Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Contemplating Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey after Monday's game: 7.66 ERA in
five starts and 22.1 innings.

Credit Mike Pelfrey with recognizing that, although he is pitching in the major leagues, he is not pitching major league ball:

I don't make any excuses for the way I've pitched. It's unacceptable. It's below the standards I've set for myself. It's been a bad month. I guarantee I've had a lot worse months but this is not acceptable. Hopefully May will be a lot better. It better be a lot better or I'm sure things will change.

When even the pitcher in question talks about losing his rotation job, it's some smoke to signal a fire.

How much longer is Pelfrey's leash? If recent Twins history is a guide, he'll get a couple more starts to turn it around. Mid-May is the time when the Twins have disposed of "disposable veteran" starters who didn't start off well:

  • Sidney Ponson, 2007, got seven starts, last one on May 12.
  • Jason Marquis, 2012, got seven starts, last one on May 20.
  • Ramon Ortiz, 2007, had an April comparable to Kevin Correia's this year, then deteriorated so quickly that he was out of the rotation after 10 starts. (After five starts, Ortiz had a 2.57 ERA; after 10, 5.75.)

Pelfrey was better Monday than he has been, but not all that good.

One issue might be who would take his place. Cole De Vries and Sam Deduno haven't taken the mound in a minor league game yet, and I doubt there's any enthusiasm for giving Liam Hendriks another go-around. Kyle Gibson's numbers with Rochester don't look too bad — I'm particularly struck with the 26 strikeouts in 27 innings — and maybe the Twins will deem him ready for his major league debut in a couple of weeks.

Monday, April 29, 2013

More on Kevin Correia

Kevin Correia threw eight shutout innings Sunday and
has now had more starts of seven or more innings (five) than
he had all of 2012 with Pittsburgh (three).
I was sharply critical in this blog all winter about the signing of Kevin Correia, which hasn't stopped the veteran right-hander from having a superb April.

Correia's superb April, in turn, has not convinced me that he's a pitcher worthy of a multi-year commitment.

I doubled down on my skepticism about him in the Monday print column, in which I traced his early success to a very high double-play rate, a very low home run rate, and a very low walk rate and concluded that the first two factors were probably unsustainable. No pitcher can consistently have a league-average groundball rate and a very high double play rate; no pitcher can have a league-average groundball rate and almost no home runs allowed.

But that's what Correia had done through his first four starts — and now through his first five starts.

The stats I cited in Monday's column were garnered from Correia's Baseball Reference page on Saturday, before his eight innings of shutout ball Sunday against a very good Texas Rangers lineup. How the relevant stats changed with that start:

Walk rate: Dipped from 1.3 walks per nine innings to 1.2. (As I said in the column, this may be a sustainable improvement; history says pitchers who have good control working for other teams have even lower walk rates pitching for the Gardenhire Twins.)

Strikeout rate: Dropped from 4.1 K/9 to to 3.7. Both numbers are red flags.

Strikeout/walk ratio: Dropped from 3.25 to 3 strikeouts for each walk. Still very good, and obviously based more on not walking anybody than on striking hitters out. (In fairness to Correia, his one walk allowed Sunday should have been his third strikeout. But even if the home plate umpire hadn't blown that 3-2 call, Correia's stats would still be lopsided.)

Double play rate: Fell from a lofty 42 percent to 28 percent, still more than twice the league average.

Ground ball/fly ball ratio: He now is at 0.88 grounders to fly balls, slightly higher than league average (and his own career average, which is a close match to league average).

Percentage of fly balls that become home runs: Down to 3.6 percent, less than half the league average (and his own career average, which again is a close match to league average).

And therein lies my unwillingness to buy into the idea that Kevin Correia is truly a better pitcher now than he has been. His groundball/fly ball tendencies remain essentially as they have been for years; it's the results that are out of the ordinary. And at some point, those results will snap back to normal as well.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pic of the Week

Rajai Davis of the Toronto Blue Jays
spins away from a brushback pitch from
White Sox pitcher Chris Sale.

This photo is actually not from the past week; it was the runner-up to last Sunday's shot of Carlos Gomez dodging a bucket of water.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Using Oswaldo Arcia

Oswaldo Arcia has hit two three-run homers since his
call up; the rest of the roster has zero for the season.
When Darin Mastroianni went on the disabled list, Oswaldo Arcia was called up. This is not a simple swapout; Mastroianni is a fourth outfielder, and Arcia is something more.

There are organizations for whom Arcia would be the top prospect, or at least the top position player prospect. In the Twins system — regarded by Baseball America as the game's richest in position players — the 21-year-old (turns 22 on May 8) clearly ranks below the likes of Miguel Sano and Bryon Buxton. But Arcia's a talented hitter who figures to be a middle-of-the-order thumper on the next good Twins team.

So Terry Ryan and Co. didn't bring him to Minnesota to sit. Wherever he is, he's gonna play. And he has — on Friday he bopped his second home run of the week.

Fitting him into the current lineup means sitting somebody in the corner outfield-first base-catcher-designated hitter nexus. Arcia gives them six players for five lineup slots. And just as we know the Twins don't want Arcia rusting on the bench, we know Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham aren't sitting to make room either. (Arcia did pick up a couple of starts in Willingham's stead when Willingham had an illness, but that was about health matters, not about making room for Arcia.)

That leaves Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit, and so far it's been Doumit losing time to Arcia.

I'm fine with that. My core thought about the 2013 Twins is that all decisions ought to be made with an eye to the future, and one of the things that has to be accomplished is giving Parmelee enough playing time to decide what he is. Is he a good enough hitter to be a regular on a good team, or is he a platoon guy/second division regular?

Either seems possible. Parmelee's 25; the Twins owe it to themselves to find out what they have in the former first-round pick. Doumit's 32 and has a well-established track record. (Neither is hitting much so far.)

How long the Twins will try to juggle six players for five positions is unknown. I don't expect this arrangement to last all season. Maybe somebody gets traded, maybe somebody gets hurt, maybe Arcia goes back to Triple A. One way or another, something will change.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pedro Florimon vs. Eduardo Escobar

Pedro Florimon leaps over a sliding Ian Kinsler on the first
of two potential third-inning double plays that weren't
converted Thursday. The Rangers didn't score.
Pedro Florimon entered spring training as the Twins de facto shortstop incumbent, and held on to the job.

He's gone a few games without a hit and hasn't reached base since the Angels series, but still has an on-base percentage of .385. It's just 40 plate appearances, but he's done some good work in those appearances. Most notably, six walks as opposed to just four strikeouts. This is, to be sure, out of line with his minor league record, which generally sports closer to three strikeouts for each walk. Has his pitch recognition really improved that dramatically that rapidly?

When Florimon's not at short, Eduardo Escobar generally is. Escobar's numbers -- just 26 plate appearances -- are ridiculous: .480/.500/.720. Obviously he's not that good a hitter; nobody is. Given sufficient playing time, his batting average and slugging percentage will probably be about half his current numbers. 

The truth is, the Twins aren't counting on either playing a big role on offense. That's why they generally hit ninth, and why Florimon is pinch-hit for with regularity. Their job is to get outs in the field and make life easier for a pitching staff that isn't capable of getting a lot of strikeouts.

And in that task, Florimon clearly could be more efficient. My sense watching Thursday night's game was that the up-the-middle combo of Florimon and Brian Dozier left a few outs on the table; in particular, it was surprising that they couldn't turn two on creaky Lance Berkman in the third inning.

In contrast, the Rangers converted a more difficult double play on Josh Willingham in the eighth inning to choke off the Twins best chance at a big inning. Elvis Andrus had to go into the hole to get Willingham's grounder, but the Rangers still turned two.

I don't know who's better defensively, Florimon or Escobar. I am increasingly doubtful that Florimon's glovework can justify keeping him in the lineup.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The return of Valverde

Jose Valverde in his return to the Tigers.
In Wednesday's post I commented on the return of Jose Valverde to the closer's role in Detroit and predicted it would be short-lived.

That night, "Papa Grande" picked up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning against Kansas City, two flies to left sandwiched around a ground ball out. Eighteen pitches, 11 strikes. Not dominating, and only one inning, but certainly nothing to send manager Jim Leyland climbing the walls.

The new two-tone goatee might, though. Blond on the right side, brunette on the left. Even though Valverde has apparently ditched his trademark goggles, he still knows how to make a spectacle of himself.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Around the division: Detroit Tigers

I am perversely fascinated by the thrashing-about of the Detroit Tigers when it comes to the back end of its bullpen.

In most regards, the Tigers look like the best team in the American League. They have a potent middle of the lineup, a good outfield defense, the best rotation in the league. For flaws — and all teams have flaws — there's this: the left side of the infield has no range, and manager Jim Leyland is excessively indecisive with his closer options.

How indecisive? On Tuesday the Tigers brought back Jose Valverde and anointed him closer. This is the same Valverde who spent 2012 skimming the edge of disaster and then went over the edge in the postseason, the same Valverde the Tigers refused to re-sign during the offseason.

The Tigers went into training camp hoping that prospect Bruce Rondon would seize the job. He didn't. They shipped Rondon to Triple A to start the season and announced that they would go with a "closer by committee." Which they didn't really do. First Leyland tried for force Phil Coke into the role, then Joaquin Benoit.

And they signed Valverde, unwanted by anybody else in baseball, to a minor-league contract.

And now Valverde's back — and Rondon has been called up as well.

Saying that Valverde has the closers job doesn't carry much weight right now. Leyland's previous statements of intent were either insincere or insecure. The Jose Valverde we last saw didn't deserve this opportunity, and his leash figures to be very short indeed.

A short leash is deserved in his case. The problem is, Leyland doesn't really trust anybody in his bullpen with the ninth inning. Not Coke, not Benoit, not Rondon, not Al Alburquerque ... and, odds are, soon not Valverde either.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ex-Twins Watch: Carlos Gomez (and a radio tangent)

Carlos Gomez emerged as a regular center fielder last
season in Milwaukee and landed a multi-year contract.
With the Twins snowed out Monday night — and probably later in the evening than the Twins would have been playing even if the weather hadn't been a horror — I spent a little time listening to the Brewers-Padres game in San Diego.

Wandering off an a tangent: Listening to Bob Uecker, for a Twins fan, used to be an exercise in contrast to the babble of John Gordon. Now it's interesting for the obvious (to my ear, at least) influence Uecker had on Cory Provus — the cadence and phrasing, the pace of their words.

Uecker came up with a passing piece of impromptu poetry Monday during an at-bat pitting a pair of former Twins, outfielder Carlos Gomez of the Brewers and starter Jason Marquis of the Padres:

Glove on knee
Takes the sign

I recall the Twins used to have a broadcaster — I don't think it was Herb Carneal, but it may have been — who used to make a similar rhyme out of Bobby Grich, a standout second baseman of the 1970s and 80s:

Here's the pitch
To Bobby Grich

Swing and a miss

Anyway, getting to the intended point of this post: Marquis wound up walking Gomez — for the second time in the game; at that point, Go-Go had two walks and a hit-by-pitch, three plate appearances without an official at-bat.

We know that kind of thing didn't happen with Gomez in Minnesota, and I wondered if he's truly become a more selective hitter — which, if so, would definitely explain/justify the Brewers giving Gomez a four-year, $28.3 million contract last winter.

Uh, no. Those were the first walks Gomez had drawn all season.

The Twins clearly gave up on Gomez in the middle of the 2009 season. I wrote a column at the time arguing for Gomez over Delmon Young; both outfielders were flawed hitters because of their lack of strike zone judgment, but Gomez was so clearly superior on defense that he should have been starting.

Ron Gardenhire clearly didn't see it that way. During that season's remarkable September comeback, Gardy plugged the lineup hole opened by Justin Morneau's injury by installing Michael Cuddyer at first base, shifting Jason Kubel to right field and platooning Brendan Harris and Jose Morales at DH. Gomez was merely a bit player.

Soon after the postseason, the Twins sent Gomez to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy, a trade that looked good for the first year and worse with each passing season. Gomez immediately frustrated the Brewers decision makers as much as he did the Twins — he was a part-time player in 2010 and 2011 in Milwaukee. All that talent and no clue.

But last season Gomez took over the center field job and landed that new contract. The Brewers aren't forcing him into a top-of-the-lineup role (he hit sixth Monday), and that makes his too-low on-base percentages more tolerable. He gives the Brewers some pop and speed at the bottom of the lineup, and he still has great range in the outfield. I'm sure they would love to see Gomez become a good leadoff hitter, but they aren't forcing that fit.

There are three former Twins outfielders, all still in their 20s, playing center field regularly for three National League teams: Gomez (27) in Milwaukee, Denard Span (29) in Washington, Ben Revere (24) in Philadelphia. Other than the speed, they have different skill sets — and right now, I think Gomez is the best of the three. That's not something I would have thought possible a year ago.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Notes from the weekend

Adam Dunn has the kind of build that
made this White Sox uniform notorious in
the late 1970s and early '80s.
Probably no major league team has changed its uniform look more often than the Chicago White Sox. I make that statement even though they've stuck with their current black-and-white motif for more than two decades and figure to stick with it for another two. It's a good one.

The current uni has lasted long enough to feed nostalgia for some of the older unis, and the Sox have taken to breaking out throwbacks for their home Sunday games. This year's Sunday unis are the vertical pullovers most associated with the big bellies of such South Side stalwarts as Greg Luzinski and LaMar Hoyt.

Also some trimmer athletes — Harold Baines, for one — but the primary drawback to the vertical look was the way it emphasized the extra poundage carried by several of the players.

It was a unique look — nothing like then or since — and, quite frankly, I prefer it to the dark blue "alternative" jerseys the Twins have turned into their de facto standard jerseys.


Miguel Sano, the Twins mega-prospect playing for the Fort Myers Miracle in the high-A Florida State League, had a bit of an adventure Sunday. First he had to dodge a fastball thrown at his noggin; then he homered (same at-bat); then he got ejected for taunting the Palm Beach dugout.

The details as the story reached Minnesota came from people connected to the Miracle, and the view from the opposing side may be different. My take on it is that it's not only the players in high-A who have things to work on before they deserve to reach the majors, it's the umpires too — and this incident was probably mishandled. (Both managers were eventually ejected from the game, Doug Mientkiewicz during the Sano brohaha and Johnny Rodriguez in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes).

I will also note that Palm Beach is a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, and extrapolate from that, perhaps unfairly, that Tony LaRussa's belligerent bully mindset has permeated the Cardinals farm system.


When the schedule came out I had my doubts about the wisdom of having the Miami Marlins come here in April and the Twins go to Miami in late June. Sure enough, the forecast for today is crappy. And, of course, it's the Marlins' only trip to Minnesota.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pic of the Week

Ryan Braun misses Carlos Gomez with a postgame

Among Go-Go's imposing athletic talents is the ability to duck. This one came after the Brewers had a walk-off win Wednesday against San Francisco; Gomez was 3-for-4 in that game, with a triple and a crucial infield single in the ninth-inning rally.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Center field checkup

Ben Revere added a heartfelt message
to his glove's webbing this week after
the Boston Marathon bombings.
We all know that the Twins' center fielder, rookie Aaron Hicks, is having a very difficult time at the plate this young season — just 2-for-45, with 20 strikeouts. His slash line of .044/.157/.044 is ... well,  a lot of pitchers will have better numbers than that.

I don't believe Hicks is truly that bad, and neither does Twins management — and it's not like they have a good option to turn to in his stead anyway. Darin Mastroianni is on the disabled list, Joe Benson isn't hitting in Triple A and somebody in the outfield has to cover the ground that Jose Willingham and Chris Parmelee and Owaldo Arcia can't.

Hicks has the job, in a sense, because Denard Span is in Washington and Ben Revere is in Philadelphia after a pair of trades this winter. The Twins traded those two to get some young pitching — and because Hicks is seen as having a higher ceiling than either Span or Revere.

How are those two doing?

Revere is struggling at the plate in Philly: .221/.264/.250, which isn't quality performance in the leadoff spot either.

Span, on the other hand, has put up his usual kind of numbers: .308/.410/.346. Strong on-base percentage, low slugging percentage.

Wandering down a side note: Hicks has drawn six walks, Span nine, Revere just four. Ruben Amaro, the general manager of the Phillies, declared during the winter: "I don’t care about walks; I care about production.” This week, after the Phillies drew zero walks in four straight games, Amaro was beefing about the lack of walks.

Just think, Mr. Amaro — you haven't had Delmon Young in the lineup yet.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Father Time winning another one

Derek Jeter talks with trainer Steve Donohue
during spring training.
Derek Jeter isn't 28 anymore. He's 38, a well-used 38, and the list of usable major-league shortstops at his age is very small indeed.

The news Thursday that a new fracture had been found in his left ankle means he's a long way from being a usable major league shortstop right now. He's out until after the All-Star break -- at least that long.

Jeter has been more effective than most in staving off the ravages of time. But Father Time is undefeated, and  Jeter certainly is losing this year's fight.

When he returns -- and I assume he'll eventually take the field again -- he may not be at the level he has been. Sophisticated analysis of his defense has always suggested that he's not a great gloveman; managers and coaches, on the other hand, have long been awed by his reliability in the field. If these repeated fractures further diminish his already limited range,can he remain a shortstop? And if he's not a shortstop, will he still want to play?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It's a Miracle (probably not)

Miguel Sano during spring training. The
Dominican had four homers and 12
RBIs in the Fort Myers Miracle's first
13 games of the season.

It's one of my favorite scenes from Bull Durham: The manager, Joe, has taken Crash's advice ("They're kids. Scare 'em") and is ranting at this team in the shower, with pitching coach Larry in constant affirmation.

Joe: What's our record? Larry?
Larry: Eight and 16.
Joe: Eight and 16. How'd we ever win eight?
Larry: It's a miracle.
Joe: It's a miracle.

Doug Mientkiewicz, the first-year manager of the Twins' High A affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle, probably hasn't seen any need to rant at his young charges. The Miracle opened the season with 12 straight wins before finally losing one last night.

What's our record?
Twelve and one.
Twelve and one. How'd we ever lose one?
It's miracle ...

More seriously: I wrote here when Mientkiewicz was hired that he was inheriting perhaps the most important tasks in the Twins organization — developing the infield prowess of Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Levi Michael.

Sano and Rosario are prime prospects at the plate, but their value will be greatly increased if Sano can play third base and Rosario second. Michael was the Twins' first-round draft pick in 2011, but he didn't fare well in 2012.

The Twins chances of contending in the second half of this decade will be much enhanced if those three are the infielders.

Michael has been a nonfactor in this good start -- he's been on the disabled list throughout. Sano and Rosario have been hitting, which is no surprise. The question with them is defense. Can they handle the skill positions, or do they need to shift to easier spots?

That's the key question, and the answers are not readily discerned statistically. But a 12-1 record suggests at the very least that their defense isn't hurting the club.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Notes, quotes and comments

Joe Mauer now has 21 hits this season, 15 of them with
two strikes on him.
Joe Mauer. What more to say? Consecutive four-for-five days for the Twins catcher, and a batting average on the young season of .386.

What a hitter.


Outfielders everywhere, and scarcely a center fielder in sight: Darin Mastroianni went from the starting lineup to the bench to the disabled list Tuesday. Oswaldo Arcia went from Monday's starting lineup back to Triple A back to the Twins.

Mastroianni played all nine innings Monday, so his disabled list stint will last at least two weeks. It's pretty rare that the Twins don't get to postdate a DL stint, so it must have been pretty obvious Tuesday that Mastroianni couldn't/shouldn't play. (This does follow two weeks-plus of very limited availablity, so it hardly indicates a more aggressive roster-management response to injuries.)

Now comes an interesting challenge for Ron Gardenhire. Mastroianni has a specific role on this team — speed, defense, right-handed reserve outfielder. Arcia has a different tool set. So does Wilkin Ramirez, the other bench outfielder.

There's little to be gained from parking Arcia on the bench, and there's no obvious spot in the lineup for him. 

Center field? Well, maybe, but I'd still be wary.

The Cuddyer Principle holds that you can put a (right-handed) major league player anywhere in the infield or outfield and it won't necessarily be immediately obvious that he doesn't belong there. We saw a bit of that Tuesday, when Eduardo Escobar was pressed into service as a left fielder and immediately made a nice play handling a ball off the wall in foul territory, holding the batter to a single.

So yeah, Gardy might try playing Arcia there a bit, but it's hardly optimal.

Meanwhile, Aaron Hicks seems to be having better at-bats, with three walks the past two days. Dick Bremer grumped that Hicks needs a three-for-four day, but at least the rookie isn't getting himself out.


Tangled in the outfield issues is the leadoff spot. Hicks had held that slot all season until Monday, when Mastroianni hit leadoff. After he was scratched Tuesday, Brian Dozier was moved to leadoff, and he promptly went two-for-four with a walk.

Dozier entered the game with worse numbers this young season than last — Tuesday raised his slash line to .189/.279/.243 — so he's hardly made a case that he belongs at the top of the order. Still, somebody has to hit leadoff, and one can hardly blame Gardenhire for looking for alternatives to Hicks for the job.

Meanwhile, Pedro Florimon sports an unlikely .484 on-base percentage. Nobody's THAT good, of course, and especially not Florimon. It's only 23 official at-bats. I'm not calling for him to move up to the leadoff slot.

Interesting, though, that people are taking Hicks' bad numbers so seriously and shrugging off Florimon's good ones. One significant difference, of course, is that Hicks has looked so overmatched from the moment the club came north. It hasn't been bad luck for him.


Another good long-relief job Tuesday from Anthony Swarzak, who probably came a Trevor Plouffe error short of a four-inning save. Certainly we've never seen Gardenhire give so many long outings to his relievers as he has in the first 13 games or so.

Starting to wonder when Bert Blyleven will start obsessing about Mike Pelfrey's dawdling pace the way he used to about Scott Baker's. Baker was a speed demon compared to Pelfrey.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Arcia and Hicks (revised)

Joe Mauer gives Oswaldo Arcia a quick hug after
the Twins broke their five-game losing streak Monday.
Oswaldo Arcia's major league debut Monday was a mixed bag. A base hit (and some good aggressive baserunning) in his first trip to the plate, another well-struck out — good. A muffed pop-up in the outfield — bad.

His time to be a factor in the Minnesota Twins lineup will come. His time is not now.

When Now that Wilkin Ramirez has returns returned from his paternity leave — the baby was born Sunday — Arcia will doubtless go back to Rochester, where he will doubtless continue to scorch International League pitchers. Which will eventually force the Twins to make room for him.

Making room for him means something other than bouncing Aaron Hicks. It means moving out one of the corner outfielders, or the first baseman, or the designated hitter — Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee, Justin Morneau or Ryan Doumit. Arcia gives the Twins five guys for four positions, and none of the five have the skills to be useful in center field.

The Twins on Monday had Arcia in left — a position he has seldom played in the minors — with Willingham sitting the game out with a reported illness. Darin Mastroianni played center and led off, with Hicks sitting with an inflamed slump. And Parmelee was in right field, as usual.

But Hicks did play Monday as a defensive sub for Arcia, with Mastroianni shifting to left field. And the rookie had one of his better plate appearances of the season, working a base on balls after falling behind 1-2.

It was the kind of grinding at-bat Hicks had frequently during spring training and that was missing for the first 11 games of the regular season.

One good plate appearance doesn't wash away three dozen bad ones. But it should remind us of why the Twins came into spring training hoping that Hicks would claim the center field and leadoff job — because of the three candidates he was the one who best projected to fit the role.

Two bad weeks at the plate — and they were bad — aren't enough to change that.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Contemplating Oswaldo Arcia

Oswaldo Arcia has
split his time in
Rochester between
right field and
designated hitter.
Wilkin Ramirez, the Twins' fifth outfielder — bench bat, really — is now on paternity leave (his wife is due to give birth in New York), and prospect Oswaldo Arcia has been called up.

Arcia can hit, and he certainly has in the early going for Triple A Rochester — .414/.500/.793 with three homers and two doubles in 29 at-bats.

I'm eager to see the kid. I'm just not sure how he'll be used in what is presumably a three-day cameo. (A player can be placed on the paternity list for up to three days, so Ramirez should be back by the end of the Angels series that ends Wednesday.)

There's no point in bringing Arcia up to freeze on the bench in the Ramirez role. If Arcia, 21, is here, he should play.

Center field in the place of the slumping Aaron Hicks is an ill fit. Arcia played some center field when he broke into the minors, but he's bigger, heavier and slower now. The Twins starting pitching is having enough trouble getting though five innings already without having a subpar defensive center fielder behind them.

An outfield of Josh Willingham-Arcia-Chris Parmelee ... I don't want to overstate it, but that might be the slowest Twins outfield I can remember. A few years ago the Twins played Michael Cuddyer in center for a couple of games, and he certainly didn't belong there either. But those games were in Wrigley Field, which has an unusual outfield configuration that squeezes the power alleys. These games will be in Target Field, and playing Arcia in center will be an invitation to triples.

More likely is using Arcia's presence to give some time off for the catchers. Use him at DH (or in an outfield corner with Willingham or Parmelee going to DH) and give Joe Mauer or Ryan Doumit a true day off.

Whatever the Twins do with Arcia in this series, it won't last long. Not unless the Twins make a quick trade of either Justin Morneau or Josh Willingham, and I really don't see that coming this early in the season.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pic of the Week

New York Mets start David Wright
during batting practice in Friday's snow flurries.
Pretty much every time it rain, snows or gets chilly — which is a fair portion of the calendar in Minnesota — somebody asks me: Why didn't they build Target Field with a dome?

Answer: Because nobody wanted to pay for it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Innings, innings

Lefty Pedro Hernandez
gave up a grand slam
to the first batter he
faced Friday, then
threw more than
four shutout innings.
The best that can be said for the Twins about Friday's frigidity was that nobody got hurt.

Which may not be true, come to think of it; Pedro Hernandez left after more than four innings of relief work with a strained calf. He was described post-game as "day-to-day;" in recent seasons that has frequently meant he'll be idle but on the active roster for a week, then go to the disabled list for a month.

That seldom helps the ball club, and the way the starters have been going, the Twins can't afford an idle hand on deck. Earlier this week I remarked about the length of Josh Roenicke's relief outing on Saturday (three innings); since then Anthony Swarzak has had a four-inning relief job and Hernandez his 4.1-inning job.

That's a lot of long relief work. The starters just aren't carrying their share of the load. Vance Worley's one-plus inning Friday means he's averaging four innings a start. Mike Pelfrey is averaging 3.6 innings. Liam Hendriks is averaging just under five innings. Kevin Correia is the only starter  ding his job in the first two turns through the rotation; as a group through 10 games, the Twins are under five innings a start.

Scott Diamond returns to the rotation tonight from his surgical rehab, presumably replacing either Hendriks or Hernandez. The bullpen could really use a lengthy start from him.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thoughts on "42"

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in "42"
My wife and I took in the late-night showing of "42" on Thursday.

Spoiler alert: Jackie Robinson successfully integrates professional baseball without causing a race riot.

Oh, you knew that already.

Robinson's story has been oft-told in books — I have several such in my personal library, including (among others) Robinson's autobiography, "I Never Had It Made"; Red Barber's marvelous "1947: When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball"; and a mildly disappointing 2007 biography of Branch Rickey by Lee Lowenfish, "Branch Rickey: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman."

"42" — as I surmised in my Monday print column this week — merely scratches the surface.

I can pick quite a few nits with the movie's off-the-field depictions, particularly the selection of Robinson as "the right man." Clyde Sukeforth, the scout/coach who brought Robinson to see Rickey for the fateful 1945 interview, had in reality no idea that Rickey intended to break the color barrier; he had been told he was looking for players for a new black team, the Brown Dodgers. Barber describes Burt Shotton, the man Rickey made manager after the commissioner banned Leo Durocher, as anything other than the grandfatherly figure he appears to be in the movie. And so on and so forth.

Nobody should imagine, after seeing "42", that they know the whole story. Indeed, there remains historical dispute about some pieces of the legend — particularly the Cincinnati incident in which Pee Wee Reese puts his arm around Robinson's shoulder. If that happened, it didn't happen in Cincinnati in 1947.

Call the movie Robinson 101. If you want more, hit the books.

But there are a lot of things the movie got absolutely right, and one of them is Branch Rickey.

I have seen reviews panning Harrison Ford's portrayal of the Mahatma. Too goofy, too over-the-top. Folks, Rickey was a man of overwhelming verbiage and dramatic presence. He was not prone to understatement (unless there was something he preferred to hide). For my money, Ford got Rickey right; indeed, he may have underplayed him some.

Other things to praise: I loved the old ballparks for the game action. Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Crosley Field, Forbes Field — all those old gems are long gone, and the moviemakers used CGI — but it was well done.

The Durocher scene in the hotel kitchen — telling his team what to do with their petition — was exactly as I imagined it.

And the Ben Chapman stuff was ... um ... stronger than Robinson allowed himself to describe it. In that brutal case, the movie is almost certainly more accurate than the books.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The state of the lineup

The Twins came into Kansas City scoring some runs and immediately stopped. One run on Monday, four on Tuesday, zero on Wednesday -- and three losses.

They did hit three homers on Tuesday, but they couldn't muster baserunners in front of the longballs. They left the bases strewn with runners Wednesday -- they loaded the bases in both the first and second innings and obviously came up empty.

These things suggest that the Kansas City run drought is just one of those random things.

And then there's Aaron Hicks, the rookie centerfielder and leadoff outmaker who is becoming the focal point of the Twins' April. He took another oh-fer Wednesday -- he's now 2-for-35, .057, with 16 strikeouts -- and drew the ire of Ron Gardenhire by not, in Gardy's view, hustling sufficiently on a popup to center that the Royals outfielder muffed. (Hicks did make it to second base.)

Hicks has a history of slow starts in the minors, and he is skipping Triple A completely, but this level of nonproduction is way out of line with expectations. His brilliant spring training had some people on Twitter evoking Mike Trout, which was unreasonable. Hicks ain't that good. He also ain't this bad.

The question now is: What do the Twins do? Consider the options:

  1. Stick with Hicks, not only as the regular center fielder but in the leadoff slot. (This is becoming less tenable by the day.)
  2. Keep Hicks in center but drop him to the bottom of the lineup. (Then who hits leadoff, Brian Dozier?)
  3. Send him to Triple A and call up Joe Benson. (Benson's hitting something like .125 in Rochester.)
  4. Send him to Triple A and call up Clete Thomas for a platoon-type role with Darin Mastroanni. (Thomas had the same kind of no-contact slump with the Twins last year.)

None of these choices are attractive.

The reality is that, once the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere, they hitched their center field job to Hicks. They can't afford to have him fail.

My take: As long as the slump isn't wrecking Hicks psychologically -- and I'm not anywhere near close enough to make that judgment -- the Twins should stick with option 1. But if the nonhustle play indicates that he's starting to mope, he should be sent down for some Triple A time.

And if that happens, I'd rather see if bringing Benson up lights a fire under him than muddle around with Thomas. I say that on the basis that the Twins' primary concern on every decision they make should be less about 2013 and more about the following years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adventures in baseball marketing

The Twins caught themselves in a social media whirlwind Tuesday morning by announcing plans to sell up to 60 tickets per home game to the home team batting practice. The price would be $15, the buyers would have to have tickets to the game already, and the 60 would be restricted to the right field area.

For reasons I really don't grasp -- I guess it's just habitual disgruntlement -- this raised the ire of some fans.

It's been years -- decades --since the gates opened early enough for fans to see the home team take batting practice. I recall seeing some home team BP in the 1980s at the Metrodome, but not since. The basic rule now is: the gates open 90 minutes before game time, and by then the Twins are back in the clubhouse and the visitors are well into their batting practice.

As I recall, the home team BP didn't attract many fans back then, certainly not enough to justify the expense of having the stadium operations people at their stations that early.

This proposal would have allowed a few dozen fans to watch all of BP in a manner that paid for itself (and maybe turned a small profit) and didn't require all the ushers, security personnel and concession workers to be at their posts. Other teams do this, and some apparently charge as much as $60 for the access.

But there was an outcry and complaints of greed, and the Twins by midafternoon were proclaiming the morning press release to have been insufficiently vetted and withdrawn.

So we're back where we were: I don't get to watch Joe Mauer take batting practice at Target Field. Apparently this is progress.


In Chicago, the Cubs struck a sponsorship deal with Wrigley in which a brand called 5 would be the team's official gum, with containers prominently displayed in the dugout and clubhouse.

During Monday's broadcast, a shot of the Cub bullpen clearly showed wrappers for a rival brand of gum, Double Bubble.

Gasps and horrors. The front office issued immediate orders to the bullpenners -- during the game -- None of this Double Bubble. You must chew 5.

This, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, went over about as well as you'd expect:

Said one bullpen member: "I'm not changing gum after all these years because of the marketing department. I don't like that gum."

That's just the kind of attention Wrigley was looking for, I'll wager.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The price of a "disposable" veteran pitcher

Aaron Harang had a spring training ERA above 8 this year.
Follow the bouncing contracts:

Aaron Harang spent the 2012 season in the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation: 31 starts, just under 180 innings, 10-10, 3.61.

The Dodgers proceeded to load up their starting rotation with big-ticket contracts — Josh Beckett, Zach Grienke, Korean rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu. Harang was pushed into the bullpen, an ill fit for the veteran. He hasn't pitched, spring training or regular season, since March 26.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the Rockies had veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez and no real use for him once Yorvit Torrealba won the backup job. The Dodgers wanted a veteran reserve catcher, so this weekend they traded: Harang and cash for Hernandez.

And the Rockies promptly designated Harang for assignment, a move that got him off their roster and gave them 10 days to dispose of him.

This is relevant to Twins fans because Minnesota is one of three teams that are reportedly interested in trading for Harang.

According to Baseball Reference, Harang's 2013 salary is $7 million, but the Dodgers are picking up $4.5 million, leaving whoever winds up with his contract obligated for the other $2.5 million. There is also a mutual option for 2014 for either $7 million or $8 million, depending on how many innings he pitches; since mutual options are almost never mutually exercised, the relevant figure is the $2 million buyout.

So trading for Harang means spending $4.5 million. Which, as it turns out, is roughly what the Twins are paying Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.

Less than a decade ago, the Twins had the habit of signing veteran pitchers (Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, Livan Hernandez) to $1 million contracts to plug a gap in the starting rotation for a month or two while younger pitcher marinated in the minors. When a replacement was deemed ready, the veteran was released. They were disposable veterans.

Harang's April in limbo— and the Correia and Pelfrey contracts — suggest to me that the price today for a disposable veteran starter has inflated to $4.5 million. I continue to think it's absurd to pay a marginal veteran that much when a minor league veteran will cost about a tenth the amount.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Notes from the weekend

Pedro Hernandez went five innings Sunday in his first
appearance with the Twins. He was acquired from
the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade last summer.
The Twins pitching staff always figured to be a work in progress this season, and the shuffling began this weekend -- not a week since Opening Day.

Tyler Robertson was optioned out a day after he threw a get-me-over fastball on the first pitch to Chris Davis (who hit it out of the park). Cole De Vries was put on the disabled list. Pedro Hernandez was called up from Triple A to make Sunday's start in De Vries' stead, and Anthony Swarzak came off the disabled list (and got the win Sunday in relief).

More shuffling awaits. Scott Diamond made what is intended to be his final rehab start Sunday; he's scheduled to start Friday when the Twins return to Target Field.

The Twins play in Kansas City today, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Liam Hendriks lined up. Hendriks really needs a good start Wednesday; as matters stand, he's the most likely guy to be sent out to make room for Diamond.


Josh Roenicke gave the Twins a very solid three-inning relief outing Saturday. That's got to be one of the longer outings for a Twins reliever under Ron Gardenhire, maybe the longest in a non-extra-inning game.

That was essentially the way the Rockies used Roenicke last season, as what they called a "piggyback" reliever, and last season was by far his most successful in the majors. The chatter this spring about him has been that the Twins had shorter outings in mind for him, but -- for what little it's worth -- he wasn't impressive in his two short relief games against the Tigers.

Having two long relievers -- Swarzak and Roenicke -- might not be a bad idea for the Twins, who don't figure to get a lot of seven- and eight-inning starts.


Aaron Hicks had a single Sunday. It was his second hit of the young season and lifted his average all the way to .077. Two-for-26, with 11 strikeouts.

That's a slow start. It's hardly unprecedented, however. Willie Mays famously began his career 0-for-26, and he turned out OK. (His 27th at-bat was a homer off the great Warren Spahn, who for years joked: I blame myself for Mays. If I'd gotten him out, maybe they'd have gotten rid of him.) Not that Hicks is Willie Mays, mind you, but if Mays can go 0-for-26, anybody can. Josh Hamilton came into Sunday night's game 1-for-20 with 10 strikeouts.

There wasn't good reason to expect Hicks to hit as well as he did in spring training (.370/.407/.644), and there is no good reason to believe Hicks is as bad as his numbers in the first week of play suggest. The Twins should stick with him, and I expect them to do so.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pic of the Week

A fan at Thursday's Royals-White Sox game makes
a cap catch of a foul ball.

This is something I've thought about often at games — using my cap to net a ball that comes into the seats.

It's never happened for me, and I don't know that I've ever seen anybody successfully catch a ball in his cap. But clearly it can be done.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On second thought ...

Twins LOOGY Tyler Robertson stands on the mound
as Baltimore's Chris Davis runs his grand slam home in
the eighth inning Friday.
It's one of the hazards of posting an opinion pretty much every day: Occasionally (at best) one winds up with an assertion that is swiftly disproven.

So it is with Friday's claim that the Twins starting pitching has protected the bullpen. And that Casey Fien has been too effective to consider demoting. And that Tyler Robertson's Thursday strikeout of Prince Fielder demonstrated his value.

That was written after the Twins used six relievers on Thursday when Mike Pelfrey went just 5.1 innings. On Friday, Liam Hendriks went just 4.2 innings, and Ron Gardenhire burned through four relievers to get though that game. Brian Duensing, Ryan Pressly, Fien and Robertson all worked back-to-back games, and the first three are likely to be unavailable today. Seven pitchers are too many; 12 are not enough.

Fien, who struck out four of the first five men he faced this season, was touched for four runs in the eight inning Friday.

And Robertson gave up a grand slam — to a left-handed hitter — on his second-best pitch.

This is deadly for a Left-handed One Out GuY such as Robertson. He is on the roster to wipe left-handed hitters out. But he has now surrendered three home runs in his brief major league career to lefties — Fielder, Adam Dunn and Chris Davis. These are all potent power hitters, to be sure — but they are all noticeably less effective against left-handed pitching (Davis' career platoon differential is less extreme than the others'). Such hitters are the reason LOOGYs dot rosters.

Robertson has to get them out. He certainly can't give up bombs to lefties, no matter how good they are. His job is to dominate small sample sizes.

One bad inning — and the Fien-Robertson eighth inning on Friday was a bad one indeed — turned around the entire short-term outlook. Two consecutive short starts have exposed the lack of a legitimate long man on this staff.

Circumstances can change, I said at the end of Friday's post. Yes they can. And yes they have.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mining meaning from the opening series

Josh Roenicke made a pair of appearances
in the opening series, pitching 1.2 innings
with two walks, two strikeouts
and a wild pitch.
That was a pretty good opening series for the Twins -- taking two of three from arguably the best team in the American League.

Most striking is that the starting pitchers fared well. Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey averaged just over six innings a start, which isn't Old Hoss Radbourn territory but is a mighty improvement over what the Twins got from last year's opening rotation -- and was all the more impressive considering the chilly conditions.

With the starters making it three turns through the batting order, the bullpen was not overworked in the first three games.

This probably doesn't mean much. As Detroit manager Jim Leyland said after the Wednesday game, it's difficult to evaluate anybody from these 30-degree games. That doesn't negate the results — both teams had to play in the same conditions — but it does require a further suspension of judgment.

Still, some judgment has to be made because of pending roster moves. The first series has, at the least, brought more time for the Wilkin Ramirez Experiment (and Ramirez certainly helped himself with a big pinch-hit Wednesday) by making it unnecessary to add an arm to the bullpen.

But an arm is coming — Anthony Swarzak is likely to return next week — and if the bullpen is to remain at seven members, one of the incumbents has to go.

Figure that Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Brian Duensing are safe. Josh Roenicke is out of options, as is Swarzak himself; they can't be sent to the minors without passing waivers. Ryan Pressly is a Rule 5 guy, so he's also use-or-lose. Casey Fien has an option left, but he's been too effective to cut. Which leaves LOOGY Tyler Robertson, and his strikeout of Prince Fielder in a big spot Thursday gave evidence of his potential usefulness in a specific role.

If I had to make the move right now, Roenicke would be the loser. But the decision doesn't need to be made just yet, and circumstances can change before it does need to be made.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not a true "closer by committee"

Joaquin Benoit leaves the mound in the
ninth inning Wednesday.
The Detroit Tigers had opportunities during the offseason to add a "proven closer" to their roster. They chose not to.

When prospect Bruce Rondon failed to establish himself during spring training, general manager Dave Dombrowski was fairly emphatic — the Tigers would eschew the now standard bullpen approach of designating a "closer" whose role would be to pitch the ninth inning in save situations.
They would use the so-called "committee" approach, mixing their right-handed power arms (Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Al Alberquerque) with lefty Phil Coke and looking to exploit matchups.

So Dombrowski said. But he's not the guy in the dugout making the in-game decisions. Jim Leyland is. And while Leyland successfully manipulated just this kind of bullpen 20-some years ago in Pittsburgh, he's been a designated-closer guy since.

And his handling of the bullpen in the first two games this season says Coke is his closer.

The Twins used the same lineup in the first two games of the season, and it is reasonable to believe it will be the default lineup for the year. For opposition managers looking to exploit matchups, it's basically two parts — use a lefty for the 2-through-5 slots (Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit), use a righty for the 6-through-1 (Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Aaron Hicks). One could go lefty through Plouffe-Parmelee as well.

In the opener, Benoit got the bottom of the order in the eighth — Dozier, Eduardo Escobar (in for Florimon) and Hicks, and Coke dealt with the lefty-heavy middle of the lineup in the ninth.The matchups worked.

On Wednesday, the matchups went the other way, but Leyland used Benoit in the eighth against the middle of the lineup. He successfully navigated that inning, but walked Plouffe to open the ninth — and in came Coke to face Parmelee, a one-batter matchup advantage.

He got Parmelee, but that was the last out the Tigers got. Dozier singled, Escobar doubled, and the Twins had an unlikely 3-2 win.

If Leyland were truly going for matchups with his bullpen, Coke should have gotten the eighth and a right-hander the ninth. But he appears to really want have Coke lay claim to the ninth inning.

The bullpen is the most obvious question on what appears to be a very loaded Detroit squad. Coke may have the emotional makeup managers like to see in a closer, but he's always struggled against right-handed hitters. We'll see how stubborn Leyland is about this as time goes on — and how much pressure builds on Dombrowski to provide an easy out for the manager.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ex-Twins pitchers watch

According to USA Today,
Johan Santana has baseball's
third-highest salary this year,
behind only Alex Rodriguez
and Cliff Lee.
Johan Santana had surgery Tuesday to repair his retorn shoulder capsule. The operation was termed "successful," which is surgical speak for "the patient didn't die on the table and we cut on the correct shoulder."

Santana is said to be intent on pitching again. Realistically, he's got a difficult road ahead to achieve that; he's certainly not going to pitch this year and probably not in 2014 either.


Matt Capps, who was signed to a minor league deal by Cleveland just before spring training, didn't make the major league roster. What's more, the erstwhile closer was actually released from his contract and re-signed by the Indians in a move that negated Capps' $100,000 roster bonus.

Cleveland is, apparently, watching its budget carefully after a poor year at the gate in 2012 and a bit of a free-agent spending spree this winter. They did a similar roster manoeuvre with Daisuke Matsuzaka, the former Red Sox pitcher who was also a non-roster invitee.

Capps took almost a week before agreeing to the second minor-league deal, which suggests that he couldn't find a better offer elsewhere. Which in turn suggests that the other teams were not impressed with what he showed during spring training.


Kevin Slowey, last seen spending most of the 2012 season on a Indians minor-league disabled list, made the Miami Marlins rotation. He's to start today against Washington.

The Twins have a pair of two-game series with the Marlins -- two game later this month at Target Field, two games in June in Miami (that's a bone-headed bit of scheduling) -- and I'm rather hopeful that he'll get to pitch against the Twins at least once.

If nothing else, it'll be interesting to hear Ron Gardenhire try to tap-dance again around the subject of the pitcher's falling-out with the Minnesota organization. We can be sure that Bert Blyleven will spend a few innings ripping Slowey.

I think both sides -- Slowey and Twins management -- mishandled things in 2010. Slowey's career crashed at that point; so did the Twins starting rotation. I'd like to see both back on sound footing.


Kyle Lohse, who signed with Milwaukee about a week before spring training ended, got in one Cactus League start and now will start for the Brewers on Friday. This avoids matching him up next week against his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Not that he can dodge that matchup for the full three years of his contract.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Notes from a frigid opener

It was a mighty cold day to pitch
in short sleeves, but that's what
Vance Worley did Monday.
One incentive for me to go ahead with my plans to attend Monday's Twins opener despite the weather was the opportunity to add Justin Verlander to the list of great pitchers I've seen in person.

Verlander is great, but this was not one of his great days. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was just one of those days, but he didn't have his usual velocity (the highest reading I saw on the stadium signs was 93), and a man known for working deep into games and running up some of the highest pitch counts in baseball was pulled after five innings and 91 pitches.

Five shutout innings with seven strikeouts -- that's pretty impressive for someone who wasn't on his game. Verlander will have better ones.

For his part, Twins starter Vance Worley was pretty impressive for someone who gave up three runs in the first two innings.

Worley worked deeper into the game than Verlander (six innings, 101 pitches) and he threw a higher percentage of strikes (59.3 percent strikes for Verlander, 68.3 percent for Worley).

But the Twins left more plays unmade behind their starter than the Tigers did for Verlander.

In the first inning, for example, Worley got Miguel Cabrera to hit a slow grounder to shortstop with men on the corners, but the Twins couldn't turn the double play. That left Cabrera on to score later in the inning.

In the fourth inning, Worley himself was unable to handle the relay on what should have been an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. That, plus a clear error by shortstop Pedro Florimon, turned what should have been a quick, 15-pitch inning into a 28-pitch one.

Then there was the blunder made by Trevor Plouffe in the third. Torii Hunter had led off with a double to right (a single that Chris Parmelee turned into a double by not fielding it cleanly). Cabrera followed with a grounder to the hole that Plouffe dove for but had no chance of reaching. Florimon made the play, getting Cabrera at first, but Hunter, seeing Plouffe on the ground, took third without a play. That didn't cost the Twins a run — Worley got Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to ground out harmlessly — but it could have.

The Tigers didn't play perfectly for Verlander. Cabrera bobbled a Joe Mauer grounder for an error in the first inning. But that was really the only play the Tigers didn't make that they should have, and the Twins didn't play nearly as clean a game.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Notes from the weekend

It's Opening Day — at least for most of the majors. It'll be a frigid one for those of us at Target Field, and I don't expect to see a full house there.

Trying to guess at the weather in making the April schedule is impossible, of course. Last year we had 70 degree temps on April 1, but the home opener came a few days later and was quite cold. This year we might have something considerably warmer a few days after the opener — when the Twins have hit the road.


Ron Gardenhire spent much of spring training using Brian Dozier (and others) in the second spot in the batting order. But this weekend the manager said he will move Joe Mauer up to the two-hole and elevate the other middle-of-the-order guys one spot each, while hitting Dozier eighth.

This makes perfect sense to me; I called for it in January as part of my Benchmarks for 2013 series.

Dozier may become a good top-of-the-order guy. He certainly didn't perform like that in 2012, and it seems wise to put him at the bottom of the order until he demonstrates that he merits a more prominent role.

Elevating Mauer, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, etc. one slot each will, over the course of the season, get them about 25 more plate appearances apiece. Dropping Dozier from second to eighth should take about 150 plate appearances away from him. Right now, there's no reason to believe the team is helped by giving him those at-bats.


The Twins on Friday lost relief pitcher Alex Burnett, who had already been optioned out, on waivers to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Waiving Burnett opened a spot on the 40-man roster for outfielder Wilkin Ramirez. As I said last week, I doubt that Ramirez is going to last long on the active roster.

But I also doubt that the Twins will have as much reason to regret exposing Burnett to waivers as they did in 2009 when they lost Craig Breslow that way. I used to envision Burnett emerging as a Juan Rincon-type of set-up man, but after three seasons of declining strikeout rates, it had become clear that that wasn't going to happen.

The Twins have plenty of other right-handed relief candidates they can turn to.


Play Ball!