Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pic of the Week

How not to play a pop up, by the Chicago White Sox infield.
Perhaps you saw the incredible display of infield incompetence Tuesday night in Chicago, when White Sox third baseman Conor Gillapsie was settling under the pop-up that would end the game only to have second baseman Gordon Beckham brush by pitcher Addison Reed (who was just standing around rather than doing his job of directing traffic), stumble and take Gillapsie's legs out from under him, allowing the Mets to tie the game.

The Sox won anyway, but still ... this is 1962 Mets stuff. They've almost got to try to be this bad.

EPSN and MLB went with the Mets call on their highlights, which was amusing in its own right, with Gary Cohen suddenly squealing as "the Mets have tied the game!" But really, the call everybody wanted to hear was Hawk Harrelson's. He does not disappoint,  as transcribed by Jim Margalus of the South Side Sox blog:

Ohhhhhh ... you gotta be bleepin' me. [stolen base goes undescribed] You have GOT to be ... thisnmt, mmmghhh ... oh-and-one the count to Brown. [pause] Looooooooord have mercy. [pause] Unbelieveable. Un. Believable.

Margalus has some interesting thoughts about Harrelson, bad baseball and memories. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Notes, quotes and comment

Aaron Slegers pitches in the College World Series. The
Twins fifth-round pick is 6-foot-10.
With the College World Series over, the Twins this week have largely wrapped up their draft signings.

Pitchers Ryan Eades (LSU, second round) and Aaron Slegers (Indiana, fifth round) signed shortly after their teams were eliminated in Omaha. Two other Indiana players drafted by the Twins, third baseman Dustin DeMuth (eighth round) and pitcher Ryan Halstead (26th round) have declared their intention to stay in school, but that may be a negotiating ploy.

The signing deadline is July 12.


What an ugly doubleheader Friday between the Tribe and the White Sox. The first game was 19-10 Cleveland, with the two teams combing for more than 400 pitches total — 112 just to get the first nine outs. The White Sox alone threw 230 pitches in that game, the highest team total for nine innings in the pitch count era.

In the two games, the Indians had 28 runs and 33 hits, the Sox 18 runs and 26 hits. Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer, a prime prospect disposed of by Arizona during the offseason largely because the D-backs had tried of dealing with him, was so bizarre in his awful start (he pitched from the stretch throughout, even with no one on, and still paid no attention to the baserunners) that it was seriously suggested that the Tribe would send him back to A ball rather than Triple A.

Of course, things were already hideous on the South Side.  I'll talk more in Sunday's Pic of the Week post about the incredible dropped popup of Tuesday. In Hawk Harrelson's words: "You have got to be bleeping me."

On a different level of "you have got to be bleeping me," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko reportedly had SIX pain-killer injections in his back the other day. Six. I'm no medico, but that sort of thing scares me.


Miguel Sano hit a pair of home runs Friday night for New Britain; that gives him six since he moved up to Double A.

He started off slow when he hit Double A less than three weeks ago, and his batting average there is still only .236, but six dingers in 67 plate appearances (plus a double and two triples) ain't bad. It adds up to a .655 slugging percentage after 17 games.

Friday, June 28, 2013

When Hicks' rehab is over, what?

Hitting coach Tom Brunansky talks to Clete Thomas
during Wednesday's game in Miami.
Aaron Hicks played seven innings of center field Thursday night for Rochester, part of the progression as he tests his hamstring. He started with a game as designated hitter, then played five innings in the outfield, seven innings ... today he presumably plays nine innings in the field and then, assuming no issues emerge, he's ready to return.

And then what?

Clete Thomas went 1-for-4 Thursday with a run scored and is hitting .262/.333/.369 as the fill-in center fielder. This isn't great production, but it is better than the .179/.249/.326 Hicks had put up for the season before his injury.

Thomas has been a tolerable platoon leadoff hitter, and I doubt that Ron Gardenhire is eager to return Hicks to that lineup slot, especially as a left-handed hitter (the switch-hitting Hicks is a stronger hitter right-handed than left). And I doubt that Thomas is readily demoted; if he's out of options, and he probably is, he'll have to clear waivers to be sent to Rochester. He may well go unclaimed, but it's still a risk.

Of course, I've said all year that 2013 is (should be) a secondary concern. The Twins' primary concern with each decision should be: How does this make us better down the road? What will nudge us closer to contention in 2014 and 2015 and beyond?

Thomas is not going to play a key role on a Twins contender down the road. Hicks might. That next contending Twins team will have Byron Buxton in center, Oswaldo Arcia in one outfield corner and maybe Hicks in the other. Maybe Hicks, maybe somebody else; Hicks will certainly have to hit to be a corner outfield.

So the real question is: What is better for Hicks' development?

I think that, if the Twins could rewind back to spring training, they would find an excuse to send Hicks to Triple A. Such a move would have brought howls after Hicks' brilliant performance in the Grapefruit League, and considering the ineptitude displayed by Joe Benson and the injury sustained by Darin Mastroianni, the Twins didn't have a great set of alternatives in March.

Hicks has improved as the season continued, but even the improved Hicks of May and June was below major league standards as a hitter.

If the Twins send Hicks to Triple A, I won't complain. He might benefit from a month or more in Rochester, and (as a tiebreaker)Thomas fills a role on the 2013 Twins a bit better than Hicks has.

But I don't really expect the Twins to take that route. They threw Hicks into the deep end of the pool at the start of the season, and I think they'll have him keep splashing.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Into the Futures

The (initial) rosters for the Futures Game were announced Wednesday, and -- no surprise -- Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were selected for the U.S. and World teams respectively.

J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, the publication that dreamed up the Futures Game, noted in a chat that organizations are limited to two players on the initial rosters, so the selection of Buxton and Sano foreclosed on Eddie Rosario and other Twins prospects. Cooper:

Overall, I think the Twins are bringing the best one-two punch of any team, and really it’s not all that close. ... Rosario would have been a very good fit at second base, but I’m glad he’s not there. Nothing against Rosario, but only two Twins can go and I can’t wait to see Buxton and Sano.

(Cooper's chat also touches on Adam Brett Walker as an example of why it's a good idea for teams to be hesitant about quick promotions, particularly in the lower levels; what Buxton's "80" speed tool means; and Sano's defense.)

In recent years the Twins appeared reluctant to allow more than one of their prospects play in the Futures game. Last year only Oswaldo Arcia played, and a BA chatter noted, without being specific, that they were turned down on some players by organizations. Sano came to mind; as noted in that link, the Twins view such things as rewards, and they probably weren't interested in rewarding Sano at that point.

This year is another matter. And by this time next year, Sano may not be eligible for the Futures Game.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grading Buxton's tools

For the second time in just over a year, Byron Buxton graces the cover of Baseball America (no link because the article hadn't been posted to the BA website as of Tuesday afternoon).

A quote from the article, attributed to an unnamed scout for a National League team:

I am positive that he's the best prospect I've seen in (more than a decade) of full-time scouting. It's not even close. Tools, athleticism, feel and vision. Time will tell what kind of major league player he becomes, but the sky's the limit.

A month or so ago, the Star Tribune's Jim Souhan did a lengthy piece on Buxton that had, as a sidebar, proported scouting grades on Buxton's tools -- the oft-cited five tools being run, throw, field, hit and hit with power. Those grades (on a 20-80 scale) gave Buxton all 70s and 80s, and were quickly mocked on Twitter, with ESPN's Keith Law noting that giving Buxton a 70 grade for his hit tool means he could hit .320 right now in the majors.

My assumption on the Star Tribune grades was that these were projected grades, not present grades, but since Souhan wasn't explicit about what the grades meant, he deserved the mockery.

Anyway: The BA piece also has a grades sidebar, and says upfront: "All grades are future projections, not current grades and are meant to be quite conservative -- undoubtedly there are reports sitting in the databases of multiple teams with higher grades than these."

The BA grades: Hitting: 70. Power: 60. Speed: 80. Defense: 80. Arm: 70.

And in case you're think that a 60 grade for power doesn't sound like much, the sidebar says: "Most scouts surveyed ... project him to hit 25-30 home runs once he's matured and filled out."

The article (written before Buxton's promotion to high-A Fort Myers earlier this week)  is well worth a Twins fan's time and money.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ex-Twins watch: Michael Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer is hitting .339.394/.573 so far this year.

Colorado is a great place to hit, so it's not necessarily a surprise that Michael Cuddyer is putting up good numbers this year.

But his OPS+ — a stat that aims to remove park effects from a hitter's production — is still far above anything he's put up in the past. Even on the road, Cuddyer's slash line is .314/.364/.500. That's better than any full season he's ever had.

Cuddyer's 2012 was a bit of a disappointment. He missed a third of the season, and he had his lowest batting average for any 100-game season — and when you factor in Coors Field, it's even worse. Contrasted to Josh Willingham's career year, the Twins definitely got the advantage in swapping out Cuddy for the Hammer as their right-handed middle-of-the-order hitter.

This year is a different story. Cuddyer is riding a 21-game hitting streak. Even better, he's reached base in 40 straight games. Willingham, doubtless hampered by a troublesome knee (even if he insists otherwise), is having his worst season as a major league regular.

The Rockies are slightly above .500 at this point, and while that may not last, they've been better than almost anyone expected. Cuddyer's been a significant part of that.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunday roster shuffle

The Twins were moving players around like checkers Sunday. And they got a win out of it.

Pedro Hernandez walked six men in his
five innings of work Sunday, but Cleveland
got only two runs against him.

Mike Pelfrey to the disabled list; Pedro Hernandez recalled

The movement started quietly on Saturday, when it was determined that Pelfrey — who had apparently had his back go out on him — was a bad bet for Sunday. (Maybe Ron Gardenhire would have taken the veteran up on his offer to try to pitch if P.J. Walters hadn't blown up the bullpen with a dreadful start Saturday, but there was no way Gardy was going to risk a repeat.)

That it was Hernandez who got the call for the emergency start caused some consternation on Twitter among people who wanted Kyle Gibson (who had started Thursday and thus was not an option for Sunday) or Trevor May (who is on the 40-man roster, who was slated to start Sunday anyway for New Britain and was in Akron, Ohio, some 44 miles from the Cleveland ballpark).

May's been pitching well for the RockCats, but I think the Twins did right by him to avoid a frenzied call-up for his debut. He's made progress battling his control issues, and there's no point in jeopardizing his comfort level.

Pelfrey's been effective enough of late that he had begun to pop up in July trade rumors. Specifically, the reporter for the Baltimore Orioles had listed him among starting pitchers the O's are looking at as possible trade targets. This DL stint will cool that kind of talk.

Hernandez demoted, Gibson to be activated

Hernandez was with the Rochester team in Louisville, Ky. He drove all night to get to Cleveland — supposedly he arrived at 4:30 a.m. — started at 1 p.m., provided five innings of two-run ball (on three days rest and presumably almost zero sleep) and was demoted again by 5 p.m. He probably spent more time driving than he did on the major league roster; I hope the Twins at least popped for a hotel room so he could get some shuteye before returning to the Red Wings.

Kyle Gibson in
Rochester: 7-5,
3.01in 92.2 innings.
Gibson is to be activated Tuesday (off day today) but won't pitch until Saturday.

Presumably the Twins intend to keep Gibson in the rotation the rest of his season (Gibson's season is expected to end somewhere around 130 to 140 innings, and he's already worked 99.2 for Rochester). Assuming that Pelfrey's DL stint is the 15-day minimum, he'll be eligible to return July 4, and we'll see who gives way in the rotation then. I would think Walters is the one on the thinnest ice.

Byron Buxton moves up

If you put off making the road trip to see the phenom play in Iowa, you've missed your chance. Buxton was promoted Sunday to high-A Fort Myers, having spent less time with the Cedar Rapids Kernels than Mike Trout did in 2010 (68 games for Buxton, 81 for Trout).

Some people have been grousing for a month about Buxton not moving up already, but this is the fast track indeed. The Twins rarely promote in midseason from low A. Even Joe Mauer spent a full season in the Midwest League. Ben Revere spent a full season flirting with .400 without getting moved up the ladder.

Rehab assignments

Aaron Hicks will test his hamstring in Fort Myers this week; if all goes well, the rookie centerfielder may be back with the Twins by Thursday, when they return home to face Kansas City. I'll probably post in the coming days about the outfield glut and the lineup with Hicks.

The word is less bright for Wilkin Ramirez, who dove for a ball the other day on his rehab assignment and started getting concussion symptoms again. Not good. Concussion recovery is not predictable, but the Twins recent experiences with them suggest that Ramirez may not be back this year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pic of the Week

A cotton candy vendor is silhouetted against the
rising "supermoon" Saturday night in Anaheim.
The Associated Press provided quite a few photos of the Saturday-Sunday "supermoon," but this one was taken in a ballpark.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Notes, quotes and comment

Brian Dozier's home run tear this week — four homers
in five games — gives him seven on the year, while
Justin Morneau has just three long balls.
When the Twins reactivated Trevor Plouffe, I predicted here that Brian Dozier would return to the leadoff spot.

Instead, Ron Gardenhire gave Clete Thomas several games in that lineup position. Thomas didn't remind anybody of Shannon Stewart, much less Rickey Henderson, but he was more productive there than anybody else the Twins had deployed.

And then the Twins saw three straight left-handed pitchers — Chris Sale on Wednesday, John Danks on Thursday, Scott Kazmir on Friday — and the right-handed hitting Dozier was back atop the lineup, with the left-handed hitting Thomas dropping down to the eighth slot.

This is justifiable strictly on the general platoon rule. We're talking here about two marginal hitters. That Dozier entered Friday's game hitting .293/.388/.463 against lefties this year is nice but immaterial; those split stats came in a mere 50 plate appearances against southpaws.

Dozier homered in each of those three games, and it will be interesting to see if Gardenhire keeps him in the leadoff slot as the Twins start to see some right-handed pitchers again. Gardenhire has never been particularly interested in seeking the platoon advantage with his hitters (pitchers are another matter). I'd advocate getting Thomas the extra at-bats against right-handed starters; Gardenhire's habitual preference for a set lineup suggests Dozier will lead off for a while.

For what it's worth — which isn't much — Thomas has been a more productive hitter against lefties than righties over his major league time. It's not enough at-bats to establish that he's an exception to the platoon rule.


The Jose Valverde experiment ended Friday when the Detroit Tigers designated him for assignment. I never really understood what the big idea there was; Valverde went from unwanted to closer to unwanted again, with no intermediate stops.

Some 25 years ago, Jim Leyland won a string of divisional titles in Pittsburgh without a designated closer. Since then, he's become far more conventional in his bullpen use. Perhaps he's come to equate the October failings of those good Pirate teams — they never reached the World Series — with the lack of a closer.

Anyway, Leyland indicated Thursday that Joaquin Benoit was his closer, kinda sorta:

"I'm not naming anybody closer. I'm just saying if Benoit was available right now, I would try to close with him." 

I'm not sure why Leyland's hesitant to anoint Benoit, but it's worth noting that Benoit (who's 35 years old, same age as Valverde, which just astounds me) has pitched on back-to-back days just four times this year and has yet to work three days running. The reference in the above quote to the pitcher's availability may be significant.

Another possibility is that the manager is hoping for a trade for a established closer. Or even former Twin Jesse Crain, a notion floated this week by the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rogers. Rogers generates a lot of  trade ideas that don't go anywhere, but trading Crain makes a certain amount of sense for the White Sox; this is the last year of his contract with the Sox, and the Sox certainly aren't going anywhere with him.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Buy or sell? The latter, with reservations

Scott Diamond was the winning pitcher Thursday
for the Twins, raising his record to 5-6 —and raising
his ERA to 5.27.
The Twins on Thursday beat the Chicago White Sox to sweep the three-game series and cap off a 6-3 homestand. Their record, on the first official day of summer, stands at 33-36, and while they're fourth in the AL Central, they're just six games behind the first place Detroit Tigers.

Which led to a Phil Miller story in the Star Tribune to the effect that as the jockeying for July trades gets started, the Twins don't know if they're buyers or sellers.

For me, it's not that difficult a call. I came into this season believing it was about building something for future seasons. I still believe that.

As Aaron Gleeman pointed out Thursday on Twitter, the Twins are 10-2 against the White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, which makes them 23-34 against everybody else. That doesn't look like a 2013 contender to me.

I'd advocate selective selling. The front office needs to determine who on the current roster fits on a 2015 contender and who's in the way of the 2014 transition to a lineup built around Joe Mauer and prospects Oswaldo Arcia, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and maybe Byron Buxton.

Peter Gammons has had a few Twins related comments on his Twitter feed this week: on Wednesday morning he mentioned Glen Perkins as a potential trade target for closer-starved contenders. On Thursday he followed that up with a two-parter:

GM: "Terry Ryan isn't going to trade Perkins without a big haul. They're going to be good quick. Best player in minor league ball (Buxton ) ...

Sano's already in double-A and he and Rosario are on the fast track, they've got pitching coming. Terry doesn't make mistakes."

Those observations fit my view of the Twins' situation. Certainly the major league team has some holes. But the farm system is nearly ready to crank out some primo fixes for those holes. The Twins shouldn't — and I'm sure Ryan won't — be getting in the way of that process.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Signing the high school pitchers

First-round pick Kohl Stewart talks with veteran Mike
Pelfrey in the Target Field outfield during batting practice
Wednesday. Stewart signed with Minnesota Wednesday.
Early Wednesday morning, Peter Gammons tweeted this:

Team physician on amateur P abuse: "Every draft choice we examine has a shoulder or elbow red flag."

Stephen Gonsalves was suspended
for much of his high school season,
he says for trying to cover up
transgressions by teammates.
Later Wednesday, the Twins gambled more than $5 million on a pair of 18-year-old pitchers fresh out of high school.

First-round pick Kohl Stewart (No. 4 overall) got $4.5 million, and fourth-rounder Stephen Gonsalves $700,000 — well above the allotted slot for the 110th overall pick, but less than he figured to get earlier this year, when he was viewed as a likely first-round selection.

They are, without a doubt, talented arms. But they're immature arms, and there's a big gap between high school ball and the major leagues. Pitchers get hurt, and talented young pitchers are particularly at risk because it's so easy, and tempting, to overuse them.

On Wednesday Stewart and Gonsalves signed their contracts, shagged balls during batting practice, hung out in the clubhouse. Today they head to Fort Myers, Fla., to begin the long and difficult process of turning their talents into big league skills.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Contemplating Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey in action Tuesday: Six innings,
four earned runs, 87 pitches.
I tried out this jest on a couple of coworkers Tuesday before heading to Target Field for the White Sox-Twins game: Would I consume more Kramarczuk sausages than Mike Pelfrey gave up homers?

The sausages won that battle, two bratwurst to one second-inning long ball.

But my gibe at Pelfrey was a bit misplaced. Pelfrey does have a high ERA (6.11). But his home run count isn't that bad; Conor Gillaspie's shot was only the seventh Pelfrey's surrendered in more than 70 innings. That's half the gopher balls served up by Kevin Correia, and still fewer than the total yielded by Vance Worley.

Brandon Warne, in a piece posted before Tuesday's outing, quoted Pelfrey as saying that had he known how poor the results would be in the early going that he wouldn't have been as insistent on pitching so soon after last year's Tommy John surgery. Pelfrey was pitching in the majors less than 11 months after having a ligament replaced in his throwing elbow, and that's an extremely aggressive timeline.

Warne's piece credits Pelfrey with an FIP — Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that attempts to take defense out of the ERA equation — of 4.20, roughly in line with his career ERA entering the season (4.36). This suggests that, premature return or not, Pelfrey has been better than the sour ERA indicates, and I'll buy that.

What's stood out to me has been the lack of durability within games. Come the fifth or sixth inning, Pelfrey frequently holds the lead, but as he tries to get through the sixth or seventh inning, things go south on him.

This happened Tuesday, when he took the mound for the seventh inning carrying a 5-3 lead only to see the first two batters single. It was a sloppy inning for the Twins all told — Clint Thomas overran the second single for an error, and Casey Fien uncorked a pair of wild pitches — but when it was over, Pelfrey had been charged with a fourth earned run and deprived of a quality start.

Ron Gardenhire actually pulled Pelfrey a bit faster than usual Tuesday — 87 pitches; the previous four starts had been 110, 101, 97 and 112 pitches — but it wasn't quick enough to keep the Sox off the board.

Gardy may be trying to milk more outs from Pelfrey than he's capable of providing at this point, but that's justifiable on two counts. One, Pelfrey has to be extended if he's going to get past this "five and fly" point as he continues his rehab journey; two, every extra out a starter gets is one the bullpen doesn't have to get.

The first point is to Pelfrey's benefit more than the team's. The second is more to the team's benefit than to Pelfrey's.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ex-Twins watch: Kevin Slowey

Kevin Slowey was 39-21 with the Twins
through 2010. Then they tried to make him
a relief pitcher, and everything fell apart
for him. Now he's a Marlin, and his career
record is 41-35.
Kevin Slowey re-emerged this spring with the Miami Marlins, winning a rotation berth as a non-roster invitee under his former teammate, rookie manager Mike Redmond.

On Monday, Redmond said he was taking Slowey (2-6, 4.10) out of the rotation and making him the long reliever.

I know. That worked so well with the Twins in 2011, didn't it? Which makes it particularly amusing that part of Redmond's rationale is that "Slowey's done it before."

Yes, he has. Poorly. And his career, and the Twins starting rotation, shipwrecked on the decision.

Redmond's making room for an injured pitcher who's returning to the rotation, plus there's this: Slowey, who got off to a very strong start to the season (he had a 1.81 ERA after a May 5 start), has been pretty bad since (7.08 ERA in his last seven outings). The best of those outings was a seven-inning shutout emergency relief job in a 19-inning win June 8, which might be part of why Redmond thinks he's a good fit for long relief.

My guess, however — and Redmond hints at this in the above link — is that Slowey-to-the-pen is temporary. The Marlins may have an excess of starting candidates at the moment, but that's likely to change. Pretty good chance at least one starter gets hurt. Jose Fernandez, their best starter, is just 20; the Marlins may want to shut him down early. We're in the middle of June, and the July trading rumors are revving up; Ricky Nolasco is a pretty likely trade candidate.

Heck, a statistically oriented front office might want to target Slowey himself. His walk and strikeout rates are still very strong (1.6 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 4.57 K/BB). And the Marlins obviously aren't committed to him.

I can see Slowey in the back of a contender's rotation in the second half. And with a better team behind him, his record might perk up.

I've always liked Slowey, and was hoping to see him start against the Twins when they visit Miami next week. That now seems unlikely.

I've long thought Slowey and the Twins both mishandled things in 2011. I'd like to see him rebuild his career, and even with this current demotion, I think he's back on track.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whither Aaron Hicks?

Here's a tangent not taken in the composition of  this week's Monday print column, which was devoted to the happy thought that Bryon Buxton might reach the majors as early as the middle of next season -- the Mike Trout timeline, if you will -- the tangent being, what would that mean for Aaron Hicks?

Hicks, currently nursing a bad hamstring on the disabled list, has had an undeniably rough go of a rookie year. His batting average remains well south of the Mendoza Line, and the walks and power have not been strong enough to overcome that.  The Twins have been patient with him in part because of a lack of perceived options in center field, but if Buxton is on the Trout timeline, that lack will soon be filled.

I think Hicks is/will be a better hitter than he's shown so far, that he'll eventually establish himself at an offensive level high enough to be a regular center fielder. I don't know that he's going to hit enough to justify being a regular corner outfielder.

It is at the least an interesting field of speculation, the makeup of the future Twins outfield. Oswaldo Arcia in one outfield corner, Buxton in center ... and maybe Hicks in the other corner. Arcia isn't much of a gloveman, but with Buxton and Hicks out there, Arcia wouldn't have to cover a lot of ground.

But for that to happen, Hicks is gonna have to hit. And I now think he has less time to do so than everybody thought a few weeks ago.


More on Buxton compared to Trout: the Cedar Rapids paper provides this stat matchup for the two outfielders through 64 games with the Kernels. (Trout, as noted in the print column linked to above, played 81 games with Cedar Rapids in 2011; Buxton has 64 and may not get to 65. The Midwest League all-star game is Tuesday, and speculation has had him moving on to Fort Myers after that.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pic of the Week

A high school baseball game goes on in Colorado Springs
on Tuesday with the smoke from the Black Forest fire
as a backdrop.
I usually use an Associated Press photo here, but this one was floating around on Twitter last week. It apparently came from a Twitter user named Peter McEvoy and was taken during the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday at Pine Creek High School, which is (or was) just outside the evacuation area in the suburban sprawl of northern Colorado Springs.

Pine Creek got both games in. The school is now being used as a command center for firefighters, and the governor's helicopter has landed in the baseball field.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Plouffe back, Herrmann gone

It's back to the minors for catcher-outfielder
Chris Herrmann, who at least hit .462 during
his brief tenure this year. Last September
he hit .056 during his call-up.
Trevor Plouffe returns to the Minnesota lineup today, having apparently successfully rehabbed his latest injury.

And man, the Twins need something from their third baseman. The Jamey Carroll/Eduardo Escobar duo combined to go 10-for-88 in Plouffe's absence (this according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune).

That's a whole lot of nuthin', especially since the third baseman have been hitting leadoff quite a bit. It's a pretty good guess that the second baseman (mostly Brian Dozier, presumably) will be locked in at leadoff for a while now. The Twins simply don't have a good option there.

Meanwhile, the demotion of Chris Herrmann is interesting too, especially since it comes just in time for a Sam Deduno start. Herrmann got two starts behind the plate with the Twins; they both came with Deduno on the mound.

There's a certain logic behind having the third catcher handle Deduno. Deduno is easily the Twins most difficult starter to catch; he's wild, his ball moves a lot, the catcher winds up having to block a lot of pitches. Catching is a bruising job to start with; a guy like Deduno (or Francisco Liriano before him) makes it even more bruising.

If Joe Mauer catches Deduno, the odds increase that he's going to get nicked up and/or need a day out of the lineup; that's not good for the offense, especially when he's one of the few productive hitters. And not only do the Twins have the same "we need his bat" feeling about Ryan Doumit these days, but Doumit is simply not a good receiver. Deduno's too difficult a pitcher to pair with Doumit.

Which is, I'm sure, how Herrmann got paired up with Deduno. And now that pairing is sundered. Mauer's going to have to catch Deduno.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Notes, quotes and comment

Francisco Liriano wears a Negro Leagues throwback uniform
honoring the Homestead Grays during a recent start.
The Twins on Thursday released blogosphere idol Anthony Slama.

Anthony Slama is
29 and a free agent.
Slama put up dominant numbers at every stop in the minors (until this year, when he was awful), but the Twins never trusted his ability enough to give him a clean shot in the majors. They didn't see ERAs of 1.38 with 59 strikeouts in 39 innings; they saw mediocre velocity and mediocre command. They saw a pitcher who didn't get his outs on strikes, and they doubted that would work in the majors.

And -- not that seven innings is definitive proof of anything -- his limited opportunities in the majors matched the pessimistic view of his skills.

It should also be noted that Slama spent much, maybe most, of the 2011-12 seasons on the Triple A disabled list, which made it easier for the Twins to bypass him when looking for bullpen reinforcments. Why call up somebody who keeps getting hurt?

The Twins exposed Slama to the Rule 5 draft each of the past two offseasons, and nobody bit, suggesting that the Twins' take on him was matched by other organizations.


I'm rather surprised, given how many people seem to blame Ron Gardenhire/Rick Anderson for the Twins pitching woes, that this piece on Francisco Liriano's resurgence in Pittsburgh didn't get more play on my Twitter feed.

According to Howard Megdal, the Pirates pitching coach increased Liriano's hip turn early in his delivery. This supposedly both (a) improved his control and (b) increased the movement on his pitches.

Ray Searage, the Pittsbugh pitching coach, doesn't have the reputation or longevity of Anderson or Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach. But if he did indeed fix Liriano, he accomplished something the other two could not.


LaTroy Hawkins' next appearance will tie him with
Sparky Lyle for 24th on the all-time games pitched list.
Former Twin LaTroy Hawkins on Thursday made his 898th major league appearance, which ties him with former Twin Jim Kaat for 25th on the all-time games pitched list. Number 21 on the list: Eddie Guardado (908), who this weekend will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame.

Hawkins is second among active pitchers, trailing only Mariano Rivera. Rivera is fourth on the all-time list and the leader among right-handed pitchers. No. 1 is (former Twin) Jesse Orosco (1,252), followed by Mike Stanton and John Franco.

The Hawk, 40, pitches now for the Mets, his tenth team in the majors. He's never been in one place for more than two years except with the Twins (nine seasons). Presumably he'll pitch as long as anyone will have him.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Best man hits second. It's coming. It's here.

During Monday's FSN telecast of the Cedar Rapids Kernels game -- aka the Byron Buxton Show -- the studio boys spent some time talking about batting order position in the context of Buxton, who has been used strictly in the leadoff slot this year. Is he a leadoff man in the future, or a No. 3 hitter?

Tom Kelly's response combined common sense (basically, we don't really know yet what form his talents are going to take) and the outdated ("You don't want to hit him second").

Well. I suppose TK can't really be expected to be keeping up with always-evolving managerial strategies, but I'm comfortable with making this assertion: In five years, it will be as much the norm for teams to slot their best hitter second as it is now for teams to reserve their best reliever for save situations. And it will make a lot more sense.

There's resistance to this change, but it's already taking place, with the Twins and elsewhere. (Jim Margalus of the South Side Sox blog did a nice job this week dissecting the Hawk Harrelson-Steve Stone ridicule of the Blue Jays for hitting Jose Bautista second.) Ron Gardenhire went away from hitting Joe Mauer second for a couple of series, then switched back, presumably because he discovered that, yep, he was losing games while Brian Dozier got more at-bats than Mauer.

I don't know today who will be the Twins' best hitter five years from now. It might be Buxton. It might be Miguel Sano. Possibly it will be Oswaldo Arcia; it might even be a 35-year-old Mauer, although that seems unlikely given expected decline with age and the sheer talent coming up.

But I guarantee you: The expectation by then will be that the best hitter hits second.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rethinking the center field trades

Ben Revere couldn't catch up to this Oswaldo Arcia
double during Tuesday's game in Target Field.
The Twins entered last offseason with two more-or-less established leadoff-type center fielders in Denard Span and Ben Revere. By the end of the winter meetings, they had none.

And today, 61 games into the 2013 season, center field has to be seen as a significant failing of this roster. Aaron Hicks, the designated successor to Span as the center fielder and leadoff hitter, is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and bruised batting average (.180). Joe Benson, once seen as a key component of a future Minnesota outfielder, hit under .200 in Triple A and was waived. Darin Mastroianni, whose purpose figures to be as a fourth outfielder -- speed off the bench --sustained an ankle injury at the end of spring training that ultimately required surgery.

Which leaves the Twins limping along with Clete Thomas in center for the time being. And raises the question: If the Twins had it to do over, would they still make the same trades?

There were two trades involved, one with Washington, the other with Philadelphia. As it turns out, the Twins just finished a series in Washington and are playing the Phillies now. Let's review:

Span to Washington for Alex Meyer: Span is hitting .277/.327/.374 for the Nationals, which is slightly below his career slash line but well within the range of expectations. Washington manager Davy Johnson has raved about Span's defense all year; having seen the Nats afield for a few games, Johnson may be enthused about Span's glove because the rest of the team is indifferent to bad in the field.

Meyer, generally regarded as the Twins' top pitching prospect, just went on the disabled list with Double A New Britain with what is described as shoulder discomfort; he has a 3.69 ERA in the Eastern League with 73 strikeouts in 61 innings.

This is not a trade for the Twins to regret at this point. The Twins never expected a 2013 payoff from this deal. Meyer will someday, health permitting, provide a power arm at the front of the Minnesota rotation, and that promise made dealing Span -- a good but not great player -- worthwhile.

Revere to Philadelphia for Vance Worley and Trevor May: Ugh.

Revere and Worley have been disappointments. Revere is hitting .244/.287/.274 for the Phillies, which ain't getting it done; even Hicks has a higher OPS+ (a stat that attempts to take league and ballpark biases out of the hitting numbers.

At least Revere's still in the majors. Worley, who started on Opening Day for the Twins, is now in Triple A and not thriving there either (1-5, 7.21 with the Twins, 1-3, 4.74 with the Red Wings).

The wild card (with wild being the operative word) to this trade is May, a hard-thrower who is, like Meyer, pitching in Double A (3.92, 28 walks and 54 strikeouts in 64.1 innings). The ERA is down almost a run per game from 2012 in the same league, but the walk rate is a tick higher and the strikeout rate a bit lower. There's not a lot of real progress visible in the numbers.

This one's a harder call. Revere is a deeply flawed player (no power, no throwing arm), and the notion of exchanging him for a mid-rotation guy (Worley) and a prospect lottery ticket (May) was one the Twins really could not pass on last December.

But now ... well, it seems pretty obvious that Hicks would have benefited from a 2013 in Triple A, May isn't progressing as hoped, and Worley has regressed from previous levels. Of course, the Revere of 2013 isn't worth playing in the majors either.

Statistically, this trade has been an exchange of trash, not that I'm calling any of these players garbage. Right now, I think Revere has the best chance of being a worthwhile major leaguer, although I'm back to seeing him more as a fourth-outfielder type rather than a regular.

The Twins had good reason to make the trade when they did, and they can't undo it regardless. Maybe the possibility that May will figure out how to throw strikes, or that Worley can regain his ability to get outs, is high enough that the Twins will ultimately be happy they made the deal. I don't think the Twins crippled themselves by giving up Revere. I'm still unwilling to call it a mistake by the Twins.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hicks, Arcia and Thomas

Clete Thomas dives unsuccessfully for a ball last week
in Kansas City.
The Twins on Monday put rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks on the disabled list and called up fellow rookie Oswaldo Arcia.

This breaks from the customary pattern of waiting five to seven days to make a roster move and suggests that Hicks' hamstring injury is rather significant. Or, alternatively, that somebody involved in the decision is eager to get Hicks and his .179 batting average out of the lineup.

Either way, the move opens two questions: Who plays center field? and What will the Twins do with Arcia?

Aaron Hicks is hitting
.280 in June. Of
course, that's just
25 at-bats.
These are, unfortunately, separate questions. Arcia is, or will be given sufficient exposure to major league pitching, a quality hitter, but he's of limited use in the outfield. In his earlier stint with the big league team, his defensive metric numbers were even worse that those of Josh Willingham. While those may not be a truly accurate assessment of Arcia in the field, the Twins certainly wouldn't be doing their pitchers any favors by playing Arcia in center.

Nor, I suspect, will they by playing Clete Thomas there. I grumbled here when the Twins called Thomas up for a reserve role, because I don't know what he does well enough that you'd want to put him in the game to do it. I like the idea of giving him regular play even less than I like the idea of him as a backup.

But, just as somebody has to hit leadoff, somebody has to be stationed in center. Thomas is the most likely candidate, even though I think he's a center fielder in the same way that Wilkin Ramirez (still sidelined with his concussion) is a center fielder. Thomas and Ramirez are more mobile than Chris Parmelee and Willingham, but that doesn't really make them center fielders. Center field isn't easy; that's why Hicks remained in the lineup through two-plus months of hitting under .180.

Personally, I'd rather see Chris Herrmann in center than Thomas, even though I doubt he's ever played center as a professional. He's probably faster than Thomas, and off what we saw from Thomas last year, he can't be a worse hitter.

Oswaldo Arcia
strained his throwing
shoulder soon after
his demotion last
month, but did
play right field on
Sunday for
But the Twins are as likely to play Parmelee or Arcia in center as they are to install Herrmann, which is to say it isn't going to happen.

How to fit Arcia in the lineup is another issue. The Twins took a great deal of Internet criticism for demoting him last month with better stats than most on the team, but the criticism ignored the current reality: Pitchers weren't throwing him fastball strikes anymore, and he was stringing together noncompetitive at-bats, swinging at fastballs well out of the zone and unable to cope with offspeed strikes.

Under the principle that 2013 is less the issue than 2014 and beyond is, Arcia (just 22) has to play if he's going to be in the majors. Since Willingham, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau aren't leaving the lineup, getting Arcia his playing time means cutting out either Ryan Doumit or Parmelee. Doumit has been productive in recent days, and Parmelee hasn't hit well all year, so the choice seems pretty cut-and-dried for immediate purposes.

Of course, that assumes Arcia will stop getting himself out this time around. Parmelee hasn't hit, but he has given good at-bats.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sano and Rosario, moving on up

Miguel Sano during a spring training callup
to the major league side in March. He homered
with his last swing of the bat for the
Fort Myers Miracle on Sunday.
The Twins were swept in their rain-induced doubleheader Sunday, but the big news came between games, when it was announced that Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario were being promoted to Double-A New Britain.

Eddie Rosario's
slash line in
Fort Myers this
seasson: .328/
I've said repeatedly here that the single most important thing going on this year in the Twins organization was the task of turning Sano into a usable defensive third baseman and Rosario into a usable defensive second baseman. That the duo could hit was never in question. That they are being bounced up a level in just more than two months suggests that the glovework has progressed nicely.

Doug Mientkiewicz has already had a nice season in his rookie year as a manager, and it's not half over.

The Twins have been known to bring players straight to the majors from Double A, but I don't expect either Sano or Rosario to get a September "cup of coffee" this year, no matter how well they fare in New Britain. I don't think either has to go on the 40-man roster this winter — certainly Sano doesn't — and the Twins can save roster spots by not calling them up this year.

But this certainly puts Sano and Rosario in position to force the issue in 2014. Assuming — and it's reasonable to make this assumption, although hardly certain — that they do as well in Double A as they have in A ball, Sano and Rosario should do no worse than open 2014 in Rochester.

Considering the high level of talent Sano and Rosario possess, Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier would do well to step up their performances quickly.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pic of the Week

Josh Rosenblatt, the great-grandson of John Rosenblatt,
throws a ceremonial pitch Friday at the opening of
"Rosenblatt Infield at the Zoo," at the site of the
defunct Omaha ballpark. Most of the site is now parking
for the Henry Doorly Zoo.
John Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., hosted the College World Series for 61 years, 1950 through 2010, and it could have been the home to college ball's showcase for years to come.

But the NCAA wanted something bigger and fancier. It threatened to take the CWS away from Omaha unless it got what it wanted.

Rosenblatt was also home to a Triple A team (usually nicknamed the Royals) for years. But when the new park to appease the NCAA was being planned, the Triple A team didn't want the capacity the NCAA was insisting on.

So now Omaha has two significant baseball facilities. The bigger is used only for the College World Series and the smaller houses the Omaha StormChasers.

I haven't been to Omaha since Rosenblatt was abandoned. I am told by some College World Series aficionados I know that the new place is nice, but it lacks Rosenblatt's soul. I believe it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Feeling a draft: Day two

Casey Stengel said it in explaining why the Mets took a catcher with their first pick of the expansion draft more than 50 years ago: If you don't have a catcher, you have a lot of passed balls.

In the first 10 rounds of the draft, the Twins selected six pitchers, three catchers and a third baseman. A lot of pitchers was expected. A lot of catchers, not so much.

That the Twins plucked a catcher every third round (third round, Stuart Turner of Ole Miss; sixth round, Brian Navarreto of Arlington County Day School (Fla); ninth round, Mitchell Garver of New Mexico) is striking. Presumably the Twins deliberately sought catchers, probably because of a perceived organizational need.

Which is an interesting idea, since the Twins have five catchers on their 40-man major league roster (Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto), which is a lot. Of course, by the time any of Friday's three draftees are ready for the majors, Doumit will have been eligible for free agency and I suspect at least one of the Butera/Herrmann duo will have been moved along to another organization.

When we talk the future of Twins catching, the question of Mauer's future always arises. Will he remain primarily a catcher all his career? If not, when (and to where) will he be moved? And do the Twins have a potential replacement on hand? The only possible regular catcher I see in the Twins farm system right now is Pinto, who appears to have the bat but perhaps not the defensive chops for regular play.

If nothing else, drafting a handful of catchers on the second day of the draft gives the Twins a chance to, as Branch Rickey phrased it, find quality out of quantity.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Feeling a draft: Rounds one and two

Ryan Eades of LSU was the Twins second round selection
Thursday. He's represented by Scott Boras.
The Twins, like most organizations, have certain patterns in the amateur draft. The Twins generally use their high picks on high school position players -- particularly outfielders -- or college pitchers.

On Thursday, they broke that pattern with their first round pick for the second time in three years by taking Kohl Stewart, a high school pitcher. (In 2011 they took a college shortstop, Levi Michael.)

Stewart's selection has been expected literally for weeks; the Twins had long been seen around baseball as locked in on him. He's a 6-foot-3 righthander who was also a prime quarterback recruit who had signed with Texas A&M. But there's not likely to be any real difficulty getting Stewart to abandon pigskin for hardball. This is a high-risk, high-reward selection, but the risk is not in signability.

Stewart is, as an 18-year-old, less mature and refined than the two college pitchers (Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray) who went 1.1 and 1.3 Thursday evening. But he's also regarded as more athletic than either and with a ceiling no lower than the elder two.

A high school pitcher is generally riskier than a collegian, and the high school pitchers taken in the first round have at best a checkered history. Guys who throw with high velocity in their teens tend to get hurt. Stewart's physical risk is perhaps heightened by his Type 1 diabetes.

As for his stuff: He's described as having a mid-90s fastball, a slider in the mid 80s that he uses as his out pitch, and a changeup that the Twins say is his best secondary pitch. He also has a curve ball that still needs some development but is definitely distinct from his slider (many young pitchers trying to throw both wind up with two mediocre "slurves"). He's working on a hard sinker, which suggests that the fastball is a four-seamer. Durability within games is said to be an issue, which, again, is no surprise.

Command is also an issue, but as Keith Law said on Twitter, if he had plus command right now, he'd have been the No.1 overall pick, which no high school right-hander has ever been.

In the second round, the Twins reverted to type and took a college pitcher with the 43rd overall pick: Ryan Eades, a right-hander from Louisiana State. He had labrum surgery as a high-schooler. He's 8-1, 2.81 this year for LSU, 77 strikeouts and 30 walks in 96 innings, with super-regional play coming up this weekend against Oklahoma.

Presumably the Twins are confident the shoulder issue that turned him into a first baseman for his senior year in high school is no longer a factor. His fast ball is clocked in the low 90s and his best pitch is said to be his curve. To become an effective major league starter, he'll need a third pitch (probably a change up).

Between his slender frame (6-3, 198), his injury history and his limited repertoire, I suspect Eades may wind up in the bullpen. But the Twins will certainly try him as a starter first.

Rounds 3 through 10 are today; Rounds 11 through 40 are Saturday.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Feeling a draft: Morning edition

It's finally draft day.

There's been a lot of rumor and speculation, but when the draft gets going (6 p.m. CDT), I think everybody's going to play it straight. This is not a year to get clever. Houston will take either Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray, whoever they like more (or whoever will sign for less, which isn't a bad tiebreaker); the Cubs will take whichever one the Astros don't; Colorado will take Kris Bryant; and the Twins will take Kohl Stewart.

That's what the conventional wisdom says should happen, and what I expect will happen. If Houston tries to reprise last year's financial sleight of hand, it will be a mistake. This isn't as deep a draft class as last year's; there's no real need to save big money early in the draft to spend later, because the later picks aren't worth passing on the few top talents available.

That's how I read the available information, at least. The Astros may see things differently. And if they're out to prove how tricky they are, it's possible that one of the Appel/Gray duo will fall to the Twins. Pretty much everyone has the Twins zeroed in on Stewart, but it's not easy for me to imagine the Twins passing on one of the big two college arms to take the high schooler.

We'll find out tonight.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"42" and The High Hard One

"42," the Jackie Robinson movie, is still playing in Mankato. This surprises me; when I went, on its opening night in mid-April, there weren't two dozen people in the theater and I figured the majority of them were high school or college baseball players. That's not much of a target audience.

And yet, here we are six weeks later, and the movie's still hanging around.

The outline of the Robinson saga is no secret: Branch Rickey, the Mahatma of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decides to challenge the unofficial color barrier and selects Robinson as the pioneer. Robinson breaks through the opposition and the pressure and becomes a star. It's one significant step in the civil rights movement.

Much of the movie is set around Robinson vs. the racist villains. Some of the villains — such as the southern sheriff seen ordering Robinson off the field in an exhibition game — are anonymous. Many of them — including some of Robinson's fellow Dodgers — are not.

Let me point out that the movie is not always in agreement with the historical record. Eddie Stanky, for example. Stanky is depicted in the movie as at worst ambivalent about Robinson, unwilling to go in on the petition to keep Robinson off the team. In reality, he was firmly opposed to Robinson, and told Robinson so to his face. (It is also true that, as shown in the movie, Stanky came to Robinson's defense during the Ben Chapman incident.)

I had no issue with the depictions of Kirby Higbe and Dixie Walker, two southern-bred Dodgers seen in the film as firmly opposed to Robinson's presence. That is accurate. Walker, years later, would acknowledge that he was wrong and regret his opposition.

Then there's Higbe, a South Carolinian whose opposition to Robinson got him traded a couple weeks into the season.

Some 20 years after Robinson's debut — 1967, still in the midst of the civil rights debate; Martin Luther King Jr. had not yet been assassinated — Higbe's memoirs were published. The High Hard One is a fascinating work, clearly in Higbe's voice but also heavily ghostwritten by Martin Quigley. I had read excerpts from it before, but not the work in its entirety until the past week, when my wife found a copy for me. It is in turns hilarious and heartwrenching, bitter and sweet, full of pride and regrets.

The chapter on Robinson is deeply conflicted, marked with a notable obtuseness to the realities of black life in the South and the evils of segregation, and by a stubborn refusal to admit being on the wrong side:

If I could have looked ahead and seen all the change that was coming, I think I still would have done what I did. I was brought up a Southerner, and I was brought up to stand by what you said and believed in even if you were the last one standing there.

And on the other hand, a few paragraphs later:

Jackie proved himself a big-league ballplayer, and there is no politics that can help a man on the field ... If it had been any other player than Jackie Robinson — say, one with less talent and hustle — the color line would not have been broken quite so cleanly or easily. His job was to be the first Negro ballplayer in the major leagues and to show the way for the others. He wanted that more than anything else, and he got the job done.

I don't think "easily" is an accurate word, but, again, Higbe had little difficulty overlooking the abuse and threats that shadowed Robinson in particular and blacks in general.

Higbe, who died in 1985 at the age of 70, had a strong right arm and a grade-school education. He was ill-prepared for the change Jackie Robinson represented. I can sympathize with Higbe's dilemma in 1947 without agreeing with the stance he took.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Notes, quotes and comment

Clete Thomas' slash
line with the Twins
in 2012: .143/.172/
.286, with 16 strikeouts
in 29 plate appearances.

The Twins will fill the 25-man roster spot they opened after Sunday's game with Clete Thomas, an outfielder who got some time with the Twins last year after the Tigers waived him. To make room on the 40 for Thomas, they designated Tyler Robertson for assignment.

I'm not impressed with this move. Remember, it is my belief that everything the Twins do should have 2014 (or even further out) as the primary concern. Thomas is 29 and nothing more than a marginal player. There is no long-term purpose to giving him playing time. The only immediate benefit to giving him PT would be from sitting Aaron Hicks against righties, and that would be counterproductive to the long term goals.

Thomas has had a very productive April and May for Rochester (.296/.385/.576), but there's nothing in his track record that says he's that good.

Not that the possibility of losing Robertson concerns me very much. He's left-handed and breathing, a combination that gives him a chance. He's also a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) who isn't consistent with his breaking ball, a combination that wrecks chances.
Tyler Robertson
opened the season
with the Twins but
was sent out after
two appearances.

He had a 3.05 ERA in Rochester, which looks OK, but he walked 16 men in 20.2 innings, which is definitely not OK.

The Twins now have 10 days to dispose of Robertson's contract. Somebody may claim him on waivers — he is, after all, left-handed and breathing — but I wouldn't be surprised if he clears waivers and remains in the Twins system.


Joe Mauer returned to the No. 2 spot in the batting order during the series with Seattle, and Ron Gardenhire indicated that he'll stay there because he gets more RBI chances as the No. 2 hitter.

Right decision, wrong reason.

Consider the three guys hitting in front of Mauer on Sunday: Hicks (on-base percentage .246); Pedro Florimon (.331, which is much better than I expected); and Eduardo Escobar (.274). Drop Mauer to the third hole, and the three hitters are probably going to be Florimon, Escobar and either Hicks or Brian Dozier (.276).

Not a lot of RBI opportunities either way.

No, the gain from hitting Mauer second is more plate appearances for Mauer, Josh Willingham, etc. as the middle of the lineup moves up, and fewer plate appearances for one of the outmakers.


Reports Sunday evening had two prominent collegiate pitching prospects in this week's draft field testing positive for a banned stimulant. One of them is Jonathan Gray, the Oklahoma right-hander generally seen as one of the top two prospects in the field; the other, Aaron Blair of Marshall, is No. 41 in Baseball America's draft list, which would put him high in the second round.

BA doesn't expect the test results to affect either man's draft status.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Notes from the weekend

Chris Colabello plays first base on Saturday. The
indy-league veteran is going back to Triple A.
The Twins sent Chris Colabello back to Triple A Rochester after Sunday's game, with a corresponding move to add someone to the 25-man active roster coming on Tuesday (off day today).

The estimable Seth Stohs suggested on Twitter that the addition might be Deibinson Romero, a third baseman not currently on the 40-man roster. I think an easier solution to the riddle is Wilkin Ramirez coming off the seven-day concussion disabled list.

Colabello was just 2-for-15 with the big league team, both hits singles, with no walks. It's one of those things — if he were in the Brewers' organization, he'd likely get a chance at regular play (he's got to be a better hitter than the shortstops they're playing at first base), but with the Twins he's behind Justin Morneau and Chris Parmelee and Ryan Doumit at first base and designated hitter.


Joe Mauer has caught just one game since the 14-inning affair on Tuesday in Milwaukee. Chris Herrmann caught on Wednesday, Doumit on Thursday, Mauer on Friday, Doumit on Saturday and Sunday.

The Twins have played 54 games, exactly one-third of the schedule, and Mauer has started 35 games behind the plate, which means he's on pace to catch 105 games — a good bit short of the 120 that Terry Ryan was talking about coming into the season.


Scott Diamond's six shutout innings Sunday wasn't quite as impressive as it appears on first glance. A top-notch Diamond start has more than twice as many ground balls as fly balls. On Sunday (according to Baseball Reference) he had 9 FB and 8 GB.

He did tie his season highs for strikeouts and swinging strikes, with three and 10 respectively, and it was his first quality start since May 7. I don't know if he's solved what was wrong in his previous four starts or if Sunday's results are more because Seattle's lineup isn't particularly good.

Diamond's 4.66 ERA this year is considerably worse than his 3.58 in 2012, yet among the Twins pitchers with more than two starts, it's still the second best.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pic of the week

Kansas City Royals catcher George Kotteras (left) and
Texas Rangers relief pitcher Robbie Ross participate
in a cow-milking contest before Saturday's game.
This is no bull: A lot of players would be udderly cowed by such a pre-game activity, so I suspect the public relations department had to herd up a couple of participants.

OK, I guess I've milked this one for all its worth. I'll put it out to pasture and won't try to squeeze out any more.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Feeling a draft: Five days to go

Jonathan Gray has emerged this spring as a prime candidate
to be the first overall pick in the MLB draft next week. Some
mock drafts say the Twins will have a chance to take him
with the fourth overall pick.
The baseball draft isn't as intensely anticipated as the NFL draft or even the NBA draft — and for good reason, since the high picks in those drafts will go directly into starting lineups and the high picks in the MLB draft will go directly to the minor leagues.

But for those of us who care, there are plenty of mock drafts to mimic that speculation.

The consensus of the most prominent baseball mock drafters has the Twins selecting Kohl Stewart, a high school right-handed pitcher from Texas. Stewart is also a prime football recruit (a quarterback signed with Texas A&M), and, apparently, a Type 1 diabetic. But he's considered signable (if he does go to A&M to play quarterback, he'll be stuck behind the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and he'll have turned down several million for the privilege), and the Twins don't seem too concerned about the diabetes.

The mock drafters don't agree on how the Twins will get to Stewart.

Keith Law of ESPN apparently believes the Houston Astros (with the first pick) will attempt to reprise last summer's budgetary strategy and use the first pick on a cheaper sign in order to save draft pool share for later rounds. (I say apparently because I'm too cheap to pop for Insider status on and thus don't have direct access to Law's reasoning.)

Jim Callis of Baseball America thinks the Astros will play it straight and select one of the two college pitchers generally deemed the prizes of this draft class, Mark Appel of Stanford or Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma.

If Law's right on the Astros' plan, the Twins will have a choice between Stewart and Gray. Off what I know — and I don't know as much as the Twins scouting staff does — it's hard for me to imagine the Twins passing on Gray if he falls to No. 4.