot. If Crede can stay healthy, I predict he will hit .270 with 19 HRs and 68 RBI.

Juan Cruz Update: I have been hearing that the Twins and Diamondbacks are close on an agreement for a sign-and-trade deal that would bring relief pitcher, Juan Cruz to the Twins. I will update this as I get more information.

Also look for a player interview very soon. To give you a hint, he is a top 5 Twins prospect that could be with the Twins in 2010. So keep an eye out for that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spring Training Update #1

Although only pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training so far, there are already a few stories coming out of Ft. Myers, Florida. The Lee County Complex is the headquarters for the Minnesota Twins during Spring Training and that is where all the news will be coming out up until Opening Day. There has been some comforting news and some not so comforting news thus far.

Let’s start with the comforting news. There are indications that Twins south-paw, Francisco Liriano may decide to pull out of the World Baseball Classic and practice with the rest of the Twins team in Ft. Myers. No official decision has been made, but I bet Francisco will stay and get up to speed. Although the Twins Front Office won’t force him to pull or prevent him from playing, they must be very happy about this news. I think this is a very smart move for Francisco, because he would get more done in Ft. Myers than he would be if he was just pitching once every 5 games.

Another bit of possible comforting news for all Twins fans is that we may be getting very close to signing Joe Crede. If you ask any Twins official, they will continue to deny it, but there are strong indications it could be a matter of days. The San Francisco Giants have even come out and said they feel the Twins will sign Crede. The Giants have been the only other known suitor for Joe’s services, but you never know what agent Scott Boras has up his sleeve. So if you ask, I think the Twins will sign Joe by the beginning of next week.

Now onto the not so comforting news out of Twins camp thus far. The first item is the continuing recovery of Joe Mauer. Back in December Joe underwent surgery to fix a kidney problem he has had since childhood. Now it was nothing serious, but they want him to take it easy and not rush back into the baseball mode yet. Although it seems Joe will be healthy at Opening Day, there is that small chance he could miss Opening Day. I will continue to keep you updated on this situation.

The last item is bullpen related. This past week Boof Bonser received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder to try and help with what he calls “a heavy case of tendinitis”. He will begin some light throwing on Wednesday and hopefully get up to full speed. But with the struggles of the bullpen last year, this is not news we want to hear before any major training begins.

Other than these items, there hasn’t been much development down in Ft. Myers. I will try to get one or two updates per week during Spring Training. I’m also trying to determine how to report during the Regular Season. So if any of you readers out there have any suggestions on how I should report during the season, please let me know. Whether its game recaps every night, or weekly recaps. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Thoughts on Alex Rodriguez

As many of you out there in the baseball world, or for that matter the sporting world, you have probably heard about the reports of Alex Rodriguez testing positive for steroids in 2003. This is a big blow to the baseball world, as he was expected to become the true homerun king. He was supposed to be the breath of fresh air for baseball and allow people to forget about Barry Bonds. Well, all you people hoping and praying for that, you will have to pick someone else now.

Although he tested positive during the 2003 season, the year before Major League Baseball put their suspension program into effect, this really tarnishes Alex’s career. Now, I have been hearing people saying, “Well, this information was never supposed to get out to the public. They were sealed documents”. I’m sorry, but you can’t pull that stuff. Are you trying to tell me that Major League Baseball was going to cover this up and never let it out?

My first reaction to this news was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Alex Rodriguez illegally took steroids. I was one of those people who at first thought he would allow me to forget about Barry Bonds. But then I thought about it and I always had that gut feeling that he had taken steroids at some point. So I’m not totally shocked by this news, but at the same time it’s disheartening.

What will happen now to baseball? More importantly, what will happen to Alex Rodriguez? Will he go into denial mode like Barry and everyone else who tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs? If so, this could be a very nasty cloud hanging over the Yankees all season. Not like I care about the Yankees, but this could be a distraction to the whole organization. So if I was Alex Rodriguez, I would get back from vacation, where he supposedly is, and issue a statement telling the truth. Yes, the truth Alex Rodriguez. We don’t want any of this “well I didn’t know I was injecting myself with something illegal” non-sense.

So my question(s) to all you out there is “Who is next?” or “Will there ever be a clean homerun king in baseball post Aaron-era?” I hope so, but one thing I do know is, I will never stop watching, reading, learning about the game of baseball due to steroids and scandals.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Twins Sign Luis Ayala

Congratulations Bill Smith. You finally made a move during the post-season that I don’t disagree with. The Twins and pitcher Luis Ayala reached a 1 year, 1.3 million dollar contract on Thursday. Luis will provide more relief to Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain than anyone else in the bullpen. Both Guerrier and Crain both had to pick up the slack for Pat Neshek due to injury last year.

Last year Luis made 81 appearances with the Washington Nationals and New York Mets. He had a record of 2-10, along with nine saves. His ERA was much too high at 5.71. That will probably bring into doubt as to why Smith would make this signing. After talking with a fellow baseball mind in Joe DeMayo, who happens to me a Mets guru and followed Ayala as a Met, I feel that this was a good signing for the Twins.

If I was the Twins, my bullpen would consist of Bonser, Guerrier, Crain, Mijares, Breslow, Nathan, and Ayala. This leaves Humber on the outside looking in. Humber however is out of minor league options, so he would have to accept assignment in order to be sent to Triple-A Rochester. It should be interesting to see what the Twins do with him, as he was part of the Johan Santana deal.

Joe Mauer Contract Situation

Starting this Spring, I feel the Twins must sit down with Joe Mauer and/or his agent and begin to discuss a new contract with the All-Star catcher. His current contract is due to expire after the 2010 season and teams are already starting to talk about going after Joe if he were to reach free agency. Most notably, the Red Sox have already begun to plan for Mauer's arrival in Boston. They signed Jason Varitek to a 1 year deal with an option for 2010. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Twins fans, along with myself, are starting to have flashbacks to the Johan Santana fiasco. Now, we all know Santana wanted a ton of money, as we saw with the Mets giving him that large contract. But I don't expect Mauer to demand nearly as much, but he will still want a good amount. That is why the Twins need to start discussing this now and not wait until next Spring.

Not only would the fans be upset if Mauer does in fact not remain in Minnesota, but the front office would feel this due to merchandise revenue falling. Mauer is without a doubt the face of this franchise. But then again this is Minnesota and we have had many "faces of the franchise" leave. Do Kevin Garnett, Johan Santana, or Torii Hunter ring a bell? I hope and pray that Joe Mauer does not join this list.

Figuring Out Third Base

With just a couple weeks to go before Spring Training arrives, the Twins have failed to improve upon a position that has been a question mark since 2004. Some might say that the Twins are just fine with the team that we have right now, which is the mirror image of the 2008 roster. As much as I loved to watch this team last year get within one game of the playoffs, I felt as though we needed to bring in a player or two. If you would have asked me at the start of the off-season what our biggest need was, I would have said, “getting an everyday third baseman”. Well it’s been three months and that has not changed. We still have a few weeks, so I will discuss a few options that the Twins can explore.

The Twins have been looking for a consistent, everyday third baseman since Corey Koskie left the Twins after the 2004 season. Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Tony Batista are just a few of the names that have attempted to fill that void at third base. Last season, Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris split time at third base and did a decent job. Combined they hit .274 with 11 homeruns and drove in 96 runs. These two aren’t known for their power at the plate, so driving in 96 runs is pretty darn good considering they only hit 11 homeruns. But, if we expect to fight with the Red Sox or Yankees in the post-season, we will need the power at that position.

There aren’t many options left in the free agency market for the third base position, but one name has been brought up time and again this winter. Joe Crede has been mentioned by the Twins and their fans throughout the winter. After hitting 20 or more homeruns in three straight seasons, he had major back problems during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. So that is probably keeping the Twins from signing him to a one year deal this winter. There is also the question of how he would adjust to the turf at the Metrodome and if that would have any effect on his ailing back, which he says is getting better.

Recently, the Twins sent a few of their scouts down to Arizona to watch Crede taking batting and fielding. The scouts felt that they needed to see more before having the front office offer a contract. There is also another catch with Joe Crede and that is his agent, Scott Boras. As well all know by now, Scott is always looking for the big bucks, but what agent isn’t. The Twins really have to ask themselves though, “Do we really want to give Crede a 5-7 million dollar deal for one year?”. If I was the Twins, I would think about this a little bit longer, but also keep an eye out for other teams who may be interest.

The Twins will continue to explore their options at third base, but I have a feeling they will stick with Buscher and Harris. However, this could all change if the right deal or free agent comes around. But I have learned not to expect much from the Twins, but never say never.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Off-Season Thoughts

            Before I begin to share my thoughts about the off-season, I would like to take a moment to remember Twins owner, Carl Pohlad. Carl passed away this winter at the age of 93. He was a very loyal owner throughout the years. He brought us two World Series championships (1987 and 1991). After many years of battle with the Minnesota government, he also delivered us a new ballpark, which will open next season. So I greatly thank the Pohlad family and especially Carl for keeping the Twins in Minnesota.

            As the off-season winds down and Spring Training approaches, the Twins don’t have much to figure out on who will be making the team and who will be sent to Triple-A Rochester. This was a typical off-season for the Twins with very little movement in the free agent market or trade market. Twins fans have grown accustom to not expecting much during the off-season over the last several years, but somehow continue to support the team and their winning ways.

            One of the highlights of the Twins off-season was the re-signing of shortstop Nick Punto. The Twins and Nick agreed upon a 2 year, 8.5 million dollar contract with a 5 million dollar club option for the 2011 season. After hitting a miserable .210 in 2007, Nick regained his confidence and hit .284 during the 2008 campaign. So maybe he deserved a new contract. His defense is what really stands out on the field though. He is one of those players that you never know what he will do when a groundball is between him and the third baseman. Only time will tell though if this was a good move by Bill Smith.

            The one thing that bothered me all winter, were all the Delmon Young trade talks. For only having him one year, I don’t see why we would get rid of him that quick. So what if he had a slow start to the season. He was with a new team and just getting adjusted to how the Twins play small ball. In the second half of the season, he started to show us why he was voted the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2007. If I’m the Twins, I hold onto this guy for at least a few more seasons, and then see where he is at. Of all the rumors that were centered around Delmon, not one of them was legitimate. One of the first rumors was a Matt Cain-for-Delmon Young deal with San Francisco. That would have helped us with pitching, but the Twins would have likely needed to toss in quite a bit more to get Cain from the Giants. As we all know, we already ripped them off once in the Pierzynski trade. So they likely will be very careful if they were to ever deal with us again. So, before we get any further into Delmon trade talks, lets give the guy a break and see how he performs in the 2009 season.

            Another thing I wish the Twins would have improved on this winter was the bullpen. With the loss of Pat Neshek for the 2009 season due to Tommy John Surgery, we don’t have that set-up man that we need before Nathan comes in. I was hoping that would be the focus point for Bill Smith this off-season, but not much happened with that. We did take a middle reliever by the name of Jason Jones in the Rule 5 Draft. Other than Jason, we will have to rely on the arms we had in 2008, along with a few candidates from the minors. I would say Guerrier, Crain, Breslow, Korecky, and Mijares are safe bets to make the team. So that leaves us with likely one ore spot to make it 12 pitchers on the Opening Day Roster. Some of the possibilities are Philip Humber, R.A. Dickey, and Brian Duensing. There had been talk of Eric Gagne signing, but the Twins backed out at the last minute, so hopefully Bill has something in the works to acquire a relief pitcher.

            Overall this off-season, on a scale of 1-10, I am at about a 7 of how satisfied I am with what Bill has done this winter. But I should be used to this by now after living and following the Twins since I moved to Minnesota in 1995. But then again, we weren’t expected to do well last year and we were one game away from the playoffs. Yes, I’m still bitter about the whole “who gets the home game” idea. So who knows how the 2009 Twins will do in their last season at the Homer Dome. </span>