Saturday, April 30, 2005

Twins win again

Two things stick out to me when it comes to tonight's victory: Brad Radke's smooth, quality pitching performance and Justin Morneau's hitting heroics. After starting the year 1-3 and being more inconsistent than expected, Radke finally settled down and pitched the way we've expected him to pitch all along. He threw seven and a half innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run while striking out five and walking none. That's the kind of quality pitching I expect from a veteran like Radke. I hope this is a sign of things to come, as he did it against the Angels, a true contender far from the mediocre Detroit or Kansas City offenses.

Otherwise, Justin Morneau hit his second home-run and his first triple of the year, while going 2 for 4 with two RBIs. He continues to be a consistent hitter and run producer since returning to the lineup, now hitting an incredible .439. He's the most exciting player the Twins have right now to watch.

In other news:

* Torii Hunter stole his MLB-leading 11th base tonight, continuing what looks like to be a break out season if he just start hitting more consistently

* Nick Punto and Joe Mauer both went 2 for 3, each driving in a run. Its nice to see Punto get some playing time, as he's actually hitting a respectable .268

* My peer reminder readers that Michael Cuddyer's game last night should not cause people to jump the gun. He seems to be right, as Cuddyer continued his anemic hitting, going 0 for 4 while leaving two runners on. I'd like to see Cuddyer break out as much as anyone else and I understand he was given the job, but how much patience can you show?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Fallen Angels - Twins 7, Angels 4

Tonight, an announced crowd of nearly 30,000 people packed into the Metrodome to watch the Twins FINALLY play a team from another division. In taking on the Halos, this is the first time that we have faced an elite offense since we left Seattle on the 6th (since Cleveland really hasn't stepped up yet). We didn't fare too well. Not at first, anyway. Over the first half of the game Carlos Silva looked more like the Carlos Silva I expected to see coming into the year than the one who we've seen in his couple of starts so far. After three innings, the Angels had scored 4 runs on six hits. And these weren't squeakers that snuck through the infield... they were absolutely rocketing the ball to all parts of the field. The Twins were down 4-1, Terry Mulholland was loosening that rubber (but crappy) arm in the bullpen, and it seemed like the Twins were going to lose some credibility by getting slaughtered by the first decent team they had seen after inflating their record by beating up on Kansas City all month.

The next couple innings featured some classic Silva. In the fourth, a leadoff double followed by a single led to runners on first and third with no outs. Then catcher Josh Paul hit a weak line drive up the middle which Nick Punto quickly tossed to first to double off Dallas McPherson (who displayed some terribly baserunning on that play... what was he thinking?). Then Jeff DaVanon mysteriously decided to bunt with two outs and a runner on third... the bunt went straight to Silva for an easy out. In the fifth, the Angels loaded the boases with one out, only to have Silva ground Steve Finley into an inning-ending double play. You gotta love it. In the end, Silva managed to pull it together and pitch seven innings, collecting the victory as the offense rallied to produce some late runs.

That was not the most astonishing part of the night though. No, that would be the performance of one Michael Cuddyer. As many who read this blog know, we are not big fans. And for the first chunk of tonight's game, it seemed Michael was headed for another of his typical performances; he grounded into a double play in his first plate appearance and struck out in his second. Then in the bottom of the sixth, he finally made something happen at the plate. With runners on the corners, Cuddyer hit a weak liner to the right-center field gap that crept out to the wall for an RBI double. Nice, but still not entirely impressive. In the eighth, Mike stepped in with the bases loaded in one out. I found myself praying that he would strike out instead of grounding into a DP. He would do neither. Instead, he DROVE the ball to right-center again, this time for a two-run ground-rule double. Now that was impressive.

I'm sure all of the Cuddy-backers out there will be quick to say "I toldja so!", but let's keep things in perspective. The guy's batting average is still a miserable .217, and one game does not a season make. I'm not pushing his despicable April out of memory because the guy had a couple clutch hits. However, if this is the springboard that he needs to gain some confidence and start performing with some consistency (since I know he has always been a confidence guy), then I'm certainly willing to lay off him if he keeps it up. On the other hand, I saw a quote in Star Tribune from Ron Gardenhire today stating his reasons for starting Punto over Luis Rivas regularly. "He's out there and has played well the last couple of days, I see no reason to change that. Luis has not played well on this road trip. He has struggled at the plate. And when a guy goes out there and has played as well as he has the last couple of days, I think he deserves to be out there." I thought to myself... what makes that situation different from Cuddy and Terry Tiffee? Oh well, maybe Cuddyer can pull himself together and revive this season.

Speaking of Punto, he looked very good on defense again tonight. In the first inning, he had a great relay throw to third to out Chone Figgins who was trying to stretch a double into a triple. Punto went 1/4 at the plate tonight but showed some nice hussle on the basepaths. Rivas hasn't been playing the worst baseball of his career, but the presence of a half-decent alternative has him seeing his starting position slip away. About time, I say.

I'll end tonight's post on a sad note. The Twins learned today that relief pitcher Grant Balfour's season is lost, as he will need Tommy John surgery. I guess I never really expected the guy to come back this season, the erratic pains he felt in his arm are never a good sign. Still, he has a very live arm and it is going to be hard to lose him. The Twins may need to consider a mid-season trade to add some depth to their bullpen, unless Jesse Crain can really step up or they call up Scott Baker or JD Durbin to replace the pointless Matt Guerrier. Let's hope Balfour is able to come back from this surgery eventually and still have a productive career.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Royal Sweep

Well, as they should, the Twins finish a sweep of the Royals, securing a record 0-6 homestand for the lowly team. The game naturally had its ups and downs. Kyle Lohse did not look particularly good, once again, as he went only four innings, giving up three runs on five hits. Lohse has a 6.62 ERA so far and it just looks like he will not be pulling around the corner any time soon. Maybe its time to make Lohse a full-time reliever. He has been valuable in that role and would be a very durable pitcher for the Twins. Of course, there is no final word as its still only April and Lohse's quick exit was (supposedly) also due to stiffness in his shoulder.

Otherwise, the game was a showcase for Justin Morneau's ability and live bat. He had a career-high 4 hits in 5 at bats in this afternoon's game, driving in two runs along the way. He's now hitting .394, with only 8 RBI, but he has five months to go. I say he's still going to drive in 100 runs with 30 HRs along the way. What a bat.

Then there's Lew Ford, who put the dagger through KC's heart again with another late-inning game winner, sending a little chopper into right field in the 11th to score Joe Mauer. That gave the solid Jesse Crain, who pitched the 10th and 11th, the win. That's proof he should be used more, as he's the only Twins pitcher who hasn't allowed an earned run this year not named Nathan.

Of course, it should be noted that the only reason for extra innings was not neccessarly Nathan's fault. He gave up a double to Angel Berroa in the 9th, but it was Juan Castro's costly error that allowed Berroa to score the tying run. Such mistakes in the field should be made by Cuddyer, but not Castro, who's expertise is defense. That was just an ugly play that was only saved by Ford's consistent late-inning heroics.

* A final note: Corky Miller went 0 for 4 today, bringing his season average to a modest .000. Yep, still no hits this year. How long must this charade go on with a worthy backup like Redmond on the bench? This is sad....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Good Win

It was an all-around good victory for the Twins tonight as they assured themselves a series victory in Kansas City by beating the Royals 9-4. The story of the game has to be the fact that with the bases loaded and no outs, the Twins actually managed to score. In fact, they scored all of them, as a wild pitch moved the runners up and then Jason Bartlett hit a 2-run triple. Bartlett would later score himself on a sac-fly from Joe Mauer. This is the situational hitting the Twins have been desperate for, and although I'd like to be seeing them do it against pitchers of higher caliber than Brian Anderson, I'll take it. Just a few bullet-points on tonight's game:

*While my associate, Mr. Mosvick, is not a big fan of Matthew LeCroy, but I tend to think he has decent value as a right-handed pinch hitter and backup. He has hit lefties well this year, and continued that tonight with a two-run homer in the fourth inning off of Anderson. Michael Cuddyer, on the other hand, whom this website is unanymously disgusted with, had another poor day. Although he did surprisingly manage to finally collect a hit, breaking an 0-18 streak, he still did not look good. While manager Ron Gardenhire continues to press that Cuddy must simply refine his strike zone judgment, Michael's at-bat in the fourth inning showed just how much attention he is paying to that critique, as he swung at everything Anderson threw at him and went down swinging at a pitch in the dirt. I realize that we've been driving the issue awfully hard, but Cuddyer is not justifying his spot in this starting lineup in any way and it is a constant frustration.

*Nick Punto is pushing for the starting job at second base. While Luis Rivas has been terrible at the plate this season, failing to hit the ball hard enough to get past first base, Punto is waking up at the plate now that he is getting some regular playing time. He got off to a slow start, but Nick went 3 for 4 tonight to raise his average to .267 on the year. He's also been playing some excellent defense.

*Joe Mays pitched pretty well. His sinking stuff was really working at times, as there were several occasions were batters swung at pitches that were literally at their ankles and grounded out. Unfortunately, he doesn't yet have all of his pitches doing what he wants them to, as a few of them hung and just got hammered, including the lin-drive 2-run homer by Ruben Gotay in the 6th that briefly tied the game. Give Joe time though, I think he is going to have a pretty good season.

*Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter are both pretty cold right now. Hunter is getting back into his old habit of falling behind in the count and getting stuck striking out on bad pitches, and Mauer isn't seeing pitches too well from southpaws. Both of them should come around though. Justin Morneau, who went 0/5, is hitting the ball hard but at fielders.

Tomorrow the Twins look to extend their season record against the Royals to 5-0 as Kyle Lohse faces off against Runelvys Hernandez at 1 o'clock. This weekend, the Twins return to the Dome to face the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Los Angeles in what could be an early season playoff preview.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Cuddyer still sucks, Santana still rules

That's my concensus from tonight's game. The only reason we won was because Johan Santana and Joe Nathan pitched. Otherwise, the Twins looked pretty pathetic still. I mean, yea Jose Lima had a good year. One good year, really, and that was in 1999. The next year he gave up around 50 HRs. Lima time is over, so I think the Twins ought to have light him up instead of getting a meager one run out of him. And who had the RBI again? Justin Morneau.

His timely hitting, along with Lew Ford's RBI single in the 9th, were big positives in a sloppy offensive game. Morneau is proving to be a great cleanup hitter who should, despite his early injury, drive in over 100 runs this season and have 30 HRs. That said, here's the game's hero and it's villian.

Game Villian:

Michael Cuddyer again. He may have walked this game, but otherwise, he went 0 for 3 dropping his average to a paltry .194. This continues to beg the question of why he continues to start. I say its time to bench him and consider placing him on waivers. We have Terry Tiffee waiting in the wings. He continues to be impatient, swing at bad pitches, and make ugly plays, as he did tonight on an overthrow in the third inning. Its time to think hard about our top pick from 97'.

Game Hero:

Johan Santana. Eight solid innings of great work from Santana again. When his defense failed him twice in the third inning, what did he do? He struck out the side. Santana continues to show what a good pitcher he is. And the scariest thing is that we haven't seen his best stuff yet. He hasn't had the best control of his change-up, yet he's 4-0 already and he has a 17 straight decisions with a win. He already has 45 Ks and when he breaks it out this summer, I see 300 Ks well within his reach.

Oh, and lastly, don't forget reliable Joe Nathan, who saved his 6th game tonight showing a good fastball as he ended the game striking out Terrance Long.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mauled Again

It's cold and dreary in Minneapolis, and today's 6-4 loss to the Tigers has not exactly helped to improve my mood. Brad Radke has been lousy this season, there's no two ways about it. I'm really getting fed up with his ridiculous first inning woes. Today, he got ripped for 3 runs on two homers in the first inning. It's all well and good that the guy is able to pull it together and pitch well usually for the rest of the game, but he's been getting clobbered in the first inning for his entire career. To me, when you're being paid this much money and when you have been playing this long, you have got to make some kind of adjustment to learn how to get out of the first inning without giving up 2-3 runs. Although he settled down after the first inning today, he still pitched what I would call a bad game overall, allowing 11 hits in 6.1 innings and allowing 4 earned runs. He is now boasting a bloated 5.08 ERA and has allowed an MLB-most seven home runs in 33 innings. Still, the Twins could've won the game if not for the two-headed middle relief monster of Juan Rincon and JC Romero. The guys were invincible the first two weeks of the season, but are suddenly starting to look very mistake-prone, a bad trait in a reliever. In a game last week, both of them had balks. Today, Rincon sent a pickoff throw to second sailing into center-field, moving two runners into scoring position.

Outside of Justin Morneau, this team simply can't drive in runs. It's embarrassing. Morneau had 3 RBI, while Michael Cuddyer continued with his abysmal play, going 0-4 to lower his average to .203 on the year and leaving four men on base in the process. This guy should not be starting in the Major Leagues, plain and simple. How long will it take the Twins to wake up and realize this?

The White Sox are sizzling and the Twins are fizzling. Hopefully we can get things turned around in our upcoming three game series in Kansas City, which starts tomorrow night with a pitching rematch of last Wednesday's game at the Dome as Johan Santana faces off against Jose Lima.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Snowed out again

Well, there isn't much to report today as the Twins game got snowed out. Otherwise, the White Sox won their 7th straight game. Granted, it was against the Royals, but on the same token, what the hell are we doing losing to the Tigers? We should be sweeping them. This is my main complaint about the Twins: They are hypocrites, in a way. They say they want to gain respect from the teams in their league and from the league in general, that they want to be seen as contenders. Well, if that's so, this team needs to act like it. They have to quit making the kind of bad decisions a manager of the Mets or Royals would make. As we've said on this site before, putting a guy like Terry Molholland, who should be a Devil Ray right now with the rest of the major league washouts, up against some of the best hitters in the league is just stupid. If the Twins want respect, they have to earn it by making smart decisions. They can't have a left fielder make throws like the one Stewart made Friday. That's just bad fundamental baseball for a team that's supposed to be built on fundamentals. They need to make use of all the options available to them. That means Corky Miller needs to join Mulholland in Tampa, along with Matthew LeCroy. The Twins need to act like a contender and put their team together and manage like one.

Take Florida for example. The Marlins have a similar budget problem to the Twins, but with good management and direction, they have the ability to be a serious contender. They are not wasting roster spots on guys like Miller or Molholland. It's simple guys; it's time to get serious about winning before the White Sox really become number one.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Rainy Days

Today's game between the Twins and Tigers was postponed due to inclement weather, and rescheduled for Monday afternoon. Therefore, I will just take this opportunity to echo my associate's bitter disgust with the management technique of Ron Gardenhire in last night's game. I don't know what on Earth he was thinking sending Terry Mulholland out for a third inning in a tie ball-game with one of most dangerous right-handed hitters in the league due to lead off. Overuse of the bullpen is not an excuse, Jesse Crain has really not pitched very much this year. When you have an arsenal of powerful righties in your pen, you have GOT to bring one out to face Pudge in the 10th inning. That management is just absolutely baffling.

I would also like to express my disappointment with Shannon Stewart. In the bottom of the 8th, when the Tigers sent Brandon Inge home on a base hit to left, I was laughing aloud. Stewart was scooping up the ball as Inge stepped on third base, and he honestly could have rolled it to Joe Mauer and had it there in plenty of time to get Inge out. But nope, Shannon proved that he has one of the worst arms of any outfielder in the league, lobbing a ball that came in about 10 feet wide of the plate.

Justin Morneau had a nice return, hitting a moonshot to tie the game in the 9th. Too bad it was wasted by poor management.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bonehead plays not by Torii

Before I get to any of my other observations, I ask Ron Gardenhire if he was conscious tonight? Why was Terry Mulholland, an aging left-hander with no fastball, left in for three innings to face Ivan Rodriguez, one of the better right-handed hitters in the game? That's a disguisting display of managing Gardy. You need to use the great arms you have available to you. I don't care if they pitched a lot because you haven't used them that much this year anyways. Bring in Rincon or Nathan or even Crain. They all have great stuff and could have pitched a good inning. Way to ruin a game you could win. How do you expect to carry this team to the playoffs when you make so many bonehead decisions as a manager? From Miller, to Tiffee, to tonight, I'm just disguisted.

Otherwise, Torii made a really bad play tonight. I agree he should have had his head in the game more, and of course, we expect a lot more from such an amazing center fielder. But it won't happen again and as my fellow blogger said, he's been doing great lately. No the real bonehead play was Terry Ryan deciding that we desperately need to keep backup catchers.

Has he been watching the same games I have? Has he observed what the Twins have problems with? I'll tell you, its not catchers or Joe Mauer. Its situational hitting and hitting in general, something Terry Tiffie was handling just fine when he was up here. Even Gardenhire protested, but because he thought they could keep Tiffee up by putting Mike Redmond on the DL after the collision last night that bruised his ribs. Thats still ridiculous. Come on guys. Corky Miller hasn't gotten a hit and what the Twins need right now is some serious hitters. Terry Tiffee earned his right to stay at the major league level by showing confidence and an ability to hit with men on. Michael Cuddyer comes up and I turn away, cause I can already see the double play or strikeout coming. Either bench Cuddyer and put Tiffee out there to start or at least get rid of Miller. Even if Tiffee doesn't follow those stats, at least it will motivate Cuddyer.

If your going to manage right, you have to motivate your players and just putting Cuddyer out there to start every game isn't going to motivate him the way he needs to be. Take a lesson from any successful manager. Cuddyer needs to sit, Tiffee needs to start, and Miller needs to join Stephen Drew and Ricky Henderson in the Atlantic League.

Other notes:

* Torii stole another base, bringing his season total to 10. That's more than Ichiro! And he got an amazing jump as he has all year.

* Carlos Silva and Justin Morneau came of the DL today. Both have great games, with Silva pitching seven solid innings and Morneau going 2 for 4 with a crushing homer off of Troy Percival in the 9th. With that going, we should have won this game. That's all I can say.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Series With the Royals

It was a good two-game home series for the Twins against the Royals, as they swept the Kansas City Royals, winning on Wednesday 5-4 and winning today 10-9. Wednesday's was a nice game, where the Twins blew some opportunities but still managed to squeak out a victory. Johan Santana racked up the usual 10 K and pitched a solid 7 innings, but a poor third in which he allowed four runs kept him from being able to get the win. Today's game, on the other hand, was quite a bit uglier. The Twins managed to score a bunch of their runs thanks to the poor fundamental play of the Royals. Dave Gassner, who had a great Major League debut last Saturday, was shaky and got hit hard. He didn't make it out of the second inning. Matt Guerrier then came in and while his outing wasn't all bad (he struck out 5 over 3.1 innings), he did allow two home runs that really hurt the team. Nonetheless, Lew Ford (who had 4 hits today) managed a 10th inning RBI single that won the game for the Twins and completed a two-game series sweep. Here are some quick thoughts on the series...

*Torii Hunter is becoming terrifying on the basepaths. He stole three more bases in the series, making him 9/9 on the season so far. The Twins are being very aggressive with Torii on the basepaths, and it is paying off. Not only is Hunter stealing bases, but he is really hitting the ball well. On the series, Torii went 5/8 with a home run and 3 RBI.

*I was at Wednesday's game, and in the fourth inning when the Twins loaded up the bases with no outs, I commented that I would bet twenty dollars that we wouldn't score a single run. The guy in the row ahead of me turned around and said he'd take the bet, but I chuckled and said I was just kidding. Too bad, I would've ended up being twenty bucks richer.

*The White Sox have managed to keep some distance between themselves and the Twins for first place as they just keep winning. The Sox are now 12-4 after beating Detroit 4-3 today. Chicago just isn't that good though, they're going to have to cool off sometime... right?

*Is there any better deal in the Majors than a Wednesday night at the Dome for a college student? I got to go see Johan pitch (from Upper GA, granted), got two hot dogs and a large pop, all for 10 bucks. Now that is value.

The Twins open up a three game series in Detroit tomorrow, with Carlos Silva making his return from the disabled list. It has been a rocky couple of weeks for Silva, as he was placed on the DL under the impression that he might miss the entire season due to knee surgery. Upon further review, doctors decided that Silva will be okay to pitch this season even with the tear in his knee, putting off surgery until the off-season. It should be interesting to see if he can throw as well as he did in his first start, when he held the Mariners to one run over seven innings in the third game of the year. Kyle Lohse, who has looked downright terrible so far this year, is being skipped in the rotation, so Joe Mays will pitch Saturday and Brad Radke will go on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Offense Returns

I will try my best to cover the game yesterday and the developments through today's game. So far, the Twins are tied with the Royals 8-8. There is, of course, a very positive development there and a negative one as well. Its not a good sign to see Guerrier give up three runs to the meager Royals or worse, to see Gassner, who performed so well last week, leave the game in less then two innings of pitching. However, Torii Hunter's bat has certainly awakened, as he has 6 hits in his last 7 at bats. He is also tearing up the base paths, setting himself up for a 40 or even 50 SB season, along with 30 HRs and 100 RBI. Wouldn't that be something? And, of course, Jacque Jones has been batting over .400 so far, showing the need to prove himself in likely his last year as a Twin.

If we win today, it will be as sloppy as last night's win. Last night, Johan Santana pitched six marvelous innings, striking out ten hitters. He also pitched one ugly inning, giving up four runs including a 3-run homer by Mike Sweeney off a bad slider. Needless to say, Santana isn't quite at the peak he was last year. He has some issues, but he certainly has shown his dominance at times. I say no need to worry; he'll have another amazing year as soon as you write him off.

Of course, the offense finally produced with men on base, as Shannon Stewart drove in the winning run with the bases loaded in the 8th. Otherwise, it was home runs by Joe Mauer and Jacque Jones, along with Hunter's three hits, that had the Twins alive.

Let's hope they get a little more situational hitting against the Royals, likely the worse team in the AL. They have no pitching, so the Twins should not have close games. They should dominate them and have batting practice with their pitchers. Hopefully, that will be the outcome of this game.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Could Cuddyer Be Any Cruddier?

Tonight was probably the most frustrating game I have seen the Twins play this season. In the 3-1 loss to the White Sox, they continued an abominable trend of leaving runners on base and failing to capitalize with the bases loaded. In the second inning, they had the bases loaded with one out. No runs. In the fourth inning, they had runners on first and second with one out. No runs. In the fifth, runners on the corners with two outs, no runs. In the sixth, bases loaded with one out again. No runs. While there are a lot of places where the blame could be placed, I feel like directing my wrath at the third baseman Michael Cuddyer. There is large faction of Cuddy-supporters out there who seem to think that I am being too hasty in my disgust with Cuddyer, and I'm sure that they will continue to support him and feel that we should all still withhold our judgment until he has had more time. In my opinion, this is Major League Baseball, and you need to perform or lose your spot. There is NO WAY this guy has done anything this year to warrant a starting job on a playoff contending team. Let's take a look at his at-bats tonight...

Second inning: Steps in with bases loaded and one out. Strikes out.
Fourth inning: Steps in with runners on first and second with one out. Grounds into a pathetic double play on the first pitch of the at-bat.
Sixth inning: Singles on a grounder to left, loading the bases. Nick Punto and Shannon Stewart would actually be the ones who killed this rally, by popping out consecutively afterwards.
Eighth inning: Grounds out to third.

So... he went 1/4, striking out with the bases loaded, then grounding into a double play, and later grounding out to third on what would have been another double play had Lew Ford not beaten him to it. Meanwhile, Terry Tiffee, who is hitting .318, doubled and singled in the game. Granted, he also left some men on base, but at least he is hitting the ball. So to reiterate a point I made a few days ago, if things continue the way they are now, the team should seriously consider sending down Cuddyer instead of Tiffee when Justin Morneau comes off the disabled list.

Meanwhile, a great start by Brad Radke was wasted tonight. He pitched an eight inning complete game, allowing three runs and striking out five. When your pitcher allows only three runs in a game in which you have 14 hits, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for not winning. I know everyone wants to say it's early, and we still have almost 150 games left, but every game counts. And if, at the end of the year, the Twins find themselves a few games behind the White Sox in the standings and on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, it's going to be games like tonight's that they will look back at and kick themselves for.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lohse continued failures

Kyle Lohse has been given many opportunities to show the Twins and fans how his impressive array of pitches can win ballgames for a contending team. He's failed at that over and over again, as he did tonight. In a momentum game against the White Sox, Lohse did the same things he's been doing for years. Not consistently changing speeds, pitches, or locations and allowing hitters to catch up to his fastball and to time his curveball. What is the result? Lots of hurtful home-runs, as seen tonight.

Should we try to trade Lohse? I say no, since it won't do us much good. His value has gone done progressively and he's overpaid considering his performances. I instead suggest what my associate has, which is moving Lohse to the bullpen. Who would replace him in the rotation? With Silva coming back, there is the possibility of keeping Gassner at the major league level if he continues to impress. Otherwise, we have two prospects in Scott Baker and J.D. Durbin waiting in the wings. Durbin wasn't too great this spring, but Baker has earned the chance. Much the same way Cuddyer was given a spot Terry Tiffee should have been considered for, Lohse was given a spot he may not have earned.

Other observations:

* Terry Tiffee continues to look like a major league ready player. His defense was quite impressive tonight and he has certainly showed offensive talent and an ability to hit in tough situations, something the Twins desperately need.

* Joe Mauer went 2 for 4 with a great opposite-field home run off of Takatsu in the 9th. Its too bad Torii Hunter couldn't be more patient and take ball four, giving Jacque Jones a chance to win the game in the 9th.

* Once again, let me reiterate that LeCroy is an embarrassment. Everytime he comes to bat or in the field, he does something foolish that Dick and Bert comment about. They think its funny but I say its embarrasing and signal that this guy doesn't deserve his spot. (Once again, please Gardenhire, get rid of Miller and LeCroy. Give Tiffee the chance to play everyday)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Very Tough Loss

The Twins lost their series finale against the Indians today 2-1, breaking a 6-game winning streak. After Joe Mays pitched 7 excellent innings, allowing only a solo home run to Ronnie Belliard. In the 8th, JC Romero came in and the Indians were able to load the bases (thank you CUDDYER), at which point Romero hit Travis Hafner with a pitch with two outs to score the eventual winning run. It was the first real chink I've seen in the bullpen this season, and I don't think it's all too concerning. However, it did look like the shaky Romero of last year, getting into a tough situation and then getting wild and unable to pitch out of trouble. Hopefully he can keep his confidence and things don't go downhill from here, which is possible. A few thoughts on the game...

*As aforementioned, Mays looked terrific today, right back in his 2001 form. Over seven innings, Joe allowed only five hits and made only one major mistake which ended up in the left field seats off the bat of Belliard. It is actually a little curious that Gardy decided to pull Mays after the seventh; his pitch count was only 72 and he was absolutely rolling at the time. Clearly, the move did not pay off as Romero had a very tough eighth inning and took the loss.

*There has been some debate on the Twins Territory site regarding Michael Cuddyer. I am personally of the opinion that Tiffee should at least be given the opportunity to compete for the starting third base job, because I don't think Cuddy has done anything whatsoever to show he deserves the spot. Yes, it is too early in the season to say the Cuddyer is worthless, but he has been given plenty of chances with this organization before. Tiffee is only one year younger, and has looked a lot better in his limited Major League time than Cuddyer has. Anyway, getting back to my point, it is supported by the fact that Cuddyer essentially cost us the game today. The game-winning run that scored in the eighth should have been out at second earlier in the inning, but Cuddy made a terrible wide throw when attempting to get the force that allowed the runner to move up another base and eventually score. This was Cuddyer's fourth error of the season, and he is hitting .231. Tiffee is hitting .308. I would make the argument that, when Justin Morneau is eligible to come off the disabled list in five days, Cuddyer should at least garner consideration as the one to be sent down.

*Once again, Corky Miller started today and was completely inept. Having him on the Major League club is really some of the stupidest management I have ever seen. There is just no excuse for this guy being up here. Mike Redmond could have easily started and been more productive today. The whole Miller situation really upsets me.

I'll be making a post on Twins Territory later today comparing Torii Hunter to Carlos Beltran.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Gassner looking good

Well, Dave Gassner pitched today, and surprisingly, he pitched quite well. He pitched six strong innings, giving up two runs, but only one of them earned from Nick Punto's error at second, while striking out one and walking one. For the kind of pitcher Gassner is, that is the best we can expect and is the kind of start we need from our starters not named Santana. He had good control, keep his ball down, and pitched the kind of game he is capable of doing well. Now that is something Kyle Lohse needs to learn how to do and fast.

Hopefully, Gassner leaves an impression on the club because it is likely we will need a pitcher again in the future and a decent left-hander who can start would prove useful to the club. And of course, if Gassner does fail in his next start, we always have Baker waiting in the wings. But for now, congrats Dave Gassner. Your first major league start was much better than expected and that's a great thing for the Twins. We may yet win this series in Cleveland.

In a minor note, Lew Ford, now playing defense, is looking very good offensively as he hit a three-run home run off of Cleveland starter Kevin Millwood. Its good to see his bat come alive and that Gardy is playing him in the field more often. And Terry Mulholland got through the seventh without many problems, but I still would rather see our Romero-Rincon-Nathan combo. Its just so effective and fun to watch cause for once we have the best in the bigs!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Terry Terrific

Terry Tiffee's RBI total in two games since being called up from Triple-A is now five. Tiffee, who started at third base tonight in place of Michael Cuddyer, had a big 2-run single early tonight in what proved to be the difference in a 3-2 Twins victory. Tiffee's outstanding play is making it harder and harder for the organization to stick with its idiotic plan of keeping Corky Miller on the club. Though Tiffee did commit a throwing error tonight, it was a ball that most first-basemen in the league would've been able to scoop easily. Unfortunately, Matt LeCroy was lurking at the position tonight. Just a few other notes on the game...

*Johan Santana pitched a pretty good game tonight, going 6 innings and striking out 10 and picking up his third victory of the season, extending an amazing winning streak dating back to last year. The two runs he allowed were both on solo home runs in the second inning. Still, he threw a lot of pitches, and I don't think he's quite in his top form yet. He's getting there though...

*The bullpen which we've been gloating so much about on this blog was once again outstanding tonight. The trifecta of JC Romero, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan has to be the best in the league. These guys were lights out from the seventh through the ninth. Nathan picked up his third save of the season, finishing the game with a terrific strikeout.

*Indians starter Jake Westbrook pitched a fantastic game. He went eight strong innings only allowing three hits. The kid has an excellent sinking fastball; only two of the 24 outs he recorded were not groundouts or strikeouts.

*I'm excited to see the highlight of Juan Castro's play at third base in the ninth. I was listening to the game on the radio, since it wasn't on TV, so I didn't see the play, but hitting coach Scott Ulger said in a post-game interview that it was the best play he's ever seen.

Tomorrow Dave Gassner gets his first career Major League start against veteran Kevin Millwood for the Indians. Gametime is at noon, should be interesting. On Sunday the Twins will face a guy who perennially dominates them as CC Sabathia gets his first start of the season. I would be impressed if the Twins are able to win this series, despite winning the first game.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Bullpen

Wow. We've been through over a week of Twins baseball now and I have to say that the Twins definitely have the best bullpen in the AL. If you've seen Juan Rincon lately, he's on fire. He's throwing 96 mph consistently, with plus movement, and his slider is darting all over. He easily took down the White Sox and Tiger's best hitters. And J.C. has been in on the action as well, showing signs that he may be back to his 2002 form. Through six innings, Rincon has struck out twelve and only allowed three hits. Joe Nathan's velocity isn't at its peak, but it never is at the beginning of the year anyways and yet he looks great too.

Terry Mulholland has provided leadership, his crafty pitching, and his inning-eating ability whenever we've needed it. Jesse Crain hasn't seen much action, but its clear what he's capable of as well. The only real question mark is Matt Guerrier, but with guys like Rincon and Nathan ready to go in the late innings, the Twins look pretty intimidating and great in a short series.

What's even better is remember that Nathan and Rincon were both signed to extensions this offseason, keeping around an explosive combination that kills anything other AL Central teams can produce. Did you see Percival and Urbina? Urbina didn't look too comfortable as a set-up man and although his fastball is moving, Percival is just not the same guy who was so great five years ago for the Angels. No one should be surprised that we scored our first earned run off him this week, although Shannon Stewart is a good fastball hitter who has hit Percival well in the past.

All in all, things look well despite the bad news we've gotten. Carlos Silva is now looking for a April 22nd return as well as Justin Morneau, who says he is feeling much better. If Silva can return that quickly, as well as Morneau, the Twins are looking perfect. Of course, there is still the matter of Corky Miller.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Finally, Some Offense

The Twins' offense, which has been absent for most of the season so far, came out to play in tonight's 8-4 victory over the Tigers. The Twins scored 5 runs in the first inning off of Detroit starter Jason Johnson, who looked absolutely terrible, and tacked on a couple more runs in the fourth and yet another in the eighth. They could've done a lot more damage, except for that they loaded the bases three times in the game without scoring a single run. In the second, they had the bases juiced with no outs and didn't manage to get a run home. I would be complaining about this with a lot more disgust but I just can't complain about 8 runs. The Twins' starter, Kyle Lohse, was unimpressive in his second start of the season, but pitched well enough to win. Lohse seemed to be settling down at one point, when he struck out four straight hitters, but overall just looked hittable. The bullpen, on the other hand, was terrific. JC Romero obliterated Omar Infante with his changeup, Juan Rincon struck out the side in explosive fashion in the eighth, and despite having his save situation taken away by a Joe Mauer RBI in the eigth, Joe Nathan looked good in the ninth. This bullpen has been exactly what I was expecting it to be so far this season... dominant. Having guys like Jesse Crain and Rincon and Nathan waiting in the wings significantly shortens games. If the Twins are up after six or seven innings, the game is pretty much locked up. Plus, Romero has looked excellent so far, and he was a big concern after a very shaky spring.

Ron Gardenhire must be feeling awfully smart right now. When I saw that Terry Tiffee would be hitting cleanup in tonight's game, I was a little surprised to put it kindly. Sometimes it seems like he just inserts one player for another and doesn't bother to switch around the lineup accordingly, like when Juan Castro hit second in the order while filling in at shortstop for Jason Bartlett. However, the move payed off as Tiffee came through tonight with an RBI double in the first and a 2-run homer in the fourth. I'm finally coming around on Tiffee. For whatever reason, I just haven't felt like he's ready to be on the Major League team, despite the success he had last season in the minors and in his short stint in the Majors. After watching him tonight though, I just can't deny the fact that the kid is a good hitter, and deserves a spot on this team. At this point it looks like he should even be given a chance to challenge Michael Cuddyer, who has been anemic on offense, for the starting third base job.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Worst of It

Yes, the Twins had a great game tonight. They came back and finally beat Troy Percival, scoring an earned run on him for the first time in over forty innings. Michael Cuddyer homered, as did Jason Bartlett, hitting his first in the majors. It was an all-around good game if you forget the mediocre outing by Joe Mays, who looks like this years Rick "Gopherball" Reed. Nope those are great. But then came the bad news for the Twins: Justin Morneau was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 7th, the day after he was beaned by Ron Villone.

That means Morneau can't return until April 22nd, which he should be able to do This seems to dash almost all hopes of a 40 HR season from Morneau, which would be the first since oh 1971 probably or the Harmon Killebrew-Era. Of course, its nice to see Terry Tiffee called up to replace him so at least we can get some MAJOR LEAGUE defense at first base. Watching LeCroy over there is just ugly, but his base running is worst the cheap vodka and taco bell. Its simply unbearable. He gives no effort, it seems, at all when he runs and he still looks dazed at the plate. But besides the point, Tiffee also provides good offense, and as Terry Ryan said, flexibility. It just hope that Morneau is back on the 22nd and that Corky Miller gets released and they keep Tiffee in the majors where he belongs.

So that's my pleading to Terry Tiffee: Please come up here and put up such great numbers, like Lew Ford last year, that we have to get rid of the most embarassing Twins player since Hector Carrassco.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Rough Weekend

Well, it hasn't been a very good home-opening weekend for the Twins, and not just because they lost a series to their rivals, the Chicago White Sox. The team gained word that they will likely be losing their third starter, Carlos Silva, for most of (if not all of) the season. I posted more in-depth about this on Aside from that bad news, Justin Morneau is struggling to recover from a fastball to the head from Ron Villone that he suffered in the final game of the opening series against the Mariners. Initially it appeared that he would only miss a game or two for precautionary reasons, as scans came up negative for concussion or fracture, but Morneau's headaches and dizziness have persisted, leading to speculation that he might have to spend some time on the DL. It seems that all the hits to the head he took while playing hockey up in Canada might be complicating matters. This team really can't afford to lose Justin for an extended period of time, because to say that Matt LeCroy's defense at first base is bad would be a supreme understatement. They are also really missing Morneau's powerful left-handed bat in the middle of the order. LeCroy doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of right-handed pitchers from the clean-up spot.

It seems like as long as I have been a Twins fan, there has been one player on the roster who I have absolutely hated... to the extent that I will actually boo them when they come to the plate. For the past several years, this player has been Luis Rivas. Now, things are changing. I have warmed up to Luis just a little bit... not because I feel he has transformed into a good ball-player but because I am quite sure his time is short and he will have been replaced by next year unless he can finally post decent numbers this year. No, my new most-hated Twin is Mr. Corky Miller, the biggest waste of a roster spot since... well, I can't remember ever seeing such a waste of a roster spot. Since he can't hit worth a damn, I figured he must be a terrific defensive player to warrant a spot on a Major League ballclub, but I learned Sunday night that I was quite wrong. Corky is average at best as a defensive catcher. He has trouble blocking bad pitches and doesn't seem have an outstanding arm.

The only real bits of good news coming out the weekend are that Torii Hunter seems to be getting his bat going, with homers in consecutive games; and Johan Santana appears to be moving back into his form of 2004 post-All Star Break. He struck out 11 on Sunday night and made some of the Chicago hitters look downright silly while cruising to his second victory of the year.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Notes on Silva, the Twins, and throughout MLB

Well, as Nick Nelson mentioned yesterday, Carlos Silva has been put on the 15-day DL and will be out at least until the All-Star Break if not the rest of the season. It all rests on the surgery he has; that is, whether he chooses to have the torn meniscus taken out, which would be quicker recovery, or repaired. Scott Baker was considered to be called up, but because of a bad start in triple-A, Dave Gassner was called up instead.

Gassner is a left-hander who went 16-8 with a 3.41 ERA in AAA-Rochester last year. Gardenhire said this is because Gassner has looked good in AAA, is more experienced, and had a good spring. Gassner did have a good spring and having another left-handed pitcher is a plus if Gassner can handle the big leagues. But, let's keep in mind there were worse choices. Yes, it would have been exciting to see Baker, but he probably isn't quite ready yet despite his spring. And what if they had put Mulholland in there instead? At least they made a good, serious move that hopefully works out. Joe Mays will be in the rotation's third spot in place of Silva, making his first start tuesday.

Otherwise, today was an eventful day outside of Minnesota. John Smoltz bounced back from his hideous first start to strike out 15 Mets in 7 and 1/3 innings before hanging a slider to Carlos Beltran, which he creamed for a two-run home run. Pedro Martinez, his opponent on the mound, had a great game as well, pitching his first complete game in more than a year while giving up a run, two hits, and striking out two. It was a hell of a duel if you watched. Looks like Pedro may be back.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bad News in the Twin Cities

The worst news that the Twins received today was not in the 8-5 loss to the White Sox, although it is distressing that their pitchers are having so much trouble keeping the ball in the park. No, the more disturbing news was that pitcher Carlos Silva will likely miss the majority of the season due to a knee injury that will require surgery. Suffice to say that this came out of the blue; Silva pitched well in his first start of the season and did not show any signs of injury. While the team does have a starter waiting in the minors in the form of Scott Baker, this is bad news because Silva was a workhorse last season and was looking to have a good season this year. Hopefully they will call up Baker to fill Silva's spot in the rotation rather than starting Terry Mulholland or Matt Guerrier.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Opening Series in Review

John Smoltz allowed seven runs in less than two innings in his return to the Atlanta rotation. The living legend that is Mariano Rivera blew two saves in his first two opportunities. Detroit's Dmitri Young jacked three homers in an Opening Day win for the Tigers. There were a lot of surprises around the Majors in the first three days of regular season competition, but we saw very few from the Twins in their series win over the Seattle Mariners. The Twins won the series by doing the things they typically do to win. Got good pitching, especially from the bullpen, had some excellent defensive plays, and got enough situational hits to squeeze by. Just a few notes from the series:

-As anticipated, there were some ugly errors in the infield, a result of a lack of experience, but there were also some sensational plays from guys like Luis Rivas and Jacque Jones.

-Justin Morneau continued a streak of really bad luck by getting drilled hard in the head on a fastball that got away from Ron Villone, but X-rays came up negative for concussion or fracture so he should be ready to go this weekend.

-Torii Hunter and Lew Ford need to have better at-bats, especially against lefties.

-Brad Radke pitched a typical Radke came. Worked the strike-zone effectively and got outs, but threw a few bad pitches. Brad is going to give up a few big hits in almost every start, the difference is whether or not there are guys on base. If those would've been solo shots by Sexson, it would've been a 2-1 loss and people would've been bitching about another tough loss for Radke due to a lack of run support. Granted, it's not anyone else's fault that those guys were on base, but it's just something to think about.

-Johan Santana had an ugly first inning on Tuesday, but cruised for the next four and picked up his first victory of the season. Hey, last year it took the guy almost half the season to get going and he won 20 games; if it takes him one inning this year, I'll take it.

-Carlos Silva looked a lot better than I expected him too. His fastball was sinking and he was getting people to pound the ball right into the ground. He lives by the double-play, and he got a few on Wednesday. If that can keep up for the rest of the season, he could easily get his ERA under 4.00 this year.

Tomorrow the Twins open their home schedule against the hated Chicago White Sox. The Sox were impressive in their opening series against the Cleveland Indians, who many anticipate will hang right with the Twins at the top of the Central division, so it should be interesting to see how we handle Chicago.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Usual Suspects

The Twins won today in a higly "Twins" fashion. Carlos Silva pitched the way he usually does. A couple scares, scatters hits, good defense, and in the end, a win. Silva pitched seven innings, gave up nine hits, one run, and didn't strikeout anyone. But they Twins had timely hitting, their old friend. Matthew LeCroy's three-run homer essentially sealed the deal. What followed hopefully was telling of how things should go this season. Silva won by putting the ball and play and having his defense back him up. A good example would be Mike Redmond's throw to get Randy Winn in the 5th. Winn double off a bad sinker and the next pitch, took off with a good lead towards third. But Redmond produced the perfect throw and Cuddyer showed some defensive prowess with a good tag. It was classic Twins baseball.

After Silva was taken out, the best bullpen in the AL and maybe the Majors took over. Juan Rincon looked very good in the eigth, striking out two including Adrian Beltre with a nasty slider. Joe Nathan followed by picking up his first save of the year. All and all, today was a well-played game with timely hitting, good defense, and good pitching. Its the kind of baseball the Twins play very well, and if they follow this precedent, they could very win the World Series this year.

Tommorow is an off day, so get ready for the showdown with the White Sox this weekend. I just hope Torii Hunter gets his bat going and knocks Jamie Burke over again. What a play!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

An Explosive Fifth

Reigning AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana didn't exactly get off to a running start in his first effort towards a repeat performance in 2005, as he gave up four runs in the first inning and just couldn't seem to pitch around Seattle's big bats, as Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson both nailed RBI hits. As expected, Johan settled down after that and starting retiring hitters, but needed some offense that Brad Radke couldn't get yesterday. It came in the form of a 7-run fifth inning. It wasn't exactly a dazzling rally, as it was built mostly out of singles, but it was nice to see nonetheless. Just a few notes regarding the game...

-Santana's stuff wasn't working the first inning clearly, but he threw some very nice pitches in the next 4 innings he pitched, striking out five total and picking up his first win of the season.

-Jacque Jones hit a 2-run homer in the fifth inning and delivered another RBI hit a couple innings later. I'm predicting a big season from Jones, who is in his walk year and seems to have his eyes on a big offseason contract.

-Michael Cuddyer made a very nice defensive play at third base, reaching to his right to stab a hot grounder and then setting his feet and firing a one-hop rocket across the diamond to retire the speedy Randy Winn. Later in the game, however, he showed his bad side, making an extremely ugly overthrow to first on an Ichiro grounder. It would have been a tough out, but he might as well have hung onto it rather than allowing Ichiro to reach second.

-The bullpen tossed 4 innings of shutout ball. JC Romero looked good, with his fastball moving and forcing groundballs. Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan are going be really tough to rally against in the 8th and 9th innings this year.

-Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson are both going to have great years, but Seattle just doesn't have enough pitching to win that division, especially in the bullpen.

Monday, April 04, 2005

An Ugly Loss

Well, things didn't start the way we wanted them to. At all. Brad Radke didn't throw seven sharp innings. Instead, he hung two breaking balls to Richie Sexson that were crushed for home runs, amounted to five runs for the Seattle Mariners. Both were bad pitches and it was too bad Brad couldn't start us out on the right foot.

However, worse was the anemic offensive output. The Twins hitters looked paralyzed through the first few innings against ancient Jamie Moyer, who gave up an AL-high 44 HRs last year. They managed only five hits off Moyer and none off a weak Seattle bullpen. Thats not the effort I would expect from playoff hopefuls like the Twins. Both Justin Monreau and Torii, our four and five hitters respectively, went 0 for 4. That's just not acceptable.

But the defense looked great. Joe Mauer gunned down Ichiro, the fastest runner in the league, on a ball in the dirt. Those are the kind of hustle plays that make Mauer so valuable. Its not just his offense. His defense is spectacular and he showed that. But Mauer was not the only one making great plays. Jacque Jones made a great play in an otherwise not-so-good first inning when he made a great diving catch. And even Luis Rivas joined in, making a great play to his right and saving the only defensive lapse in the game, made by Radke in the first inning before Sexson's home run.

But tommorow holds much hope as reigning Cy Young winner Johan Santana takes the mound. Santana should have no problem pitching a fine game, as he's had a great spring and of course, a Koufax-like end to his season last year. I'm still excited and I know things will be better tommorow.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Finally, Some Respect

For the past couple years, I have always found myself complaining about how the national experts continually ignore the Twins when talking about the best teams in the Major Leagues and teams who have a real chance to win the World Series. I guess it's understandable... we are a small-market team who have won games in a relatively unexciting fashion, without hitting the ball out of the park or (at least up until last year) by dominating opposing hitters and racking up out-of-this world strikeout and ERA numbers.

I was completely stunned this year when I clicked into's expert predictions. Of the 19 analysists they had choose their favorites for the World Series, SIX have the Twins going to the Big Show, with four of them choosing us to win it all! ESPN the Magazine's Buster Olney, who apparently has Twins fever this spring, picks us to win it all as well as Johan Santana to win the AL Cy Young and Jason Bartlett for AL Rookie of the Year. While he might be considered a lesser-known baseball analysist to the general public, it is awesome to see that Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark, two of the most prominent baseball buffs in the media, also picked the Twins to win the World Series. Incredibly, the same number of people chose the Twins to win it all as the Yankees.

So the question is, are so many people picking the Twins just because it's a very popular sleeper pick, or is this team a legitimate World Series favorite? I don't think anyone expects us to finish with a better record than the Red Sox or Yankees, but once you get to the playoffs, it's all about having two or three dominant starting pitchers, a great bullpen, and timely hitters. Assuming the team can stay healthy all year, the Twins have all these things, so I would say the pick is well-conceived. When it comes to the Yankees, Randy Johnson will be tough to beat in the playoffs, but I don't think the Yankees' pitching is that unhittable beyond him. The Red Sox will be extremely difficult to pitch to, especially if JC Romero doesn't step up as a dominant left-handed pitcher for us this season, but we could get past them.

The Minnesota Twins season officially starts tomorrow, and I for one am absolutely pumped. This shaping up to be one of the most entertaining and exciting Twins seasons of all time. For now, I will look forward to flipping on ESPN tonight and watching the Major League Baseball season begin with what should be a classic matchup between the Yankees and Red Sox.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

News around the MLB

Today, several major league stars were placed on the disabled list, changing the possible outcomes for the season. Barry Bonds, Eric Gagne, and Curt Schilling all were put on the 15-day DL for various reasons. Bonds, as most people know by now, is having knee trouble and the calls for retirement are already coming. I'd say Bonds, despite the steroids scandel and his incidious approach towards the media, is good for baseball. He still manages to widen the fanbase and just his presence alone will fill up the Metrodome for the interleague series in June if he's healthy. Bonds changes the face of the game and the Giants as well. With his presence, he gives them more walks than most major league clubs can attain. Even if he took steroids, when he's healthy, he'll likely have a shot at 755 if he doesn't retire. The real issue with Bonds is the long-term effect he'll have on Baseball history. When people look back, if he wins the record, it will always be surrounded with the looming cloud of steroids. I'm not saying they should have seperate records, but I would rather see Albert Pujols or even Alex Rodrigez break the record. Or better yet, Ken Griffey Jr. Just as long as they are seperate from the scandal.

Gagne, on the other hand, will have just as much of an impact on his team when he's not in the bullpen. Though the Dodgers have a few good arms, mainlyYhency Brazoban, but not real way to replace him. What's really problematic is that Gagne's injury is almost in the vacinity of Joe Mauer's, as it resembles the same type of pain he felt eight years ago when he had Tommy John surgery. He also has been hampered this spring by a sprained ligament in his left knee, which he injured while playing pepper during the Dodgers' first full-squad workout. It seems apparent that Gagne will be out at least a month if not more. If the Dodgers want any chance of making the playoffs, they have precious few games they can give up by not having an able, reliable closer. Gagne is such a reliable and effective closer that losing him likely signals the end of the Dodger's playoff hopes.

As for the Twins, they lose to the Pirates 5-0 today in the last game of spring training. Kyle Lohse looked sloppy, giving up four runs in five innings, closing up a inconsistent spring. Let's hope Lohse can get things together this season because he doesn't not pitch up to the talent he has. Well, let's look foward to Monday now and the beginning of a very exciting season!

Tommorow, Nick Nelson will talk about the press the Twins are getting, including the impressive number of experts predicting a world series victory.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Poor Management

Confirming my fears of a few days ago, the Twins finalized their 25-man roster today and will indeed be keeping backup-backup(-backup?) catcher Corky Miller rather than any type of left-handed pinch-hitter. For one thing, this deeply worries me about the condition of Joe Mauer's knee. If the team had any faith whatsoever in Mauer to be healthy for the length of the season then they would cut the mediocre Miller loose and bring up Rob Bowen in an emergency situation. But nope, they feel it is necessary to have three guys on the roster ready to fill in behind the plate should Joe falter. This seems idiotic for a number of reasons. Even if Mauer is unable to play catcher, Mike Redmond would certainly be as adequate a starter as Henry Blanco was for last season's division champion team. I doubt he will have too terribly much trouble batting over .206. And should he need a day off, Matt LeCroy can play catcher if needed. Granted, he's not the best defensive backstop, but it is the guy's natural position. Moreover, by keeping Miller, the Twins leave themselves without a left-handed pinch-hitter. Ron Gardenhire downplays the issue by claiming that Mauer can pinch-hit on days when he is not starting... but what if his knee is hurt and he can't play, or what if he IS starting? Who are we going to bring in to replace Luis Rivas or Jason Bartlett against a dominant right-handed pitcher? Nick Punto? Ick... this is a dispicable move.

Another move that I question: keeping righty Matt Guerrier as the team's final relief pitcher rather than lefty CJ Nitkowski. Sure, Guerrier has had a solid spring and by leaving him off the 25-man roster we would've likely lost a pretty effective right-handed pitcher who was out of options, but let's look at this from a standpoint of how we are helping the team. We already have a guy who can come in and eat up innings in Terry Mulholland, and we already have at least two guys who can come in and retire right-handed hitters in Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon. So what, exactly, is the purpose of having Guerrier around? If JC Romero falters (which is none too unlikely considering his past and his performances this spring), we have nobody who can come in and get out left-handed hitters without Nitkowski. Should be fun when Travis Hafner steps into the batter's box late in a game for the Indians.

Gardenhire still needs to regain my trust after some extremely questionable decisions in last year's playoffs, and decisions like these are certainly not helping his status in my book.

I would also like to bid farewell to Mr. Michael Restovich, who, after dwelling in the Twins' minor league system for a long time, has finally departed for (hopefully) greener pastures, as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays claimed him off waivers yesterday. Restovich, a native of Rochester, Minnesota, was a hometown favorite who had good power but was never really a good enough all-around player to make a lasting impression in the big leagues. I had always hoped he would go somewhere else where he would get a real chance, since the Twins have been overloaded with outfield talent the past several years, but Tampa Bay seems to me like a poor fit. That team is already stacked in the outfield, with Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff, and Alex Sanchez slated as starters; plus Rocco Baldelli will return to center field once he is healthy and the acclaimed speedster Joey Gathright sits waiting in the minors to be called up. Good luck Resto, it's too bad we were never able to give you a real chance here.