Friday, June 28, 2019

Notes, quotes and comment

Jorge Polanco won the runoff election and is the starting shortstop for the American League in the All Star game. He becomes the first Twin elected to the starting lineup since Joe Mauer in 2013.

And good for him. I wouldn't go so far as to claim he's the best shortstop in the league -- put him on the same team as Francisco Lindor or Carlos Correa, and Polanco is playing a different position -- but he's obviously having a great season, without the injuries of the other two. If you think the All-Star Game is for the guys having the best first half, he belongs.

I expect to expound on this subject for the Monday print column, but in my mind Polanco has established himself as the best homegrown shortstop in Minnesota Twins history. That's a low bar to clear, and there may be better shortstops coming through the system, but Polanco is certainly no slouch.


Rough loss on Thursday: 18 innings, the entire bullpen deployed, and probably a roster move or two ahead. 

Luis Arraez was in left field with Eddie Rosario sidelined by his ankle sprain, and I suspect that Rosario would have caught the second-inning double that brought in the first Tampa Bay run. Catch that ball, and who knows what the final outcome is.


Outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. was indeed called up in the wake of Rosario's injury. But it wasn't Rosario who went on the injured list.

It was La Tortuga, Willians Astudillo, with a strained oblique. It's his second stint on the IL.


Some news about an #OldFriend and one of the most beloved Twins in recent years, Eduardo Escobar:

On Wednesday, Escobar went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI in the Diamondbacks’ win over the Dodgers in Phoenix. After the game he got on a private plane provided by the Dbacks team owners and flew 1,972 miles to Miami. The reason: his two sons, 11-year-old Eduardo Escobar Jr., and 8-year-old Raul Escobar had an immigration hearing in Miami yesterday morning in which each of them were granted their green cards.

One successful hearing and, presumably, a lot of family hugs later, Escobar got back on the plane and flew 2,585 miles to San Francisco. He made it back by game time, entered the game as a replacement at third base in the sixth inning and went 1-for-2, singling in a run in the ninth inning.
Escobar has 18 homers so far this year for the D'backs with a .284 batting average. It's not like the Twins are in need of his power, but he's having a good season, and he's Eduardo Escobar, and I miss rooting for him. I'm glad he's got his kids in the States.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Running low on outfielders

The Twins won again Wednesday, and they won with a makeshift outfield for much of the game.

After Eddie Rosario -- playing center with Byron Buxton on the IL and Max Kepler sidelined by a swollen elbow -- sprained his ankle on first base, they sported an outfield of Luis Arraez in left, Jake Cave in center and Willians Astudillo in right. (Late in the game Kepler came in to play center, with Arraez returning to third base, Astudillo moving to left and Cave to right.)

While in right field, Astudillo made a savvy throw behind the runner to help mute a Tampa Bay threat. Man can play some baseball.

Still, things are desperate enough that Nelson Cruz was reminding the manager that he still has his glove. I'm pretty sure that Rocco Baldelli wants to avoid that, however.

All of which led to this early morning -- it is a nooner today, after all -- tweet from a national reporter:

No word at that point on how the roster spot was being opened. My guess: Either Rosario is going on the injured list or they're dropping back to 12 pitchers. 

Baldelli downplayed Rosario's injury immediately after the game, and if the Twins really think he'll be good to go in a day or two, they would want to avoid sidelining him. But it's more likely that they will take their time and let the ankle heal rather than push him and risk a more severe second sprain. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More like it

When the Twins defeated Tampa Bay on June 2, Minnesota was 40-19.

A bit more than three weeks later, the Twins beat Tampa Bay again. Minnesota's record is now 51-27.

When 11-8 is what passes for a slump, that's a sign of a pretty solid team. That's a .578 winning percentage. That translates into 93 wins over the course of 162 games. In a slump.

The Twins still have the AL's best record. They still have the largest divisional lead. They still have not lost more than two games in a row.

Yes, the past three weeks have been a bit of a struggle compared to the first two months. Forty-and-19 is a pretty high standard.

In my estimation, the fall-off has been more about the lineup than the pitching. The "bombas" aren't as common and there have been a few games in which the fielding has been erratic. And yes, there have been a few clunkers from the pitching staff.

But Tuesday's win was encouraging. The Twins racked up last year's Cy Young winner, Blake Snell. Kyle Gibson ate some innings. Word was that Byron Buxton's wrist is progessing, and the Twins are simply a much better team with him in the lineup.

The one downside is that Max Kepler left after getting hit by a pitch. With Buxton and Marwin Gonzalez already on the IL, this raises the possibility of a few days of an outfield of Eddie Rosario, Jake Cave and Willians Astudillo.

I love me some La Tortuga, but not as an outfield staple.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Cody Allen signing

The Twins over the weekend agreed to a minor-league deal with Cody Allen, who not that long ago was the closer for the Cleveland Indians, and a good one: Allen is the franchise's all-time saves leader.

But last year his ERA mushroomed to 4.70, and the Tribe made no real attempt to retain him in free agency. He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Angels, and pitched so poorly there that the Halos released him a week ago.

Supposedly the Twins have some ideas to fix Allen. Off his numbers this year, there's a lot to fix. He pitched 23 innings for the Angels, with nine homers allowed and 20 walks. Twenty!

He also struck out 29 in those 23 innings. That suggests to me that he still has his accustomed velocity and movement; he "just" doesn't the command of it. Too many pitches out of the strike zone, too many in the fat part of the strike zone. And, by process of elimination, not nearly enough on the edges of the strike zone, where the outs are.

I don't expect anything from this signing, but I didn't expect anything out of Martin Perez, and he's been a pretty servicable back-of-the-rotation guy. Signing Allen to a minor league deal is different than signing him as the Angels did. If he finds his old form in Pensacola, great. If not, no damage done.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

The Twins merely split with the Royals on the road. It wasn't a losing road trip, but the Royals are not a strong club, and going 2-2 against them is mildly disappointing.

So yes, the Twins continue to be in a slump, and Cleveland has narrowed the margin to eight games. It's worth noting that

  • Minnesota still has the best record in the American League and
  • An eight-game lead before July is pretty substantial.

If this is the worst stretch of baseball the Twins have this year, they'll be fine.


The Monday print column is on a piece of Twins bullpen history from my teens and early 20s -- Gene Mauch and his eagerness to lay a lot of innings on a single relief pitcher.

A lot of that was Mike Marshall, who pitched for Mauch in Montreal and in Minnesota. Marshall bounced around a lot -- if he wasn't going good, teams were quick to decide life was easier without him around -- and he really only had success with two managers, Mauch and Walter Alston in Los Angeles.

There's a story about Marshall and Alston ... The Dodgers traded for Marshall, and he shows up for spring training, and Alston sits down with Marshall to discuss how to use him. Marshall was or had been a grad student at Michigan State -- his career introduced a lot of fans to the word "kineisology," the study of body movement -- and Marshall started giving Alston a lecture on pitching and why he could pitch everyday. Alston halted him.

"You're talking over my head," Alston supposedly said. "Let's leave it at this: You tell me when you can't pitch, and I'll use you any other day."

Marshall pitched 106 times and threw 208 innings. There have been a few relievers who won MVP awards. Marshall in 1974 might have been the only one who really deserved it.

But that was a different era. I'll guarantee you: Mike Marshall didn't throw a mid-90s fastball, as Taylor Rogers does.

Friday, June 21, 2019

A team slump

The Twins still have not lost more than two in a row, but there is no denying that they are in a bit of a slump right now. Lose two, win one, lose two -- that's not high-quality ball.

Yes, that's probably a factor. But Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi didn't participate in that 17-inning affair, and they both had short, bullpen-sapping starts.

Speaking of which, Sean Poppen, who picked up most of the innings Gibson didn't on Wednesday, was sent back to Rochester on Thursday. Kohl Stewart took the roster spot and had to work four innings Thursday, so he'll be gone soon too.

At least the primary relievers are rested after that Tuesday marathon. Ryne Harper threw two-thirds of an inning on Wednesday, and that's it. Poppen and Stewart handled the rest of the bullpen chores.

Meanwhile  ... Mitch Garver, who caught all 17 innings Tuesday, left Thursday's game early. The Twins announced it as a heel problem, but Garver sounded postgame like it's the ankle -- the same one that put him on the injured list a few weeks ago. I think it's reasonable to connect the dots. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Notes, quotes and comment

The Twins roster continues to churn:

  • IF-OF Marwin Gonzalez goes on the IL with a strained hamstring
  • RHP Blake Parker goes on the family emergency list
  • LHP Aldaberto Mejia goes on the 60-day injured list, which removes him from the 40-man roster.

  • C-IF-OF Willians Astudillo is recalled
  • RHP Sean Poppen has his contract selected and is brought up.

Poppen, a starter who has split 2019 between Double A Penascola and Triple A Rochester and been pretty dominating in Triple A, wound up pitching four innings Wednesday night, throwing 70 pitches. Three were scoreless; the other was ... not. He showed good stuff, but command and control were obvious issues. At least he ate innings and saved the rest of the bullpen after the Tuesday marathon,

If there was an obvious bullpen arm to call up I would expect the Twins to do so, because Poppen's not going to be available for a while.


It was a weird lineup Rocco Baldelli threw out there Wednesday, almost certainly because the Tuesday game was so long.

Luis Arraez played shortstop. Astudillo played second. Jake Cave was in center, with Max Kepler in right. And, of course, Mitch Garver was nowhere to be seen after catching 17 innings.

The outfield alignment prompted some pregame Twitter back-and-forth between Aaron Gleeman and me until I broke it off to get back to the job I was getting paid to do. We agree that Kepler is the superior centerfielder, and Gleeman noted that Baldelli had treated him as such in the few previous game in which one started in center and the other in right.

I think the difference is fatigue, or perhaps more accurately the prevention of fatigue. Kepler was supposed to get a day off on Tuesday, but he wound up getting four at-bats after the Gonzalez injury. Right field is easier than center.

My sense of the Wednesday lineup was that the priority was: Let's not cripple anybody. Baldelli's own playing career ran aground on unique fatigue issues, and one of his managerial themes has been conservation of energy.


Arraez continues to impress in his limited major league exposure. On Wednesday he went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and played a clean game at short, by which I mean no errors.

He's no shortstop, of course; he was there because Jorge Polanco played 17 innings the night before and both Ehire Adrianza and Gonzalez are on the injured list.

LaVelle Neal predicted on Twitter during that game that Arraez would be the second baseman and leadoff hitter next season. I think he's more likely to be traded in the next few weeks for pitching help. If he isn't, he might be the second baseman by August, considering how Jonathan Schoop appears to have lost his command as a hitter of the strike zone.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Notes, quotes and comment

What. A. Game.

From a process-trumps-results point of view,  this Tuesday night/Wednesday morning marathon re-emphasizes this reality: The Twins are toe-to-toe competitive with anybody.

The Red Sox are pretty much the same team that won 108 games and then cruised to the World Series title last season, and they are feeling pretty good about themselves. They and the Twins have now played 26 innings against each other, and the Sawx haven't established their superiority.

From a results point of view, getting the W is pretty darn good too. The Twins are more than 70  games into the season and still have not lost three in a row.

I am particularly impressed with Michael Pineda's start. One should not be surprised when Jose Berrios shuts down a lineup. Pineda is not Berrios. But he allowed just one run to a quality lineup in six innings. And then the much-derided bullpen held Boston to two runs in 11 innings, which is pretty good too.


Give Tony Oliva and Rod Carew credit. They made it though the whole game.


Mitch Garver caught all 17 innings. As displeased as I was when he got picked off third, that is worth some applause.

I don't think he's playing today.


Roster stuff: Byron Buxton and Ehire Adrianza went on the disabled list Tuesday. Buxton's wrist, described for three days as day-to-day after a hit-by-pitch, apparently didn't react well after a round of swings in the batting cage. Adrianza is described as having "abdominal issues."

So Jake Cave and Luis Arraez are back up. Cave played all 17 innings in center field (and went 0-6), and Arraez scored the winning run.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A better loss

A loss is a loss, and the Twins lost Monday, only the fifth time this season that they've lost two games in a row. They haven't lost three straight so far. I won't be surprised or dismayed if that streak ends tonight, and I won't regard it as the beginning of a collapse.

But this loss was better than Sunday's, for several reasons:

  • It came against a quality team (Boston) that is playing well
  • The Twins played cleanly afield, a welcome sight after several days of sloppiness

They just ran up against a good pitcher (Rick Porcello) having one of the better games he'll have this season.

On Sunday we saw a lot of Minnesota at-bats that ended with frustrated body language. Not so Monday. Porcello didn't make as many mistakes as the Twins are accustomed to seeing.

My view: The Twins lost on Sunday. The Red Sox won on Monday. In my eyes, there's a difference.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Notes from the weekend

The Twins didn't exactly dominate the Royals over the weekend, but they won two of three and had plenty of baserunners in the Sunday loss. It wouldn't have taken much more at the plate or in the field to flip that result.

Sunday's loss puts the Twins at 47-23 -- still, by percentage points, the best record in the American League and 10 games ahead of the second-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Minnesota's magic number is 83.


Weekend roster move: Fernando Romero back down to Triple A after a poor outing on Friday, Zach Littell back up. Just another round of bullpen musical chairs.


The Joe Mauer tribute weekend appears to have gone well. I took note of this Twitter exchange:

My recollection from the past is that Neal has been a bit cool about Mauer's Hall of Fame chances. I suspect he's heard support for Mauer from enough BBWAA colleagues in the past few months. Mauer has long been more highly regarded outside his home market than in, something I blame on KFAN and a couple of dunderheaded metro columnists.


You may have noticed Martin Maldonado, the Kansas City catcher, wearing a blue tie over his chest protector Sunday. (The names he wrote on it are those of his father, brother and friends, presumably all fathers.) He wasn't the only one. Einar Diaz of Pittsburgh -- who entered his game late -- had one also. And down in Rochester, Willians Astudillo:

All the same solid light blue with an identical logo.


Plenty of rumors Sunday about one particular potential Twins trade target, Madison Bumgarner. 

I don't think a starting pitcher is as big a need for the Twins as is the bullpen, and I doubt that either Martin Perez or Michael Pineda are good bullpen candidates. Bumgarner is certainly a name, but his pitching the past few years hasn't matched his reputation. There is a theory that getting out of the morass the Giants are stuck in and onto a team with October ambitions will fan his competitive fires.

Bumgarner's a free agent after the season, and he's expected to be dealt. We'll see, obviously, where he lands.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Understood but still unfair

The Twins announced a roster move shortly before their win Thursday afternoon:

Ryan Eades had pitched twice for the big league club, a total of 3.2 innings with no runs allowed. He wasn't nearly as effective as a 0.00 ERA would suggest, but he had done nothing to get booted off the roster.

He got the ax because:

  • Blake Parker is struggling;
  • Taylor Rogers has been hampered by a sore back; and
  • the Twins wanted a fresh arm in the bullpen, and Eades, who faced seven hitters on Wednesday in large part because Parker couldn't record an out, was the obvious choice to go.

Eades never figured to be on the roster long term anyway. Still, he did his job, Parker didn't do his, and it's Eades who pays for Parker's struggles. Understandable, but unfair.

Fernando Romero, who replaced Eades on the roster, faced four hitters in the eighth inning Thursday with a big lead and retired none of them. Matt Magill wound up pitching two innings to mop it up. So expect another bullpen shuffle today, with Romero returning to Triple A.

If that happens, at least Romero's demotion will be justified by his recent performance.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

In pursuit of 100

The Twins committed five errors Wednesday night. Four of the runs allowed by Minnesota were unearned. So, yeah, they lost that game more than the Mariners won it.

And in terms of the standings, it doesn't matter. Cleveland lost, and the Twins still have a double-digit lead in the AL Central. 

On another level, it stings. I've already accepted that the Twins will win this divisional title. That's a given, even if the magic number is a lofty 86 -- darn low for mid June, to be sure, but indictative of how much of the season remains. 

What's of interest to me at this point is the pursuit of history. The Twins have been in Minnesota since 1961. They have exactly one season of 100 wins (1965). I have no real memory of that season. 

I have seen the Twins win two World Series, four divisional titles in the old AL West and six divsonal titles in the current AL Central. I've seen them play two Game 163 to break a tie in the standings and I've seen them win a wild-card berth. I haven't seen a 100-win team. 

I want to. And Wednesday night didn't help that cause.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Perez, May and Magill

A win is a win; the standings don't add or deduct for style. That said, the Twins are fortunate they were playing a bad team Tuesday, because it really was easy to see them losing that one.

Start with Martin Perez. In some ways, the lefty wasn't all that bad. He struck out seven in his five innings, and more than 62 percent of his pitches were strikes.

On the other hand, he walked three, threw a first pitch strike to only 11 of the 24 men he faced, served up a fat cutter to a top-notch slugger with two on, and kept handing the lead back to the Mariners.

Four runs in five innings is ... not a quality start. Perez hasn't had one of them since May 17. In his three starts since then, his ERA has ballooned from 2.89 to 3.97. (The Twins have gone 2-1 in those three starts anyway.)

Close the carping with Trevor May, who found himself on the mound in the ninth inning for the first time in more than a month. He created a jam right away, allowing singles to the first two Mariners hitters, and needed a generous umpire's strike call to get his first out -- after which it was pop up and fly ball and and game over.

May thus became the sixth Twin to record a save this season: Nine for Blake Parker, six for Taylor Rogers, and one each for Ryne Harper, Trevor Hildenberger, Mike Morin and May. The roleless bullpen rolls on.

The use of May as the closer du jour was a mild surprise. Rogers, clearly the Twins' best reliever, hadn't pitched since Thursday. Parker, frequently if erroneously called the Twins closer by the FSN broadcasters, hadn't pitched since Friday.

But manager Rocco Baldelli called on May for his first real save opportunity of the season.  Rogers, it turned out, was unavailable with a stiff back; if anybody inquired postgame why Parker was passed over, the reply wasn't tweeted out.

Baldelli did address Matt Magill -- who retired all three men he faced and got credit for the win -- during the televised portion of his postgame scrum, praising the righty's stuff.

It was Magill's first good outing in some time. In his previous three appearances he allowed 10 runs while getting just four outs and inflated his ERA from 1.35 to 6.60.  Those are the kind of results that got Hildenberger shipped back to Triple A, and they had me surmising a few days ago that Magill was pitching himself off the roster.

Not so. I don't know where Magill ranks in Baldelli's bullpen hierarchy these days, and that hierarchy probably changes for no discernible reason anyway, but he got the ball in the eighth inning of a one two-run game Tuesday. He clearly remains in Baldelli's mix.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Good-bye, Tyler Jay

The Twins in a sense closed the book Monday on a failed draft strategy by selling Tyler Jay to the Cincinnati Reds.

Jay was the Twins' first round pick in 2015, number six overall, a lefty who had been a dominant reliever for Illinois. At the time, it was thought that he could be very fast to the majors, and since the Twins were contending for a wild-card spot that year, there was some appeal to getting a bullpen reinforcement.

Didn't happen. Jay spluttered in high A out of the pen. Perhaps, had he dominated immediately in Fort Myers as he had in the Big Ten, the fast-track would have materialized. Or maybe not.

The Twins organization, then led by Terry Ryan, was conducting a multi-year experiment of sorts by drafting college relievers in an effort to add velocity to their pitching inventory. Some they kept as relievers; some they tried to turn into starters. Jay was one of the latter group. Starting didn't take. He developed arm problems and barely pitched at all in 2017. The new front office ended the Jay-as-starter approach, but returning to the bullpen didn't improve his pitching either.

The Twins really didn't get much out of the college relievers emphasis. Tyler Duffey -- another reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever -- might be establishing a place for himself in the Minnesota bullpen. Jake Reed and Sam Clay are still in the organization but haven't gotten berths on the 40-man roster yet, and I expect they're destined for minor-league free agency.

J.T. Chargois, Luke Bard and John Curtiss have become up-and-down guys in other organizations. Nick Burdi is on the Pirates injured list and may be having a career crisis. And a bunch of others -- Michael Cedarroth, Mason Melotakas, Zack Jones -- from the 2012-2014 drafts are simply out of baseball.

The Twins moved Jay along to another organization on the same day that Seth Stohs reported that a handful of players had been released out of extended spring training. They're making room in the minors for the new crop of draftees. In Jay's case, his roster spot in Double-A will go to somebody in A ball, making room for a draftee or extended spring pitcher.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

The Twins went 6-4 on their just-completed road trip. That record matched my expectation in total, although in a different shape. I figured a split with the Rays and taking two-of-three in both Cleveland and Detroit.

A 6-4 road trip is quite acceptable, even if it feels like they gave away one of the games in Cleveland and even if it feels as if a quality team should never lose to the Tigers.

Now the schedule gets a bit easier, with home series against the Mariners and Royals before an intriguing series with the Red Sox. Boston isn't playing up to last year's level -- which was a very high level indeed -- but we're a week away from that matchup.


Roster moves since I last posted: Devin Smeltzer was returned to Triple A Friday, with Michael Pineda coming off the injured list and allowing his customary three runs (albeit in just five innings rather than his usual six).

And the slumping Willians Astudillo was optioned out Saturday, with Ryan Eades giving the Twins an eighth bullpen arm and making his major league debut later that day. Here's what I wrote about him in 2014 after seeing him in Cedar Rapids.

What I actually remember of him on that trip came the next day, when he and other Kernels pitchers were supposed to be charting pitches behind home plate. There was a pop-up corn-on-the-cob stand on the concourse, and Eades spent a good part of the game chowing down on the roasted corn. (So did I; it was good stuff.)

I'm not thrilled with Astudillo's demotion, but I have to admit that

he hasn't hit since returning from his injured list and
Ehire Adrianza has.

Add in the reality that Adrianza is out of options, and it was a pretty easy call; if you have to go to 13 pitchers -- and I still hate conceding that -- Astudillo had to be the one cut.


Best wishes to David Ortiz, shot in the back Sunday in his native Dominican Republic. As I write this, he is reportedly out of surgery and his life not in jeopardy.

I don't want to call that good news, though. Nothing good about this event at all.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Notes, quotes and comment

Reports Thursday night had Dallas Keuchel agreeing to a one-year contract with Atlanta.

I have an easier time understanding the league-wide reluctance to sign Craig Kimbrel than the reluctance to sign Keuchel, but Kimbrel got the richer multi-year deal, Neither, I'm sure, is exactly happy with the outcome.


A beat writer opines:

The conclusion is correct: The Twins do need more high-leverage arms. 

But if Rogers gets a couple days off after each of those 34-pitch outings, so that he's doing it twice a week -- and doing nothing else -- it's doable. The problem will be if the Twins decide they just have to use him again tonight for a couple batters. And one issue with Rogers is that he is the sole lefty in the bullpen.


A former bullpen ace opines:

That came after Parker's Wednesday outing, when he entered in the seventh with a two-run lead and gave up three runs on two homers.

Parker is not exactly being used in random innings, of course. He's being used in high-leverage innings in the final third of games, rather than being held back for the ninth only, a la Joe Nathan. The same is true of Rogers.

The underlying problem, as the Hayes tweet notes, is that the Twins lack sufficient high-leverage arms -- guys Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson can trust in game situations. Parker was pitching in the seventh on Wednesday because it was a high-leverage situation. It was a high leverage situation becaue Martin Perez didn't pitch effectively enough long enough, and Trevor May had to get him out of a sixth-inning jam. And Baldelli was using Parker then in hopes that he'd hold the fort in the seventh and the hitters would widen the lead and allow the less-trusted arms to finish.

The Twins had four leverage arms at the start of the season. Trevor Hildenberger is back in the minors trying to figure it out. May has fought his command all year. Baldelli is down to Parker and Rogers, and that's not enough.


Side note: It has been more than a week since Mike Morin last pitched (May 30). Something's odd about that.


One more tweet. this one from a different beat writer:

And the Twins still have not lost more than two in a row this year. It's not like this team is broken, folks.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Craig Kimbrel and the Twins bullpen

The confluence of events could not be ignored.

During an hour-plus rain delay in the Twins game in Cleveland, word broke that Craig Kimbrel had agreed to a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs. Soon after play resumed in Cleveland, Blake Parker surrendered three runs on two homers in the seventh inning. Cleveland took the lead and did not relinquish it.

My view on Kimbrel is unchanged from a few weeks ago. I'm glad somebody else is putting their eggs in that basket.

The Kimbrel we saw last October with the Red Sox -- ERA of 5.91 in nine postseason games -- figures to be more problem than solution. Kimbrel's 2018 started to deteriorate in mid-season, and each month got progressively worse. Alex Cora turned to rotation ace Chris Sale to put away the Dodgers in the final game of the World Series rather than Kimbrel; that move spoke loudly to Kimbrel's unreliability.

The Twins bullpen is imperfect, of course. All bullpens are works in progress, all bullpens could be stronger. Minnesota's pen, made up largely of cast-offs and no-names, has been surprisingly effective at protecting leads, but cracks are beginning to show. Parker, for example, has now given up seven runs in his last 4.1 innings.

I just don't think Kimbrel is the answer, and committing $43 million to him -- the reported guarantee from the Cubs -- probably closes other options that might be more productive. We'll see how he fares with the Cubs.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Feeling a draft (Day 2)

I read a few year ago Nate Silver's book on predictions, The Signal and the Noise. One concept I took away from it is that humans look instinctively for patterns and often "find" patterns that don't really exist.

The Twins on Day 2 of the draft Tuesday -- Rounds 3 through 10 -- drafted no high schoolers and no catchers or outfielders. It was all college infielders and pitchers.

First round pick Keoni Cavaco is the only prep player the Twins took in their first 11 picks. Competitive balance pick Matt Wallner is the only outfielder.

Pattern or coincidence? Well, in terms of organizational need, the Twins took quite a few catchers -- or players who were thought possible catchers -- last season. And they seem pretty well stocked with outfield talent already.

One pick by the Twins that got immediate notice on Tuesday: Will Holland, a shortstop out of Auburn, in the fifth round. He was seen as a possible first-rounder at the start of the 2019 season but slumped terribly at the plate, with batting average as low as .201 about a month ago. He might be a steal -- or he might be a mistake.

The consensus appears to be that this is a down year for pitchers, and particularly at the college level, but one always needs a fresh set of arms in the organization. The Twins took five college arms in the first two days, mostly in the later rounds.

Day 3 today will feature a lot more names, many of whom will not sign. The 11 drafted Monday and Tuesday -- unless somebody flunks their physical, expect them all to sign.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Feeling a draft (Day 1)

The Twins did indeed take high school infielder Keoni Cavaco with the 13th pick Monday night.

As I said in my post that morning, I don't know enough to judge any of these guys. Cavaco by general consensus was not prominent on scouting radars a year ago, and he wasn't selected for a prominent scouting showcase called the Area Code games last summer. But he started to emerge as a potential high draft pick last fall, and the Twins say they had a scout at every game he played this spring. He had, as the Baseball America term has it, "helium" -- he just kept rising up draft lists.

The plan, once he signs, is to let him play short until he plays himself off the position. A more likely position is implicitly third base.

Pluses: Very fast, legitimate power, young for his draft class (just turned 18). The Twins rave about his defensive tools.

Red flags: Because he wasn't on the showcase circuit last summer, he's had less exposure to higher-level pitching than most high schoolers getting picked in the first round. So his hit tool -- which is the most important of the five (hit, power, arm, speed, fielding) -- is the least established.

I don't think he's going to be a rapid riser, and those of us who go annually to Cedar Rapids to see the Twins low-A afflilate there are unlikely to see him there this year.

The Twins took a college outfielder and Forest Lake native, Matt Wallner of Southern Mississippi, with their competitive balance pick, No. 39 overall. The Twins drafted him three years ago with a late-round pick as a pitcher; he didn't sign. Now he's a slugging outfielder, with 22 homers this year for Brian Dozier's alma mater. The Twins system is rich in outfielders, but here's another.

A sign of the passage of time: He told the Star Tribune of growing up rooting for Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter. All those blasts from the past.

The Twins' final selection of the night, No. 54, was a college pitcher, Matt Canterino of Rice. A few years ago Rice was spitting out pitching prospects on a regular basis, but most if not all had arm issues after turning pro, and the school's baseball program got a reputation for overworking hurlers. I don't know if that's changed, but I'm instinctively wary of Rice pitchers. Canterino is said to have good velocity but not a lot of movement on the fastball.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Thoughts from the weekend

Taking three of four from a quality team -- and the Tampa Bay Rays are a quality team -- can give a fan base something to smile about.

Seeing a bullpen meltdown turn an easy win into a close win can give a fan base something to fret about.

The Twins do have an off day now, so going through four relievers in three innings after cutting back a pitcher shouldn't be a problem. But I'm sure Rocco Baldelli would have preferred to give Taylor Rogers another day without work.


Taylor Rogers has an identical twin brother, Tyler, who pitches in Triple A for the Giants and has never gotten a callup.

There are differences in these identical Twins, not least of which is that Tyler is right-handed. And there must be a reason the Giants, who have had a few bullpen problems in recent years, haven't brought Tyler up.

Still, I frequently think while watching Taylor carve up batters for an inning or two: There's another Rogers brother who's probably available.


The Twins optioned out Zack Littell on Sunday and reactivated Mitch Garver from the injured list (Garver caught and led off). After the game, they optioned out Luis Arraez with a coresponding move to come Tuesday, almost certainly reactivating Nelson Cruz.

How long will the Twins go with 12 pitchers rather than 13? They do have two offdays in eight days -- today and next Monday -- and the six games in between come against two of the three least potent lineups in the American League in Cleveland and Detroit. But I doubt this is a permanent condition.


The draft begins tonight, and the Twins pick 13th. I have seen no consensus in mock drafts on who the Twins are likely to take, but it's likely to be a hitter. Two names connected to the 13th pick with some frequency: Shea Langeliers, a catcher from Baylor who has slid a bit this spring, and Keoni Cavaco, a high school infielder who has risen sharply as the spring progressed.

I'm not qualified to have an opinion. I will note that the Twins last summer picked a bunch of potential catchers. Drafting for need in the first round is always a mistake regardless of the sport, and quality catchers are hard to come up with, so Langeliers wouldn't be a shocker, but the Twins right now seem pretty deep in catchers.