April 2007

Cleveland’s protest

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I’m working on a piece today that analyzes the AL Central at the one-month mark. Cleveland is clearly the division’s X-factor. At 14-8, the Indians lead the division by 1 1/2 games over the Twins (14-11), but Cleveland essentially has five games in hand. They have four games to make up with Seattle after that early-season weather debacle, and now they have filed a protest with MLB over Saturday’s loss to Baltimore. Usually those things are filed in vain, but ESPN’s Buster Olney, for one, suggests this one might have a chance. He makes some good arguments today in his blog (subscription required).

Most protests have no reasonable chance for success, but if common sense prevails, the Indians will win this protest, because the precedent established by the umpires on Saturday would create such a dangerous gray area for how similar situations would be handled in the future.

If MLB gives Cleveland a chance to play this game over, from the point of the protest, the Indians could improve to 15-7. If they sweep Seattle in those makeup contests, they could be 19-7. That’s the worst-case scenario for the Twins. If Cleveland had that record, the Twins would be sitting 4 1/2 games back instead of 1 1/2.

Anyway, keeping an eye on the bigger picture, what are your thoughts on this division race at the one-month mark? What have been the surprises and disappointments? Look into your crystal ball and tell me how this is going to play out over the next five months.

Sunday lineups and pregame update

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Johan Santana was studying the lineup card, while seated on the floor near his locker this morning. Pudge is back. The Tigers’ catcher is batting leadoff today, with the Tigers trying to avoid a sweep.

Sounds like the Twins plan to option Alexi Casilla back to Class AAA Rochester after today’s game, assuming nothing unusual happens today. Jeff Cirillo will be activated from the DL on Tuesday, and as Mgr. Gardenhire said, the Twins will essentially get two infielders back that day, with 2B Luis Castillo planning to return to the lineup. From what I can tell, Cirillo and Castillo both look healthy right now during batting practice. … Gardenhire said he considered using Jason Tyner as his DH today, but Tyner was sick with what appears to be food poisoning, so Mike Redmond is back in the DH slot.

Twins lineup: Nick Punto 3B, Jason Bartlett SS, Joe Mauer C, Michael Cuddyer RF, Justin Morneau 1B, Torii Hunter CF, Mike Redmond DH, Jason Kubel LF, Luis Rodriguez 2B. Pitcher: Johan Santana.

Tigers lineup: Pudge Rodriguez C, Placido Polanco 2B, Gary Sheffield DH, Magglio Ordonez RF, Carlos Guillen SS, Craig Monroe LF, Marcus Thames 1B, Brandon Inge 3B, Curtis Granderson CF. Pitcher: Mike Maroth.

Comerica Park. Scheduled first pitch: 12:05 (Central).

Update: No roster moves today. Cirillo plans to do a one-game rehab for Class A Fort Myers tonight, since that team plays in Clearwater, a short drive from the team’s hotel in St. Petersburgh, Fla. Assuming everything checks out OK, Casilla will likely head to Rochester on Tuesday.

Baker making his case again

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

Scott Baker had another impressive start for Class AAA Rochester last night, and this one came with GM Terry Ryan in attendance. Baker got the win against Toledo, and here was his line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K.

Baker is 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA. Twins officials are really buzzing about him again, and I have a feeling he’s first in line for a promotion, should the Twins need to make one soon. He was a big disappointment in the big leagues last year, but there’s a sense now that the light has come on for him. He’s had good numbers at Rochester in the past, but this year he has 23 strikeouts and three walks in 23 innings pitched. The Twins hate to rush pitchers, so even though Kevin Slowey has been terrific (3-0, 0.96 ERA), they are more likely to let him gain more experience at Class AAA before giving him a big league start. Matt Garza (0-1, 2.84 ERA) has the best stuff of all of them, and 50 innings of big league experience, but he’s allowed 10 walks and 20 hits in 19 innings pitched.

Saturday lineups: Twins/Tigers

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

A quiet morning in the Twins clubhouse. The Tigers are trying to figure out what’s wrong with Joel Zumaya, who said last night he has “no clue” where his fastball is going. And Pudge Rodriguez is out again with a bruised left foot. Had he been in the lineup last night, instead of Mike Rabelo, the Tigers could have broken the game open against Ramon Ortiz. Banged up as they are themselves, the Twins are catching this team at a pretty good time.

Twins lineup: Jason Tyner DH, Nick Punto 3B, Joe Mauer C, Michael Cuddyer RF, Justin Morenau 1B, Torii Hunter CF, Jason Kubel LF, Luis Rodriguez 2B, Jason Bartlett SS. Pitcher: Carlos Silva.

Tigers lineup: Curtis Granderson CF, Placido Polanco 2B, Gary Sheffield DH, Magglio Ordonez RF, Carlos Guillen SS, Sean Casey 1B, Craig Monroe LF, Mike Rabelo C, Brandon Inge 3B. Pitcher: Justin Verlander.

Comerica Park. Scheduled first pitch: 1:05 p.m.

Pregame update: Twins/Tigers

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Torii Hunter is back in the lineup, as he promised he would be, but Joe Mauer is getting a night off. Mauer just left the batting cage; he looks fine. He’s probably getting a night off against a good lefthander, the Tigers’ Nate Robertson (2-1, 2.05 ERA).

Update: Gardenhire said he was going to rest Mauer either tonight or tomorrow, since there’s a day game following a night game. Gardenhire also mentioned that Mauer has a sore quad. Mauer said he’s “a little banged up, like everybody,” but said he’s fine. Gardenhire predicted he would catch the final two games of this series.

Interesting to note that Pudge Rodriguez is also getting a night off because of a bruised left foot. So both All-Star catchers are sitting this one out.

Twins lineup: Nick Punto 3B, Luis Rodriguez 2B, Mike Redmond C, Michael Cuddyer RF, Justin Morneau 1B, Torii Hunter CF, Josh Rabe DH, Jason Kubel LF, Jason Bartlett SS. Pitcher: Ramon Ortiz

Tigers lineup: Curtis Granderson CF, Placido Polanco 2B, Gary Sheffield DH, Magglio Ordonez RF, Carlos Guillen SS, Sean Casey 1B, Craig Monroe LF, Mike Rabelo C, Brandon Inge 3B. Pitcher: Robertson.

Comerica Park. Scheduled first pitch: 6:05 (Central).