As reported in the Star Tribune,
Kevin Mulvey has been recalled from Rochester to pitch out of the
bullpen. Mulvey came over as part of the Santana trade, and this will
be his first call-up with the Twins since coming over from the Mets. The Twins were trying to get
by with only 11 pitchers, but a series of shortened starts at the Dome
(and the injury to Kevin Slowey, which sounds like it might be getting better)
have made that impossible. Mulvey has posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.402 WHIP,
2.13 K/BB, 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in seventeen starts for the Red Wings
this season. Meh, these numbers aren’t great, but apparently he’s
going to be used for mop-up duty and should handle that role
competently. If anything, he will provide some much-needed depth in the bullpen.
Back-up catcher Jose Morales has been optioned
back to AAA to make room for the extra pitcher. Morales was mostly
called up because Gardy likes to have an extra catcher on days Redmond
is starting and Mauer is the DH, so he wasn’t really getting much
playing time. Obviously, Morales has been having a better season at
the plate than Redmond, but Red has
incriminating pictures of Gardy more experience handling the
pitching staff and I doubt the Twins are willing to eat what little is left of his contract. Besides, the lack of production from some of the
regulars in the lineup is much more troublesome than that from a guy who only plays once a week. The Twins also could probably have optioned
Brian Buscher instead, since he also rarely sees any playing time, but
he offers more versatility in the field than Morales and often fills in
at third when Joe Crede needs a break.
The Twins have been linked
to a number of different players in trade rumors, most notably Freddy
Sanchez, relief pitchers Matt Capps and John Grabow from the Pirates,
and have apparently contacted Toronto about the availability of some of
their relievers. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the works
though, and I’m guessing that Bill Smith felt those organizations were
asking too much in return (or the Twins just don’t have the prospects
Pittsburgh and Toronto are looking for). Obviously, all that can
change with one phone call, so we’ll just have to wait and see what
happens. I don’t really like to get into what moves the organization
should make, who they should be targeting in a trade and all that
because, honestly, I’m not all that good at it. I don’t pay enough
attention to the rest of the league to know who might be a big impact
player that could help the team down the stretch. As critical as I can
be of Bill Smith and the front office sometimes, I really do like to
think that they act in the best interests of the team, and there is at
least some sound reasoning behind some of the moves they’ve made, even
if they didn’t exactly pan out. And I’m really not a fan of
rent-a-player deals, like the ones for Sabathia and Teixeira
last year. Such trades seldom ever help the team make a deep run in
the playoffs, and more often than not, the player ends up signing
elsewhere during the off-season, leaving the organization scrambling to
fill the same holes they had before. Only now the farm system is a bit
thinner on top of it, which is not at all a good thing for an
organization that relies as heavily on its farm system as the Twins.
- Justin Morneau was miffed about the canned Canadian anthem
Morneau was reportedly annoyed that the American national anthem got
the celebrity treatment at the All-Star Game, while fans were treated
to a pre-recorded version of “O, Canada”. Here’s what he told Joe Christensen:
“I wasn’t very impressed with that to tell you the truth. You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song.
They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here.
“It’s something that didn’t really go over too well. I think if it
happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they
did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do
he wasn’t too worked up about the whole thing, but Morny really does
have a point. It would be different if MLB were like football, in
which all of the teams are American-based and there is no need to
represent more than one country, but it isn’t. It’s more like the NHL,
which has both American and Canadian-based teams. Prior to the start
of every hockey game, someone always sings both national anthems
whether the game is being played in the U. S. or Canada. Besides, Toronto sent two representatives to the All-Star Game, one of which
was the starting pitcher! Obviously, there are fewer Canadian baseball
teams than hockey teams, and there are fewer Canadian-born baseball
players than hockey players, but the canned treatment of the Canadian
anthem was a bit disrespectful to our neighbors to the north. It’s not
really that big of a deal, but if MLB is going to take the time to
honor its Canadian representatives, then at least they should do it right.
- Anthony Swarzak shuts down Cubs, then gets optioned to AAA Rochester
Swarzak pitched the best game of his young career against the Baby Bears, scattering four hits and striking out six while walking only one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep his spot in the rotation, and Swarzak was notified of his demotion right after the game. Glen Perkins will most likely be activated from the DL on Tuesday, and with Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer out an indefinite length of time, the Twins can’t really afford to carry an extra pitcher at the sake of a shorter bench. They have called up backup catcher Jose Morales in the meantime, and how long he’ll stay with the team depends on Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span (more on that in a minute).
While the timing of the news might have been unfortunate, it isn’t entirely unexpected. Swarzak hasn’t pitched that much better than the starters who have been struggling this season, namely Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, and both of them have started to pick things up as of late. And while three of his five starts have been quality ones, his peripherals suggest that he isn’t quite ready to pitch in the major leagues. In his five starts, Swarzak has an ERA of 3.90 but with an xFIP of 5.63, a 1.34 WHIP and poor 18/10 K/BB ratio, that ERA should probably be closer to
6.00 (oops, I mean 5.00. proofreading is important). He had some very good outings against the Brewers and the Cubs, but he got smacked around by the Indians and wasn’t terribly impressive against either Boston or Oakland. Still, he does show some promise as a starter, after all, a three-pitch pitcher can make it in the bigs as long as those three pitches are pretty good. Swarzak will most certainly get another shot, whether it’s as a September call-up or because someone else is injured/continues to suck. At any rate, it’s nice to know that the organization does indeed have some pitching depth, and not just a surplus of arms.
- I guess you can’t have too many outfielders
Coming in to the season, the Twins’ outfield was awfully crowded and Ron Gardenhire was charged with the difficult task of finding playing time for all four outfielders (five, if you count Jason Kubel). Right field was the only position settled, with Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, and Delmon Young battling for the three remaining spots. This job has been made more difficult by the fact that two of them, namely Gomez and Young, have been very disappointing at the plate thus far. But now that Michael Cuddyer is out with a finger injury (go figure), and Denard Span is suffering from an inner-ear problem, suddenly the outfield doesn’t look quite so deep. It’s hard to say how long either one will be out of the lineup, both are still listed as day-to-day, but Cuddyer is scheduled to meet with a finger specialist on Monday so it’s a good bet he’ll end up on the DL. Span is recovering from what’s being called an “inner ear disorder”, but there’s no official word on when he’s expected to return to the lineup. Obviously, losing Span has hurt the most, since he’s batting .291/.380/.386 in the leadoff spot while showing a lot of versatility as an outfielder. Cuddyer might have more power, but he also strikes out a lot and can’t really play any other position than right field. In the meantime, Jason Kubel has been starting in right, and while his bat has been hot lately, he isn’t the greatest defensive outfielder and there’s always concern that playing in the outfield will aggravate his balky knees. Obviously, the Twins don’t seem to think either Cuddyer or Span will miss much time, or they probably would’ve called up another outfielder instead of a backup catcher.
Actually, 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.
- Pirates victimize the projected Opening Day starter
The Pirates hit three home runs off of Baker yesterday, two of which came from former Twin Craig Monroe. The Twins traded for Monroe prior to the 2008 season, and he was a bust. He batted .212/.274/.405 before being released just after the All-Star break. This is one of those deals that didn’t make a whole lot of sense when Smith pulled the trigger, as it appeared that Monroe was pretty much washed up at the time. The reasoning behind the deal was pretty sound: the Twins needed a right-handed power bat and the Cubs weren’t asking much in return. However, Monroe clearly was not the bat they were looking for. Other than his monster season in 2006, he had never hit more than 25 home runs in a year, and the most he had ever hit was 22. But I digress, this post is supposed to be about Scott Baker!
This game highlighted one of the 27 year old righty’s major weaknesses: the tendency to give up the gopher ball. Baker gave up 20 home runs in his 28 starts last season, and is projected to give up anywhere from 19-22 again this year. A lot of this has to do with the fact that his fastball isn’t very fast, usually topping out at around 91 mph. It (and all of his other pitches for that matter), is very effective if he can locate it, which is something he obviously struggled with yesterday. Still, Baker has a solid K/BB ratio of 3.36 and doesn’t put a lot of runners on base, so the damage is usually limited to solo homers (as all of the Pirates’ homers were yesterday).
- Joe Mauer may or may not be ready for Opening Day
According to the Star Tribune, Mauer is currently in Baltimore getting a second opinion on his back problem. This was apparently a mutual decision between the player and the organization, who are taking no chances with their All-Star catcher. We should know more about the injury and if Mauer will be ready for Opening Day once the results of the exam come back. However, even if Mauer isn’t ready at the start of the season, the Twins aren’t completely sunk. They do have some other good options behind the plate:
- Mike Redmond: Red Dog has always been a solid backup catcher, and could probably handle all of the catching duties himself if he were asked. But he’s 37 years old, and though he would probably post better numbers than he did last year with more playing time, it’s unlikely his body could withstand the grind of catching six nights a week.
- Jose Morales: Having Morales and Redmond share the catching duties is probably the best option. Morales showed a lot of promise when he was first called up in 2007, but suffered torn ligaments in his ankle when he was rounding the bases in his first major league game. This injury ended up sidelining him for most of the season last year, but he had more surgery and is now apparently pain free.
- Drew Butera: The son of former major-league catcher Sal Butera, the 24-year old prospect has been having a pretty good spring, though he’s only started five games so far. He isn’t one of the top-ranked prospects in the organization, though, and has yet to advance past AA ball. He would probably only get called up if Mauer is out and the Twins needed a third catcher.
- Wilson Ramos: Ramos is the catcher-of-the-future should the Twins decide they cannot afford to keep Joe Mauer. I’ve written about Ramos before, and he’s been pretty impressive during camp. Not only has he been hitting very well, he has also demonstrated an ability to handle the big-league pitching staff. Naturally this has led some people to speculate that Ramos might get the call if Mauer will indeed miss some of the season. However, Ramos is only 21 years old has yet to advance higher than Advanced A ball, so he’s probably not quite ready to make his big-league debut just yet. Very few prospects can make the jump from the low minors to the major leagues successfully, and even fewer can do so while playing the most difficult position on the field. It would be best to allow Ramos to develop further, and to let Morales or Butera split time with Redmond at backtstop.
- Pudge Rodriguez: Do. Not. Want. Yes, Pudge has been tearing the cover off the ball in the WBC, but he’s been declining both offensively and defensively over the past few years (of course, his decline might have something to do with his alleged use of PEDs). He’s a year older than Redmond, and clearly his best days are behind him. Pudge batted .276/.319/.374 with 7 home runs and an OPS+ of 87 between Detroit and the Yankees last year. While adjusting to a new team after being traded might have affected his numbers some (he was clearly better in Detroit than New York), the effects were likely minimal because he wasn’t much better the year before that. In comparison, Redmond hit .287/.321/.333 with an OPS+ of 80 in the 38 starts he made behind the plate last season. The Twins would be better off saving their money and letting Redmond and one of their prospects handle the catching duties.
- Wild fall to Avalanche 2-1
Ugh, just when I thought they couldn’t possibly play any worse, the Wild go and lay an egg against Colorado at Pepsi Center. The Wild were pretty bad against the Sharks on Tuesday, but at least they showed some life in the third period. They would score three goals in that period and tie the game, only to fall in OT when San Jose D Christian Erhoff picked off an errant pass by Antti Miettinen and scored the winning goal.
The Mild (yes, that’s what I’m calling them from now on) never showed up against the Avs last night, and this was a game they absolutely had to win. The Avs are the worst team in the Western Conference, and it appears that Minnesota took their opponent lightly. They got off to a quick 1-0 lead, but never mounted much of a threat since then. Poor Niklas Backstrom was under siege all night long, but he managed to turn aside 40 shots, while his counterpart Peter Budaj faced a mere 16 shots on goal the entire game.
How bad was the Wild’s offense last night? About as bad as poor Patrik Stefan:
I never thought I’d say this (Okay, I’ve been saying this for awhile, but humor me), but it looks like our guys are just playing out the season now. This team can’t even win two games in a row (though they obviously have no problem putting together a losing streak), how in the world are they going to make a successful run for a playoff spot?
- Speaking of playing out the season…
The Wolves dominated the Grizzlies 104-79 at Target Center on Wednesday night, snapping an eight-game losing streak. I was starting to get kind of excited about the season and hoped our guys could finish at .500 for a change. Then I looked at the standings and realized the Wolfies haven’t even won 20 games this year. Oh well, at least we have that high draft pick to look forward to. And the Wolves aren’t even the worst team in the league, so there’s that. And Al Jefferson’s rehab is apparently going really well so far, so he should be back next season. Maybe then they won’t post a losing record for once!
Oh yeah, and Glen Taylor has no intention of letting Kevin McHale come anywhere near the front office again, so I guess there’s some hope for our Wolfies.
Spring is here! Although you wouldn’t know it here in
Southern Canada Minny. Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Fort Myers yesterday, but most of the players on the 40-man roster have already shown up. The few stragglers still have until Friday to report to camp. It might not be as exciting as the news coming out of the Yankees’ camp, but here’s what’s been reported so far:
Joe Nathan isn’t happy with Alex Rodriguez. Or any of the other admitted ‘roiders for that matter.
The bullpen is determined to not suck this year.
Francisco Liriano apparently has decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. He was supposed to pitch for the Dominican Republic, but would rather focus on getting ready for the upcoming season.
Brian Buscher is ready to compete for the starting third base job.
Corey Koskie is trying to make a comeback. He’s hoping to win a spot on the roster for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic and draw interest from major league teams. I wish him the best.
Joe Mauer has been working out, but he hasn’t participated in any baseball activities yet. He’s still feeling some lingering soreness from his operation to remove a kidney obstruction. He’ll probably miss some spring training games, but is still projected to be ready by Opening Day.
Meanwhile, Jose Morales is hoping that Mauer’s recovery opens a spot for him on the roster. He’s struggled with injuries of his own after tearing the ligaments in his ankle while running the bases in his first major league game. He’s not the catcher of the future, that would be Wilson Ramos, but he could serve as a competent backup should the Twins part with Mike Redmond after the season.
And sadly, former outfielder Ted Uhlaender passed away from a heart attack last Thursday. He was 68. Uhlaender made his big-league debut for the Twins in 1965, and played with them for four seasons until being traded to the Indians in 1969. He once led the Pacific League in hitting, and played in the 1972 World Series for the Cincinnati Reds. Most recently he was working as a scout for the San Francisco Giants, until he fell ill with multiple myeloma. He is survived by his wife Karen, daughter Katie, and son Will.