Saturday, March 25, 2017

A bad sign for the bullpen.

J.T. Chargois had
a 8.64 ERA in 8.2
innings this spring.
 
The Twins optioned out J.T. Chargois Friday, deleting from the roster -- at least for the beginning of the season -- the bullpen arm with the most upside.

Later Friday Michael Tonkin, who may be the beneficiary of Chargois' rough spring, fed his gopher again. Dick-n-Bert, broadcasting the game from Fort Myers, preferred to dwell on Tonkin's K-rate last season, and certainly there's nothing wrong with 80 strikeouts in 71 innings. There is with 13 homers in that same span.

I opined in an earlier post that if the Twins demote Chargois to avoid putting Tonkin on waivers, they were making a mistake. That opinion still stands.

But it may well be that Alex Wimmers -- removed at the start of the offseason from the 40-man roster and thus a non-roster invitee -- is ahead of Tonkin. He pitched before Tonkin did Friday. I may be even less enthused about Wimmers than I am Tonkin.

The Twins seem, again, headed in the direction of a bullpen of mediocre stuff. Bullpens are always a work in progress, and I can't claim that Chargois has pitched well this spring, but this is a bad sign.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The new disabled list

I've seen nothing more about the planned confab about the status of Glen Perkins' rehab. One of the reasons for it: The new labor agreement apparently requires the player to agree both to being put on the disabled list and to which list.

There are, I believe, three disabled lists: the seven-day concussion DL, the 10-day DL, and the 60-day DL. (It's possible that doing away with the 15-day DL involved merged the concussion list with the "regular" list, but I doubt it.) Besides the mandatory minimum durations, the significant difference is that the 60-day DL removes the player from the 40-man roster.

The Twins have already put Trevor May on the 60-day DL this week; this opened a 40-man spot that they filled by elevating Craig Breslow. I expect at least one more non-roster invitee to make the 25-man roster, and the Twins would probably like to open a 40-man slot by putting Perkins on the 60-day DL.

Probably. Let me emphasize: I have no inside information on this. I don't know the status of his rehab (and apparently the front office doesn't either). I don't know if Perkins is inclined to resist a mandatory two months on the sidelines.

But considering this new DL protocol in the abstract: This may have simply codified something that was already standard practice. Certainly there have been numerous occasions -- with the Twins and with other teams -- in which Player A sustains an injury, resists being DL'd, and the team goes along with that, going shorthanded in  the expectation that Player A will be able to take the field in a matter of days.

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it backfires.

I have the sense that the Twins were intentionally less patient with the self-diagnosis approach with Paul Molitor as manager than they were with Ron Gardenhire. They may not have that option now.

Presumably trimming the minimum stay on the DL by five days will make it easier for a player to accede to going on the shelf. (It should be noted: active roster, 10-day DL, 60-day DL -- they all get paid; nobody's getting a pay cut by going on the disabled list.)

But I can envision a player -- or, more likely, an agent -- trying to use the player's DL veto to leverage a new contract. You want my roster spot? It's gonna cost you. If and when that happens, it will probably be ugly.

Presumably this provision was something the union sought, and presumably it was on the basis that players are being DL'd unnecessarily. I suspect it will lead to more friction between teams and individual players.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The four Twins on Puerto Rico

Paul Molitor was making noises of impatience earlier in the week about getting the four Twins on Team Puerto Rico back into camp. And now that the tournament is over, the Minnesota manager will get his wish.

How did their absence from spring training affect the four? There are, no surprise, four answers.

For Eddie Rosario, the World Baseball Classic had to be a net plus. He played regularly in right field and he impressed with big hits and big throws. He left Fort Myers the presumptive left fielder; he returns the same, only having raised the question in the minds of many: Why is he the left fielder with an arm like that?

For Hector Santiago, it was neither a detriment nor a springboard. He pitched, oddly, exclusively out of the bullpen and fared well, although he did walk a few hitters -- which is Santiago's M.O. It's possible that the Twins would have liked him adding to his pitch count, but he left camp with a rotation berth and he returns with a rotation berth.

For Jose Berrios, it was possibly a minor impediment to his ambitions of making the opening rotation. He pitched twice -- a start against Italy in the first round and a relief outing in the championship game Wednesday night that showed both his impressive talent and his flaws.

That wasn't enough work to help his cause -- but his cause was probably doomed from the start. I doubt that the Twins ever wanted Berrios to open 2017 on the big club. Giving themselves means of filling the rotation without him was part of bringing the now-released Ryan Vogelsong to camp.

For Kennys Vargas, the WBC was unquestionably a problem. He was glued to the P.R. bench, and without playing time and at-bats not only could not make strides toward winning a job with the Twins but couldn't give scouts a chance to see him.  Byungho Park is now the front-runner for the DH job, and Vargas is almost certainly destined for Triple A once again.

For the Twins as a whole, their absences were probably beneficial. Other pitchers got a chance to show their stuff with the starts and innings vacated by Santiago, Berrios and Ervin Santana. The men competing for a reserve outfield job got more at-bats with Rosario gone.

And nobody got hurt, at least as far as we know. Overall, more good than bad for the Twins out of this.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Vogelsong's last note?

Ryan Vogelsong had
spent his entire career
with the Giants and
Pirates.

The Twins on Tuesday released veteran Ryan Vogelsong, a non-roster invitee, at his request after informing him that he would not win the fifth starter job.

This comes a week before his contractual opt-out date and theoretically gives him a better opportunity to find a new team. Which seems unlikely. He's 39 and had a 7.27 ERA this spring. The Twins signed him with an appreciation for his resume -- rotation piece for two World Series winners, an All-Star team -- and probably really wanted him to emerge with the job, but they have better options.

Still in the running for the rotation: Aldaberto Mejia, Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Justin Haley and (supposedly) Nick Tepesch. Tepesch, another non-roster invitee, will get his first start of the exhibition season Thursday; that was to have been Vogelsong's.  Haley, the Rule 5 guy, will piggy back with Tepesch.

In other Twins pitching news Tuesday:

  • The Twins announced that Ryan O'Rourke would open the season on the disabled list. He's in competition for that is presumed to be one of two bullpen jobs ticketed for left-handers.
  • Non-roster invitees Jake Reed and Raul Fernandez were reassigned to minor league comp.
  • Berrios will not start tonight's WBC championship game for Puerto Rico against Team USA. It will be Seth Lugo of the Mets.  
  • Tuesday was Craig Breslow's contractual opt-out date. He's still in camp, and general manager Thad Levine said he had not been added to the 40-man roster. Presumably that will come.
  • Trevor May said on Twitter that he would have his Tommy John surgery today. 
  • Glen Perkins and the training staff is to meet with the decision makers this week to discuss the future of his rehab program.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rosario, Santiago and Mejia

Eddie Rosario watches his
game-ending sac fly head out to
center field at Dodger Stadium.
Paul Molitor claims that Eddie Rosario gets better in big moments -- "he likes the bright lights," the manager says of the player -- and while I am dubious about that kind of evaluation, Rosario did provide the game-winning RBI Monday night in the 11th inning to put Puerto Rico in the WBC championship game.

He also had a marvelous throw from right field in the bizarre top of the first, in which the Netherlands lost two baserunners before Wladimir Balentien homered. Rosario didn't nail a runner himself, but his throw held a Dutch runner at third and was followed by a Yadi Molina throw to first that caught a celebrating Jurrickson Profar off the base.

Rosario has a better throwing arm than Max Kepler does, which makes it odd that Kepler is the one playing right field for Molitor with Rosario in left. That may be balanced a bit by the fact that left field is a bit more spacious in Target Field (and in most other parks, for that matter).

I noted a few days ago that a Baseball America writer said Rosario was having a breakout WBC. He is having a good one, certainly.

---

Also having a good tournament is Hector Santiago, who threw 3.1 innings of relief Monday, allowing one run. In true Santiago fashion, he walked three in his outing. But he was also pumping his fastball at 93-95. a good bit better than his usual velocity as a starter.




All those innings came in relief, I'm a bit baffled that Edwin Rodriguez chose to start less experienced pitchers in this tournment, but it's worked so far; Puerto Rico is not only in the finals, it's undefeated. I'm not sure where this use pattern puts Santiago in terms of being ready for the regular season.

The WBC's pitch count rules make Satinago ineligible for Wednesday's championship game. Jose Berrios is a strong candidate to start against either Team USA or Japan. If he does, it will be the biggest game of his life so far.

---

In the humdrum of Twins camp. Tyler Duffey and Adlaberto Mejia split Monday's exhibition game at the Blue Jays camp. Duffey threw five shutout innings, easily his best performance of the spring, and Mejia threw the final four, allowing back-to-back solo homers but continuing to show impressive stuff. I still like Mejia for the final rotation spot.




Berardino went so far as to compare Mejia to the young C.C. Sabathia. Other than that they are both left-handed, large and too dark to have played in the pre-Jackie Robinson era, I ain't buying it. Sabathia was a more highly-regarded prospect 16 years ago than Mejia is. But if he has half the career Sabathia has, I'd sure take that.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Roster moves and new roles

A  newsy weekend out of Twins camp. Let's start with the lesser stuff:




The closest thing to a surprise among those eight Saturday demotions is Mitch Garver, who was supposedly in contention for the backup catcher job. But he didn't get much playing time in exhibitions. Priority one among the catchers appears to be giving Jason Castro a chance to learn this pitching staff, and they are giving veteran Chris Gimenez a real opportunity to make the team as a non-roster invitee. Garver has plenty of options, and he has a future.

On to the more important decisions:







Nick Gordon was taken with the fifth overall pick in 2014. Tyler Jay was taken with the sixth overall pick in 2015. These decisions suggest that both were overdrafts.

Start with Gordon, He's been a shortstop, but the decision to have him start splitting time at second base suggests that the Twins are skeptical of his defense at short, particularly his arm. The problem with Gordon as a second baseman: He's not a strong enough hitter for the keystone. He has almost no power.

I keep coming back to this: The Twins have not signed and developed a quality shortstop since setting up operations in Minnesota in 1961. Their best homegrown shortstop in more than a half century was probably Pat Meares.

Jay is a lefty drafted out of college, one of the many collegiate relievers the Twins have drafted in the last three years or so. The idea was that Jay has the pitches to be a starter. But he didn't make it through a full season last year and only threw 83 innings, and the new regime has pulled the plug on that notion.

It's possible for Jay to shoot quickly to the majors as a relief pitcher. Indeed, when the Twins signed in in 2015, when they were in a pennant race, there was chatter that he could get to the majors that year.

But they didn't spend the sixth overall pick with the intent of getting a reliever, even if he proves the equal of Glen Perkins at his best. They took him with the intent of getting a quality starter. And the very next player taken was Andrew Benitendi, who will be the Red Sox' starting left fielder this year.

Deron Johnson, the scouting director whose name is on the decisions to draft Gordon and Jay, won't be making the decisions this June. The Gordon and Jay selections may have had something to do with that.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pic of the Week

Tim Tebow makes a diving catch during Monday's
Marlins-Mets exhibition game.

Tim Tebow, famous college quarterback, famous failed NFL quarterback, is trying to play baseball.

The Mets signed him, sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .194 with 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats in between trips to do college football broadcasts for ESPN. This month the Mets have given him a few games in spring training. He will, apparently, be assigned to a minor league affiliate, but which one is unknown,

Whichever team he plays on, he's expected to be an attendance magnet. Whether that justifies giving playing time and at-bats to a 29-year-old nonprospect is ... well, I'm glad it's not the Twins doing this.

That's not a sneer at Tebow's persona or beliefs. It's a statement of practicality. If the minor league system is intended to develop future major league players, Tebow doesn't belong. The years when he could have been grown into a baseball player were spent playing football. Now he's merely a marketing gimmick.