- Twins hit four homers against O’s
The 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
I’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):
In honor of Minnesota’s never-ending Senate recount, the Saints created the “Re” Count bobble head doll:
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.
- Team USA poops the proverbial bed
Well, things got off to a good start for the Americans. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff home run against Daisuke Matsuzaka. And then things kind of went downhill from there. The Japanese would score nine runs, only five of which were actually earned. Team USA’s defense was atrocious. Officially the Americans committed three errors, but unofficially it was probably closer to five or six. Obviously they didn’t want the Venezuelan record of five errors in a WBC game to stand (those commie ********!) and were trying their hardest to set a new standard in horrible defense. Either that or they simply forgot that this was a single-elimination game.
Japan now gets to defend its WBC title against Korea tonight. It’s kind of disappointing that the US didn’t make it to the finals, but this should be a very good game. These two teams are powerhouses of Asian baseball, sort of like the Yankees and the Red Sox of the far east. I don’t have a particular favorite to win it all, but I guess I’ll root for the defending champs. Which of course means that Korea is going to win. I mean, look at my track record so far.
- Twins beat Toronto, 11-6
The offense finally decided to score some runs in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays. Justin Morneau had a three-run homer, his first big blast of the season. Morny had a very good day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk (apparently Morny has been taking Harmon Killebrew’s batting advice). Actually, pretty much everybody had a good day at the plate, since Jays’ starter Matt Clement wasn’t very effective. The Twins knocked the righty out after 4 1/3 innings, pounding him for nine runs on six hits.
Our own Scott Baker wasn’t particularly sharp either, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up any homers though (for once), and recorded five strikeouts and no walks. Jose Mijares continued to struggle, giving up two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, and also injured his ankle while trying to cover first. It’s looking more likely that the lefty is going to spend the season in Rochester (although Gardy is stubbornly insisting they can turn him around before the team heads north in two weeks). This might give Brian Duensing an opportunity to make the team if the Twins decide they need another lefty in the ‘pen. Duensing has been a starter his entire career, and did struggle a bit early in the season while in Rochester last year, but has looked really good in his relief appearances during spring training. At least he can get hitters out, anyway.
- Wild shutout Oil at the X
Owen Nolan scored a couple of goals, the Oil scored on themselves, and Niklas Backstrom made himself worth every penny of his four year, $24 million contract extension in one of the closest games the Wild have played all season. They got off to kind of a slow start in the first, though they weren’t helped by some awful officiating. Mikko Koivu got called for a phantom interference penalty on Ales Hemske (that was a beautiful piece of diving), and Dan Fritsche got called for boarding when he barely touched Ladislav Smid. I don’t normally complain about officiating, but this was ridiculous. Luckily the penalty-killers (and Backs!) stepped up to prevent any sort of ill-gotten gains by the Oilers.
Marian Gaborik made his triumphant return to the ice after having surgery on his hip. Though he didn’t score any goals, it was just really good to see him out there again. Unfortunately, captain Mikko Koivu suffered a knee injury when he was pulled down by Ales Kolatik and will be out the rest of the week. He might even miss the rest of the season, which means the Wild might as well forget about playing hockey past April. Come on, Mikko. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be fine.
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
If you think Vancouver sucks and they’ll never win the Cup
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
I really shouldn’t mock the Canucks for this hilarious piece of epic fail. They are a lock to make the playoffs after all, and my
Mild Wild will be lucky if they manage to sneak in as the eighth seed (although beating the Oil certainly helps). But there is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a hated rival do something so ridiculously dumb. Especially when your own team has been doing so many ridiculously dumb things as of late.
- Dutch eliminated in WBC, 9-3
Team Hollandaise was sent packing in spectacular fashion by the heavy-hitting American team last night. The USA pounded the Dutch pitchers for nine runs on twelve hits, including a two-run homer by Jimmy Rollins and a solo shot by Adam Dunn. The Dutch, on the other hand, eked out a mere three runs (though they also had twelve hits). Things got a little chippy in the eighth, when Bryan Englehardt spent a little too much time admiring his solo shot (the Dutch were down 8-1 at this point) off of reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom proceeded to throw behind Vince Rooi, and both benches were warned. That was about as close to any actual fighting as the two sides got, and the Dutch would score one more run on a sac fly before the US put the game away in the bottom of the inning.
As I’ve said before, the Americans had a lot more on the line in this game than the Dutch. The US was absolutely embarrassed in the 2006 WBC when they failed to make it past the first round. They had already been humiliated by the Puerto Ricans, and a loss by the underwhelming Netherlands team would have struck a blow to the already-flagging interest in the tournament on the part of American baseball fans. The Dutch, on the other hand, weren’t even expected to win a game in the WBC, let alone knock off a Dominican team that was loaded with major-league talent. Losing to the Americans will do nothing to diminish interest in baseball or the WBC in the Netherlands, considering that there wasn’t much to begin with.
There is some bad news for Team USA (and the Marlins): Matt Lindstrom has a strained rotator cuff and will be unable to pitch for at least 10 days. This isn’t the first time the Americans have suffered injuries in the WBC, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, and Dustin Pedroia have all suffered injuries of varying seriousness. While none of these guys are likely miss any of the season, fans and baseball executives alike are all nervous about their favorite players suffering devastating injury in a tournament that isn’t very important to them. This is one of the major criticisms of the WBC: that it is held during spring training, when guys aren’t quite in game-shape and are much more injury-prone. It has gotten so bad that Team USA manager Davy Johnson has threatened to forfeit the tournament if anyone else gets hurt.
- Twins fall to Yankees 5-1
I’m not going to harp on the lack of offensive production in Sunday’s game at Steinbrenner field, considering that the lineup was full of guys who have no chance to make the team this year (though the few regulars who were in did pretty well, except for Denard Span). I’m also not going to rake anyone over the coals for the piss-poor defense, either. While no Twins players were actually charged with any errors, those of us who actually saw the game know better. There were some defensive miscues by the infield, and a dropped pop fly by SS Trevor Plouffe that led to some not-so-earned Yankee runs. While Glen Perkins officially gave up three earned runs on five hits, in truth he probably gave up one earned run on three hits. Other than that, the pitching was really good (aside from Bobby Keppel, but he’s probably going to start the season in AAA). Nick Blackburn pitched two spotless innings in relief, and gave up only one hit while recording a strikeout. Blackburn is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday, as the soreness in his knee is apparently gone now. Philip Humber will start in his place today against Baltimore.
By the way, Perk is apparently fine after getting hit in the calf by Hideki Matsui’s broken bat (he even got Matsui to sign it). He wanted to come back out and pitch the fourth, but the team decided not to take any chances on the projected fourth starter for a spring exhibition game and put in Nick Blackburn instead. He should make his next start against the Yankees on Friday.
Andy Pettite looked really sharp on the mound for the Yanks, shutting out the Twins for three innings. More importantly, though, Jorge Posada caught three innings without experiencing any pain in his shoulder. He also went 2-for-2 and plated a pair of runs. That is very good news for Yankee fans who already have enough to worry about as it is.
- Twins vs O’s
The Twins were hitting! And not stranding that many runners for once! Most importantly, Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a triple, which is his first extra-base hit of the season I believe. Span has been struggling at the plate so far, and it appeared in yesterday’s game against the Yankees as though his timing was off. It was pretty clear that he was seeing the ball well, as he was taking a lot of pitches and was working some deep counts. However, he would end up either grounding out or popping out, and it appeared he was a little in front of the ball. Hopefully Span has finally found his swing. Joe Crede hit a two-run homer in the third with two outs, that put the Twins on top for good. Crede hasn’t been having a good spring, either, but considering that he only played in 91 games last year because of his back, and that he tends to be a bit of a slow starter, it’s a little too early to panic just yet.
And Philip Humber pitched well, giving up no hits and no runs while striking out two in his two innings of work. Actually, the only runs given up by Twins pitchers were by guys who will most likely spend the season in Rochester: Armando Gabino (leadoff homer to Aubrey Huff) and Sean Henn (another leadoff homer to catcher Guillermo Rodriguez). Oh, and Rule 5 draft pick Jason Jones gave up one run on four hits in two innings. I’m not sure if Jones is going to remain on the roster or not. Although the Twins will have to offer him back to the Yankees if they choose to send him down, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks are too interested in him so some sort of deal might be worked out.
- Still No Mauer News
There’s still no official word on what is ailing Joe Mauer. According to the Star Tribune, he was in the clubhouse this morning and seemed to be in a good mood, so maybe there isn’t anything seriously wrong. While it would be nice to know what, if anything, is going on, I doubt it is serious otherwise there would have been some sort of announcement by now. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
- Great Googly Moogly: Netherlands upset Dominican Republic in 11 innings
This has to be one of the greatest baseball games I have ever seen, period (boy, am I glad I decided to spring for that MLB.tv subscription even though I don’t have any money). Actually, most of these WBC games have been better than a lot of World Series games in recent years. It’s been a series of stunning upsets so far: Italy over Canada, Australia over Mexico (and nearly over Cuba, too) and now the Dutch have knocked off the Dominican Republic. I don’t think anybody gave Team Hollandaise a chance to win this one, I know I certainly didn’t. I thought the DR lineup was too potent, and that they were going to come out swinging. And I was partly right, they did come out swinging, but unfortunately everything they hit barely made it to the warning track. I wouldn’t exactly characterize this game as a pitcher’s duel; the DR kept threatening to break the game open, but the Dutch pitching staff kept making pitches when they needed to. The Dominican staff was brilliant (somebody give Pedro Martinez a job) through 11 innings, who recorded a combined 15 strikeouts (10 of which were by Ubaldo Jimenez! That has to be some sort of record) and held the Dutch hitters to a mere five hits.
When the Dominicans scored the first run in the top of the 11th on an error by Gene Kingsale, I figured that the Dutch were done for. They don’t have a potent offense, and they hadn’t been able to manufacture any runs against any of the DR pitchers. Carlos Marmol was coming in, and it looked like the game was over. But then Sidney de Jong hit a leadoff double to deep left center, and suddenly the Dutch were back in business. de Jong then advanced to third on a groundout, and all of the sudden the tying run was 90 feet away with only one out. Kingsale, who made the crucial error in the top of the inning quickly redeemed himself by singling to right, and started one of the most miraculous rallies I have ever seen. Kingsale advanced to second on a bad pickoff attempt by Marmol and then came around to score the winning run on an error by first baseman Willy Aybar, who will be known as the Dominican Bill Buckner from now on.
And to Mike Francesca or any other blowhards who whine about how the WBC is essentially a series of meaningless exhibition games: kindly shut the hell up. This game meant a lot to the Dominican Republic, a proud people with a great baseball tradition. And now it sure as hell means a lot to the Dutch.
- Crisis Averted (For Now): Joe Mauer is apparently fine
Further testing has revealed that Joe Mauer simply has an inflamed sacroiliac joint in his back. His doctors are going to put him on stronger medication, and he ‘s going to rest for a few days, and that should be that. The pain he’s been experiencing has nothing to do with his kidney surgery (evidently it is located in his right buttock), and once again, he should be ready by opening day. The good news is that the pain hasn’t been holding him back from participating in most baseball-related activities. He can hit, catch, and throw with ease, but wasn’t able to run very well (which is kind of important if you intend to get on base).
Obviously this is great news, though I’m still a little concerned that Mauer might not be ready for Opening Day and that he will continue to have problems throughout the regular season (that awful Dome turf certainly isn’t going to help). The lineup has been struggling to score runs without the M&MVP boys, though they have still managed to win most of their spring training games. The Twins have been stranding a lot of runners, though, especially in today’s game against Baltimore when they left 29 men on base. While the pitching has been good enough to keep them in the games so far, the Twins might as well forget about making the playoffs if they don’t score any runs.
More importantly, whether or not Mauer can stay healthy this year will weigh heavily on the organization’s decision to offer him a contract extension. By all accounts, the Twins are interested in signing him, and Joe reportedly wants to stay, but it doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on a player who might spend half of the season on the DL. I’ve weighed in on the pros and cons of signing Mauer to a long-term deal before, and I’m extremely torn about the idea. On the one hand, Joe is one of the best catchers in baseball, and nobody wants him to remain a Twin more than I do. But not if he isn’t going to be healthy.
The Twins are off today, and there’s no Mauer news yet, so here’s a look at what our guys have been doing in the WBC:
- Justin Morneau: Was completely useless for Canada in his first game against the U.S. While he went 4-for-5 against Italy, it wasn’t enough and the Canucks fell 6-2 at Rogers Centre last night. It was either a stunning upset, or epic failure depending upon which side you were on. Anyway, Morneau will arrive at camp in time for tomorrow’s contest against the O’s and some well-deserved razzing from his teammates.
- Jesse Crain: Made only one appearance for Canada last night, and struck out all four batters he faced. You know, it’s really no mystery why Canada failed to make it past the first round. I mean, look at their starting rotation. Perhaps they should have put Crain in to start. Anyway, I guess I’ll be jumping on that Team USA bandwagon now.
- Nick Punto: Well, Little Nicky hasn’t been that productive at the plate, but his glove has been good enough to help Italy advance to the second round. Um, except in today’s game against the Venezuelans, that is. Punto had a crucial error on a routine ground ball to short that allowed a couple of runs to score and put Italy behind 4-0. Looks like he’s going to be joining his Canadian teammates back in Ft. Myers.
- Luke Hughes: The 3B prospect went 2-for-3 with a solo homer for Australia, helping them upset Mexico in a 17-7 thumping on Sunday night (they also set a WBC record for hits, with 22). He hasn’t been too bad on defense either, turning a double-play to end the second and prevent Mexico from extending what was a three-run lead at that time. I guess somebody wants to go north with the big-league club this year.
- Luis Ayala: Hasn’t had a chance to pitch for Mexico, yet. I guess that’s a good thing in a way, I would hate for him to be the one that gave up umpteen runs to a team that doesn’t even have any major-leaguers on its roster. Still, I would like to see what he has, since he’s probably going to have to carry the bullpen this year. Maybe it would’ve been best if the Twins insisted he stay with the team, but I know they don’t like to deny anyone the chance to represent their country in the WBC.
- Bert Blyleven: The pitching coach for a surprisingly feisty Dutch team. And the Dutch have indeed pitched well so far, limiting their opponents to five runs in the past couple of games. They upset the Dominican Republic on Saturday, and threatened to upset the Puerto Ricans yesterday. However, I think the upcoming game against the DR will be the end of the line for Team Hollandaise. Their offense has been somewhat lacking, having scored an astounding four runs so far. Plus the Dominicans have the whole revenge factor going for them, since they’re still apparently angry over what happened the last time.
In other news, the
Mild Wild will be losing to taking on the Sharks at the X tonight. Well, the Sharks are without Evgeni Nabokov and Rob Blake, so I guess the Wild have a chance to win. Or not.
The last time the Sharks were in town, this happened:
Perhaps our boys will pull off a miracle yet again. Their playoff hopes depend on it.
- Former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie signs minor league deal with Cubs
I’ve mentioned this a little bit before, but I feel this story deserves its own post. I’ve always liked Koskie and have been hoping he’ll manage to resurrect his big-league career. The former infielder hasn’t played in the major leagues since July 5, 2006, after suffering a concussion during a bizarre accident while fielding a routine fly ball. He struggled with symptoms of post-concussion syndrome for the better part of two years, feeling dizzy and nauseous, struggling with his balance and basic motor skills, and getting disoriented easily. It wasn’t until he met physical therapist John Groves, who specializes in whiplash cases, that he finally found treatment that worked. He’s been symptom-free since January, and has been working hard to get back into the majors. Recently he earned a spot on Team Canada’s roster, and signed a minor league deal with the Cubs.
It’s been a long and difficult road for the former Twin, who’s had to struggle with a number of devastating and bizarre symptoms in the past three years. Worse yet, he had trouble getting the medical community to believe that there was something wrong with him. All of his tests would come back normal, and doctors told him he was fine. Except he wasn’t fine. He would walk into doorways, had trouble doing simple tasks like picking up a spoon, would get disoriented easily in crowds or hot weather, and would often sleep most of the day. His doctors for the most part refused to believe there was anything physically wrong with him, and thought he either had anxiety or that his problems were all in his head. It wasn’t until Koskie met concussion specialist Dr. Robert Cantu, who then referred him to physical therapist Dan Dyrek, who in turn referred him to another physical therapist, John Groves. Groves has been doing ground-breaking work with victims of whiplash, and it is his treatment program that finally alleviated the strange symptoms Koskie had been experiencing.
Once he was cleared to participate in baseball-related activities by his doctors, Koskie started working out with the University of Minnesota baseball team, trying to make a comeback. The Twins agreed to let Koskie work out with them during spring training so he could try to get back into playing shape. His ultimate goal was to play for Team Canada in the WBC and hope to draw the interest of a few major league teams. It wasn’t long after he was named to Team Canada’s roster that he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. He’ll report to camp once his stint in the WBC is over, since he had already agreed to represent his country. And so far he’s shown little rust, going 1-2 and getting hit by a pitch while scoring three runs in his first game on Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He’s still a long shot to make the Cubs’ active roster, but at least he now has a shot.
Koskie was one of my favorite players when he was with the Twins, and I was really sad when he signed with the Blue Jays in 2005. How could you not love a guy who once smeared chunky peanut butter all over the inside of David Ortiz’s pants? He was the everyday third baseman for nine seasons, and was a very good third baseman and just a good guy in general. Not to mention the fact that his departure left a huge hole a third that hasn’t been filled until just recently (and even Crede isn’t a permanent solution, he’s mostly just a stopgap so Danny Valencia can develop). I wish Koskie the best, and I hope he does manage to catch on with the Cubs, even if it is only in a part-time role.