Tagged: Blowouts

O Happy Day

  • Twins thump White Sox 20-1

p20b.jpgThe Twins were simply trying to avoid being swept by the Pale Hose, and going winless on this road trip, and somehow managed to score twenty runs in the process.  Before the seventh-inning stretch, no less. While it seems like pretty much every Twin had a hit (Except for Nick Punto, who went 0-for-5 with 3 Ks.  Justin Morneau went hitless, too, though he did draw 3 walks, one of which was intentional), Joe Mauer certainly had a good day at the plate.  He hit the second grand slam of his career, as well as a pair of doubles, and drove in six runs.  Ron Gardenhire shook up the lineup a bit, batting Mauer second and moving Matt Tolbert down to the eighth spot, a move that is long overdue.  Mauer has always been more of a prototypical #2 hitter, since he hasn’t typically shown enough power to be a #3 hitter (although that appears to be changing), and it generally makes sense to have one of your best hitters batting second.  Gardy has always been reluctant to do this though, since he doesn’t like the idea of having four lefties batting in a row.  Perhaps this outpouring of offense will convince Gardy that it’s OK to bat a bunch of lefties in a row when those lefties include Denard Span, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau.

The Twins did get a lot of help from former Yankee fan-favorite Wilson Betemit, who spent the afternoon making a mockery out of the third base position.  Bartolo Colon really only gave up one earned run before being yanked in the second inning, the other seven came after Betemit failed to field a Nick Punto bunt.  Betemit didn’t help his cause at the plate, either, going 0-for-4 and stranding a runner on base. 

Nick Blackburn scattered four hits and shut out the White Sox through seven innings, and helped the Twins end a streak of a different kind:  the tendency of the pitching staff to give back the lead, often in the bottom of the inning.  This has been a consistent problem throughout the season, but it’s been particularly troublesome on this road trip.  Before leaving for the seven-game trip to New York and Chicago, the Twins had swept the Tigers and were tied for first place.  But the pitching staff blew at least four leads going into the later innings, costing the Twins at least as many wins and putting them 5.5 games behind the first-place Tigers (who haven’t lost since).  Had the Twins managed to hold those leads, they would probably have finished the road trip 4-3. if not 5-2, instead of 1-6 and would probably be trailing Detroit by just a game or two.     

  • But wait, there’s more

jakepeavy.jpgThis lopsided loss couldn’t have come at a worse time for the White Sox.  Jake Peavy was deciding whether to accept a trade to the Southside, and not surprisingly, he declined.  The outcome of this game probably had little to do with his decision, however, since Peavy has long expressed a preference to remain in the National League.  It’s also not terribly surprising that Peavy would prefer to remain in an extreme pitcher’s ballpark, such as Petco, rather than move to a hitter’s paradise such as the Cell.

However, as much as it pains me to say this, the White Sox should probably consider themselves lucky that the deal fell through.  Whether or not Jake Peavy should be considered one of the best pitchers in the league is the subject of intense debate, since he does pitch in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark.  While his road numbers in general aren’t exactly terrible, his WHIP increases from 1.085 to 1.293 and his K/BB ratio decreases from 3.73 to 2.54 outside the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park.  Which indicates that Peavy might have a rough transition to the American League, and especially to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.  And then there’s the matter of Peavy’s contract, which the ChiSox would have been on the hook for had he actually agreed to the trade.  $52 million over the next three years is an awful lot of money to spend on a guy who may or may not pitch as effectively in the AL, not to mention the prospects Chicago would have to give up in exchange.   

  • But wait, there’s more

On a completely unrelated note, the Wild have hired Chuck Fletcher as their new GM (sorry Pierre).  I’m not going to go into much detail about the hiring, since this is a baseball blog, except to say that this does like a very good hire (on paper, anyway).  This team is going to look very different going forward, which will be very interesting.  Still, it’s probably best to see what moves he makes first, including hiring a new coach, before getting too excited. 

Oh, yeah, and the Wolves have a new GM now too, but zzzzzzz….


For Unto Us a Batting Champ Is Born

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for mauer.jpgHe has two batting titles.  He has a Gold Glove. He has his own theme song.  And since today is his 26th birthday, I’m going to make the case that Joe Mauer might be, if not the best, certainly one of the most irreplaceable players in any position in the league.

Mauer has consistently ranked near the top of the league in two of the best measurements of a player’s value to his organization:  VORP and Runs Above Average.  Last season, Mauer was fourth in the league in VORP, and his 43.0 RAA was the best for a catcher in either league.  He’s also ranked in the top five pretty consistently throughout his career, with his worst year coming in 2007, when he was limited to 109 games due to injury.  However, the problem with both VORP and RAA as statistical measures is that they both weigh each plate appearance exactly the same.  For example, a solo homer when the team is up (or down) by ten runs is equal to a walk-off home run, when one clearly affects the outcome of a game more than the other.  Thankfully, we also have Win Probability Added, which takes such things into account.  Last season, Mauer’s 4.88 raw WPA led the entire league, and once again, he ranks near the top pretty consistently. 

Of course, one of the biggest problems with all of those metrics is that they only measure offense and fail to account for a player’s defensive contributions. While there are some pretty good metrics for evaluating defense, each have their own limitations and there is little consensus as to which metric is really the most accurate.  Basically, all of these defensive metrics attempt to measure a position player’s defensive contributions by determining how many runs per game he saves, and despite their limitations, they are pretty good at evaluating defense for most position players.  Except for catcher, that is.  Since so much of a catcher’s defense depends upon the pitcher, it’s really difficult to determine just how many runs per game a catcher actually saves.  But it’s interesting to note that, whichever metric you use, Mauer once again consistently comes out near the top for catchers, and a good case could be made that he is one of the best defensive players at any position in baseball.  He is also very good at throwing out baserunners (about 36% of them), though he isn’t the best in the league.  I sometimes wonder if his reputation sort of precedes him and guys are simply less likely to run on him in the first place, which in and of itself might be more valuable than his actual ability to throw runners out.

It is often argued that Mauer isn’t that great of a hitter since doesn’t have much power, and since he only has 44 career home runs, one might be inclined to agree.  However, when you dig a bit deeper into his career numbers, it appears that he does have more power than a lot of people tend to think.  While his .457 career slugging percentage isn’t exactly a Pujolsian .624, he’s hardly the crappy singles hitter his critics make him out to be.  Mauer has a career OPS+ of 128, and has had an OPS+ of 130 or better three times in his career (137 in 2004 and 2008, and 144 in 2006, the year he won his first batting title).  In comparison, Justin Morneau (who is often considered the most dangerous hitter on the team), has a higher career slugging percentage of .499, but a lower OPS+ of 122 and has actually never had an OPS+ as high as Mauer in any of his seven major league seasons.

One has to wonder why Joe Mauer is so consistently overlooked as an MVP candidate, even though he puts up better numbers than anyone else on the team (and most of the league, especially when adjusted for position) and is arguably one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.  Justin Morneau is often considered the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, but other than his power numbers, Morny isn’t significantly better than Mauer in most offensive categories (he’s actually a bit worse in some of them). And while Morny is certainly a very good hitter, his career numbers are actually pretty average for a first baseman.  This is an issue that has been explored in depth by other, smarter Twins bloggers (and Joe Posnanski), so I’m not going to go into much detail on the subject.  I tend to think that voters (and opposing teams) are dazzled by Morneau’s raw power and all of the RBI he racks up and tend to undervalue Mauer’s ability to simply put the ball in play with runners in scoring position.

The Twins have Joe Mauer locked up until after the 2010 season, and there is a lot of debate among fans as to whether or not it would be worth the estimated $150 million to keep him.  Although Mauer is much more durable than people give him credit for, he plays a physically  demanding position and doesn’t have the greatest health history.  He missed much of his rookie season with knee surgery, missed most of 2007 with leg problems, and so far has missed the first few weeks of this season with back problems.  Having said all that, I do think the Twins would be wise to extend Mauer’s contract.  Yes, it’s a lot of money for a small-budget team to risk on a player with his health history, but his bat has been so invaluable in the lineup that I think it is a risk worth taking.  Even if the Twins end up moving him to a position where he would be less injury-prone, like third base, Mauer is athletic enough that he should make the transition successfully.  And though a 3B who hits .317/.399/.457 certainly isn’t as valuable as a catcher who does, it’s possible that Mauer’s power numbers might improve if he were in a less physically demanding position.  But there’s also the distinct possibility that, with the move into the outdoor stadium, his health will no longer be such an issue.  Either way, signing Mauer to a long-term contract would be in the best interest of the organization.

  • There’s the Kevin Slowey we know and love: Twins defeat Angels 9-2

kev_slowey.jpgKevin Slowey rebounded from his awful first couple of starts, in which he gave up ten earned runs on twenty-three hits in 11.1 innings.  Slowey was coming off of his worst start of the season on Monday night, when the Blue Jays smacked him around for five earned runs on thirteen hits in 5.1 innings.  Other than one mistake to Torii Hunter in the second, Slowey managed to shut down the Angels for seven innings, giving up just two earned runs on six hits and striking out five.  Of course, it helps that the offense managed to provide some much-needed run support, b
eating up the Angels’ bullpen for nine runs in two innings.

And um, I guess until the pitching staff has a game like this one, maybe I should stop complaining about them so much.  Yikes.

Jason Kubel had another good night at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI.  This is his second consecutive four-hit game, and the first time a Twin has had back-to-back four hit games since Mauer did it against the Dodgers in 2006.     

Lefty reliever Craig Breslow continued to struggle with his command, walking the first batter he faced, but settled down and pitched effectively enough to keep the Angels of the scoreboard in the eighth.  Juan Morillo made his debut with the Twins in the ninth, and his 94 mph was as good as advertised.  Morillo has been working with pitching coach Rick Anderson on his command, and whether or not he’s put his control issues behind him is still a huge question, but he certainly wasn’t having any problems finding the strike zone last night.  He retired the first two batters he faced before giving up a harmless single to Juan Rivera. 

Oh, and as much as I love both baseball and hockey, even I think that this is an abomination.

Good Riddance to the Boo Jays

FireFlameBurst.jpg.w560h747.jpgSorry, Jays fans, but you would feel the same way if your team had been so completely and thoroughly embarrassed by one pesky team over the years.  I can’t say I expected the Twins to actually win this game, since they have never beaten Roy Halladay.  Ever.  But things were much, much closer than the final score would indicate.  Francisco Liriano has started to pitch like the old Frankie (or at least the one who came up in August last year), giving up one earned run in six innings, though the earned run was sort of questionable as Brendan Harris wasn’t playing deeply enough to catch the relay throw from Denard Span, allowing Jose Bautista to easily advance to third on a deep fly ball by Marco Scutaro and then score on a single.  Other than a couple of doubles and a walk, Frankie was nearly spotless and struck out five Blue Jays before exiting the game after the sixth. 

Unfortunately, the bullpen brought gas cans to the mound in the seventh.  Three different relievers combined for seven runs on six hits in that inning, including a grand slam to Kevin Millar given up by R.A. Dickey (on the very first pitch, nonetheless).  Matt Guerrier started things off with a two-run homer to Marco Scutaro.  When he gave up a single to Vernon Wells, lefty Craig Breslow was brought in to face Adam Lind.  Breslow proceeded to allow another run on a wild pitch and walk two more batters, loading the bases. He was then lifted in favor of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (who had just pitched nearly three innings in relief the night before) who promptly hung a knuckleball, and there went the ballgame.

The pitching staff has been roughed up a bit in the first few weeks of the season, but I still think it’s too early to panic just yet.  The starting rotation has at least shown signs that they will recover from their early struggles.  Glen Perkins has been the lone bright spot in the rotation so far this season, Francisco Liriano has rebounded nicely from his first two rough starts, and righties Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker will probably bounce back as well.  Nick Blackburn, well, he is what he is, though he hasn’t exactly been terrible this season, either.  He pitches to contact and will probably always give up a lot of runs (he’s a lot like Carlos Silva), but he should at least pitch a solid 6-7 innings per game.  The bullpen, however, gives me cause for concern.  The Twins do have a reliable set-up man in Jesse Crain and a decent seventh-inning guy in Matt Guerrier, but the rest of the ‘pen is kind of a mess.  Neither Philip Humber nor Luis Ayala have shown much this year, and Ayala will probably be released sometime by June (if not before then).  R.A. Dickey was effective as a reliever for the Mariners last year, but a knuckleballer probably isn’t the best choice in tight situations.  Lefty Craig Breslow was a pleasant surprise last year, holding lefties to a .183/.230/.323 line and righties to .221/.230/.233, but has struggled to even find the plate in his five relief appearances so far this season.  There isn’t a large sample size to draw from, but Breslow hasn’t shown a penchant for wildness thus far in his career, so this might just be a bit of a hiccup.

Update: apparently the Twins have gotten sick of Humber and his penchant for leaving his curveball up over the plate and have designated him for assignment.  They have picked up Juan Morillo from Colorado to take Humber’s spot in the bullpen.  Morillo hasn’t fared much better than Humber so far (he has an ERA of 11.42 in 8.2 innings), but his 96 mph fastball is very intriguing.  He throws very hard, but has issues with his command (he had an 80 walk season in 2006).  Maybe pitching coach Rick Anderson will be able to work his magic and get him to throw strikes.  At the very least, Morillo will keep a spot warm for either Jose Mijares or Anthony Swarzak.

Twins 12, White Sox 5

morneau_crede.jpgActually, this game was pretty close through six innings, until the Sox bullpen forgot how to record outs in the seventh. The Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but then Chicago came right back, tying the game and then taking the lead on a solo homer by Paul Konerko in the third.  That lead would vanish in the very next inning, however.  Denard Span laced an RBI double to right-center, and then Alexi Casilla tripled and scored on a Justin Morneau single to put the Twins ahead for good.  Morneau started the offensive explosion in the seventh with a solo homer to left field, and then things kind of fell apart for the Sox from there.  The Twins would bat around on three different relievers in the inning without recording a single out. 

Joe Crede picked a very good time to hit his first home run of the season, during is very first at-bat against his former team.  As a joke, the Sox played Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” when he came up to bat in the second.  The joke was his former teammates, though, as Crede promptly deposited a 2-0 pitch from starter Jose Contreras into the seats.  The crowd, which had previously given him a standing ovation, quickly started to boo as he rounded the bases.

Catcher Jose Morales also had a very good night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks.  Morales was 3-for-3 in his previous appearance against Contreras at the Cell, his first major league game (and the one in which he injured his ankle).  More importantly, he handled Dickey’s knuckleball very well, making several blocks with runners on. 

Starter R.A. Dickey was a bit wild with the knuckleball, walking four batters in five innings.  He gave up three runs on four hits, but was effective enough to get his first win of the season (and perhaps well enough to earn a spot in the bullpen when Scott Baker returns to the rotation).   Brian Duensing pitched three innings of relief, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin in the seventh, but pitched two relatively uneventful innings before and after that.  Philip Humber pitched a scoreless ninth. 

Delmon Young was back in the lineup and had his first hit of the season, an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.  Unfortunately, he also misplayed a very catchable fly ball in the first, allowing Chris Getz to advance to second.  Dickey managed to pitch out of the inning, but it does highlight one of Young’s biggest weaknesses: his defense. The outfielder has been criticized for his terrible play in the field (and not just by me).  This is the second time in as many starts that Young has mishandled the ball on a very routine play.  With the outfield situation being as crowded as it is, he is going to have to improve or he’ll just see more time on the bench.

In other news, Scott Baker is close to returning to the team.  He pitched very well in his rehab start for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and should be back with the team by Wednesday.   Kevin Slowey was devastated by the loss of Nick Adenhart, who he considered ‘a little brother‘.  The two were teammates on the 2006 Olympic team, and were planning to catch up during the upcoming series in Anaheim.  The driver who caused the fatal crash, Andrew Gallo, is apparently going to be facing murder charges.

Oh, yeah, and the Wild defeated the Predators in a blowout of their own, 8-4, at the X.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter as St. Louis and Anaheim both picked up vital points and have thus eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention.  Too little, too late, boys.

Offensive Explosion

  • Twins hit four homers against O’s

morny_homer.jpgThe Twins teed off on Baltimore yesterday, bashing four home runs.  Justin Morneau hit his second dinger in as many games, a two-run shot off of Jeremy Guthrie in the first.  Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert(!) and Delmon Young all homered off of Adam Eaton in the sixth, though the wind did help out a little bit (except for Brendan Harris’ rocket off of the Walgreen’s sign in left field, and Morny’s laser to center).  And while nobody homered in today’s contest against the Marlins, the offense managed to produce eight runs on twelve hits.  Starter Kevin Slowey had two hits and three RBI of his own, while shutting down the Fish for five innings (his lone run was a Dan Uggla solo shot).   

The Twins have now scored 29 runs in their past four games.  While some readers thought that I was just being negative when I complained about the lack of offense, it turns out that a little tough love is what the guys really needed.  You’re welcome.

  • Chicago pounds Oakland, 20-5

Kyle Orton threw two touchdown passes, and Chicago added a couple of field goals on their way to a rout of Oakland.  The Raiders couldn’t solve the Bears’ stifling D, and only managed to score a field goal and a safety.

Seriously, though, this has to be the ugliest boxscore ever.   Paul Bako had four hits and three RBI even though he didn’t come in until the sixth inning.  Oakland reliever Edgar Gonzalez barfed up seven earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, giving him a 94.50 ERA for the day.  Andrew Bailey was the only Oakland pitcher who managed to toss a scoreless inning.   

  • Japan defeats Korea, 5-3 to repeat as WBC champs

japan_wbc_champs.jpgI’m not going to lie, I fell asleep on the couch in the bottom of the eighth and didn’t get to see how the game ended.  I can’t help it, I was tired!  And it looked like Japan pretty much had this one in the bag, anyway.  Luckily the good people at Ghostrunner on First were paying attention, so I didn’t have to.  While I think that the tournament has its flaws (the timing is wrong, the formatting should be better, etc.) these games have to be some of the most exciting I’ve seen in a long time.  After being deprived of baseball for four long months, it just felt really good to have that had all of the excitement and intensity of playoff matches.  In March!  Four years just seems way too long to wait for more.

  • But what if you don’t really want either one?

The geniuses in the St. Paul Saints‘ public relations department have dreamed up another brilliant promotional scheme.  These are, after all, the same people who came up with the Larry Craig bobble foot doll (in honor of National Tap Dance Day, of course):

bobble_foot_doll_2.jpgIn honor of Minnesota’s never-ending Senate recount, the Saints created the “Re” Count bobble head doll:

recount.jpgHe’s modeled after Count von Count of Sesame Street fame:

The “Re” Count doll will be distributed to the first 2,500 fans on May 23, prior to a game against the Sioux Falls Canaries.  Hopefully this whole thing will be over with by then.  But I wouldn’t count on it.

Everybody Lost Today

  • Canada loses 6-5 to the U.S.

morneau_justin031031.jpgThat’s right, I am cheering for team Canada.  Why?  Because I am a terrorist Twins fan who hates freedom, that’s why.  I know I should root for my home country and I know it’s unpatriotic if I don’t. I would just find it much easier to do so if there were any Twins on the American roster.  Besides, I can’t bring myself to root against Justin Morneau.  I can’t.  I won’t.  It’s like rooting against puppies or Jesus or something. 

This game was probably the best of the WBC so far.  Canada jumped out to an early lead, but the U. S. answered right back.  Then they answered back some more, to the tune of four runs on two monster home runs.  But then Canada battled back and came within one run.  They had runners at second and third with only one out with Morny and Jason Bay coming up to bat.  And both of them promptly killed the rally and thus ended Canada’s hope of embarrassing the U.S. team a second time.  Oh, well, the sooner Canada gets eliminated the sooner Morny and Jesse Crain can resume playing for the only team that really matters.

By the way, I think the Dominican Republic forgot that they were supposed to win this game.

  • Twins lose 10-1 to the Pirates

This is actually the first blowout loss the Twins have suffered in these exhibition games, so I guess I’m not going to get too upset.  It just would’ve been nice if one Minnesota team could’ve beaten somebody at something today.  Michael Cuddyer scored the only Twins run after hitting a triple, but Alexi Casilla went 2-for-3 with a double.  I’ve expressed concern that Casilla might not be able to repeat the success he enjoyed last year, and so far he hasn’t looked very comfortable at the plate.  Maybe he’s starting to get settled in now, though.

Scott Baker wasn’t exactly dominant, but he held the Pirates to one run on six hits in his four innings while striking out four (his one run allowed was a solo shot by Adam LaRoche).  The rest of the pitching staff, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well.  R. A. Dickey was the only other pitcher who was effective, shutting out the Pirates in his one inning of relief.  Most notably, Matt Guerrier gave up two runs on two hits and eighth-inning candidate Jose Mijares gave up one run on two hits.  Although he’s a lefty and was very impressive during his September call-up last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mijares was sent down to Rochester for more seasoning.  He just doesn’t seem to be quite ready to pitch in the major leagues yet.  Besides, the Twins wanted him to work on some things and he’s failed to do so thus far.

  • Scott Baker signs four-year deal with Twins

PH2007083102132.jpgThere was talk earlier during the offseason that the Twins might want to lock up some of their young starters into long-term deals, since most of them will be arbitration-eligible next year.  They took the first step in doing so by signing projected Opening Day starter Scott Baker to a four year, $15.25 million deal, with an option for a fifth.  The Twins have essentially bought out all of Baker’s arbitration-eligible years and have an option for his first year of free agency.  Better yet, they will have him under contract until he’s thirty-two, and the most he will get paid is if they pick up his $9.25 million option (Joe Christensen breaks down the deal here).  While it hardly takes a genius to recognize that it is in an organization’s best interest to lock up young talent while it is still relatively inexpensive, I will give Bill Smith some credit for keeping Baker through what will be the peak of his career at a reasonable price.

Baker was very good last year.  Actually, according to Fangraphs, he was the second-best pitcher on the team (behind Joe Nathan of course).  Baker started to emerge as the staff ace, since Francisco Liriano was struggling to recover from Tommy-John surgery.  While I do think Liriano will eventually surpass Baker and claim the top spot, for now the twenty-seven year old righty is the best pitcher in the rotation.  He posted an ERA+ of 118 and an FIP of 3.79.  His K/BB ratio was a respectable 3.36 and he also posted a WHIP of 1.18.  Baker is more of a fly-ball than strikeout pitcher, though, and sometimes gets burned by the long ball (his HR/9 inning rate was 1.04 last year).  However, most of the damage is limited to solo homers since he’s good pretty at keeping runners off the base paths. 

  • Wild lose to Kings, 4-3

I have said it before, but I think it bears repeating:  the Wild are not going to make the playoffs this year. They haven’t been able to string together more than two wins in a row since they won their first six games to start the season, and such a team doesn’t deserve to make the playoffs. This game featured some rare shoddy goaltending by our Backs, who seemed to be sleeping out there. Ugh. Can’t we just call a mercy rule on the rest of the season?  I don’t think I can take anymore.

On a more positive note, defenseman Kurtis Foster made his first appearance on the ice in nearly a year.  It was obvious that he wasn’t quite ready to play, but he had no choice as Brent Burns was sick and there wasn’t anyone else who could replace him.  Fozzie looked a little shaky out there at first, and didn’t earn any points through his twelve shifts.  Considering that he’s been out of the lineup for so long, and wasn’t even expecting to play tonight, he actually fared pretty well.  It was just really good to see him out there skating with the team again.

2-0, Baby!!!

That’s right, the Twins are now perfect in meaningless games against opponent’s B-squads.   Today’s game against the Reds wasn’t broadcast anywhere, but it sounds like our guys played well.  The offense came to life, scoring 10 runs, and the pitching (with one exception) was stellar.  Okay, let’s just start the regular season right now, I don’t want to wait anymore!

Here’s the important stuff:

  • That’s no way to earn a spot in the bullpen, young man

humber.jpgPhilip Humber gave up four runs on four hits in his one inning of work, and plunked a guy on top of it.  None of these hits left the park, but this still isn’t very good news for someone who is competing for Boof Bonser’s former job.  Or wait, maybe it is.  Anyway, he hasn’t completely blown his audition yet.  Jason Jones didn’t inspire much confidence yesterday, though he didn’t give up as many runs.  R. A. Dickey, who’s also in the mix, pitched a scoreless inning against the Reds today, striking out three and giving up one hit.  By the way, if you’ve ever wondered how to throw a knuckleball, Dickey gives an instructional here.

  • The rest of the bullpen was just fine, though

Matt Guerrier put up a zero in his single inning of work.  I don’t know if he looked very sharp,matty_g.jpg but I’m going to guess that he was pretty good since he didn’t give up any hits or walks.  Craig Breslow also pitched a scoreless fourth, with one strikeout.  Jose Mijares is starting to look like he’s the real deal, pitching one scoreless frame and striking out two while walking one. 

Also noteworthy is the performance of two of the Twins’ most intriguing pitching prospects:  Anthony Swarzak and Armando Gabino.  Swarzak pitched a scoreless eighth, while striking out one.  He will most likely start the season in AAA, but should be first in line in case someone gets injured.  Gabino also pitched pretty well in the ninth, though he did give up a walk.  He’ll probably advance to AAA this year.

  • There’s the offense I was looking for

brian_buscher.jpgThe Twins had an offensive explosion this afternoon, tagging four different Reds pitchers with ten earned runs.  And these were not all bloop hits, either.  The Twins homered twice, one was a two-run shot by Brian Buscher, the other was a grand-salami by prospect Brock Peterson.  In all, eleven different players combined for ten runs on fourteen hits, though they only drew two walks,  And struck out six times, leaving nineteen men on base.  

I am not at all worried about what will happen to the Twins if Joe Crede turns out to be a bust because Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher have been tearing the cover off the ball so far. Both hadbrendan_harris.jpg very productive at-bats again in today’s game.  Buscher went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and Harris also went 2-for-3 with a double. However, it’s not just the spring training games that have sold me on the former third-base platoon partners.  Given how effective Buscher has been against righties (.297/.354/.411) and Harris against lefties(.295/.360/.440), the Twins will be just fine if they can utilize the two effectively.  Buscher is kind of a long shot to make the team now, with the signing of Crede, but if he keeps hitting like this the front office will have no choice (I prefer a deeper bench anyway, especially since there’s no need to carry more than 11 pitchers this season).

One of the Twins’ biggest question marks, Carlos Gomez, didn’t do anything. Instead, he went 0-3 in his first spring-training start and though he didn’t record a strikeout, he didn’t draw any walks, either. That is no way to earn a starting job, young man.

Yesterday, Glen Perkins pitched two scoreless innings and only gave up one hit.  Today, Nick Blackburn pitched two perfect innings.  I know this is a small sample size, and these are only spring training games, but it’s encouraging that the two most questionable members of the starting rotation are off to such a good start.  I would prefer to not have to worry about the starters this year. I have a feeling the bullpen is once again going to keep me from sleeping at night.

  • Boof Bonser’s agent isn’t very happy with the decision to delay surgery

Thumbnail image for boof.jpgBonser’s agent, Larry Reynolds, expressed frustration with the Twins’ organization and its handling of his client’s injuries.  He felt that surgery should have been performed much sooner, preferably right after the season was over.  This is not the first time the Twins have come under fire for their handling of a pitcher’s injury.  Armchair physicians everywhere were quick to question team doctors when they told Pat Neshek to put off surgery in favor of rehabilitation, and Neshek ended up having surgery anyway.

However, these two cases are very different.  The Twins knew that Neshek had a partially torn UCL, but felt that rehab would be a better option than surgery at that point.  Neshek got a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews (yes, that Dr. James Andrews), who agreed with the team doctors.  Neshek’s rehab was going really well until he started throwing off the mound, when he completely tore the ligament and was then forced to have surgery.  Whether or not Neshek should have had the surgery in the first place is certainly debatable, but at the time the partial tear in the ligament didn’t seem serious enough to require an operation.

Bonser, on the other hand, was much more difficult to diagnose.&n
bsp; He started having soreness in his throwing shoulder towards the end of the season, but an MRI and an X-ray failed to show anything serious.  The team doctors thought it was just tendinitis, and prescribed rest.  It wasn’t until Boof arrived at camp and started his throwing program that his problems started to resurface.  Even then, no structural damage showed up on a second MRI and so the team decided that exploratory surgery was necessary to diagnose the problem.   Unfortunately, the operation revealed partial tears in his labum and rotator cuff that will sideline him for the rest of the season.  In this case, the team probably did the right thing.  Unless a tear shows up during diagnostic testing, there is no reason to take such drastic measures.  It’s also possible that the injuries didn’t occur until after Bonser started throwing again (it would be very difficult to finish the season with a torn rotator cuff, after all). 

Even if the surgery had been performed right after the season was over, as Reynolds suggested, there’s no guarantee that Boof would be ready to pitch this season.  He would probably have to spend most of the season rehabbing his shoulder in AAA, not pitching out of the bullpen.  At least this way he should be ready by Opening Day of the 2010 season.